For the last few years, not only has the sitcom been enjoying a revitalization, the kind of comedy you would find could be found based on the network it was found on. CBS is currently the home of the adult, sexual, laugh-track based comedy (How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, and 2 Broke Girls most prominent among them). ABC is the home of the Middle America, family based comedy (Modern Family, The Middle, Suburgatory). NBC, the home of the workplace misfit comedy (Parks and Recreation and Community) though unconventional family comedies such as New Normal and Up All Night are beginning to find a home. Only Fox has been having trouble developing an easily measured sitcom, buried under their animation blocs and their hour long dramedies.
However, over the past few months, they seem to be developing a trend on their Tuesday night: comedies with children who refuse to grow up. Most pleasingly presented on Raising Hope, a family sitcom with three adult generations in the same house, none of whom are very competent or very qualified to be parents, they have begun to finally find some neighbors who are worthy of it.
Ben and Kate is a charming comedy about a brother and sister sharing the same home, Kate (Dakota Johnson) had to grow up too fast, because she had a child before she went to college, Ben (Nate Faxon) her older brother, who still seems less mature, and has not yet reached a clear point with a career or as an adult. Together, the two of them form one adult parent, but the sitcom is less about the child, and more about the little world they cohabit.
Kate, you have more of a sense that she could function in an adult world— she has steady employment, and over the last couple of episode has been developing a relationship with a divorced father. Ben is anything, his ambitions seem too farcical, and his plans to realize them are almost always foredoomed. (In a recent episode, he tried to pitch a plan for RailMall, the train equivalent of Skymall by diving for lost golf balls at a country club, much to the dismay of his closest friend Tommy.)
The show is still erratic, but over the past three episodes, it seems to have been finding its feet. It also serves as a better lead in than Raising Hope for the most watched member of the Tuesday mini-bloc New Girl. While I still find this show a bit too quirky, much like it’s heroine Jess (Emmy nominee Zooey Deschanel) , it has begun to charm me.
In the opening episode of Season 2, Jess lost her job and has spent much of the last few weeks trying to find steady employment and adjusting to find a relationship with her friends of both sexes.. She mocked best friend Cece’s job as model, and found that she wasn’t qualified enough to do that. She tried to have a purely sexual relationship with a pediatrician, only to breakup when she learned he wasn’t as one-dimensional as she hoped. And the idea of her trying to guide her three immature male roommates is laughable, considering she’s still not thinking things through well. (In the Thanksgiving episode, she tried to bring her divorced parents back together in a ‘parent trap’ scenario, which, to her knowledge, backfired severely.) Her three roommates have not done much better, one had a major breakup with his girlfriend earlier this season, Leon has been trying to right a zombie based novel ala Twilight, and Schmidt … well, there’s a reason so many magazines refer to him as one of “TV’s biggest douches”, and the fact that he’s just been contracted to have an affair with his recently divorced boss.
New Girl is not a perfect show, either, as it tries a little too hard to be hip and cute at the same time, but it is more spirited and lifelike then the other, more followed Girls. These comedies show that there is general hope for Fox, an important balance considering how weak their new dramas seem to be going over.
Ben and Kate: 3 stars
New Girl: 3.5 stars