Reviews

January 4, 2021

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Call Me Kat”

 

CALL ME KAT:  Thursday 9PM on FOX

 

There’s been widespread hope that a change in calendar pages would reverse the traumas of 2020, and that 2021 would bring in gusts of new air to blow away all that’s been awful in the world.  Sadly, the arrival of FOX’s CALL ME KAT, the first scripted premiere of the year, provides a caution that terrible sitcoms, at least, aren’t going anywhere.

Although Call Me Kat is based on the 2009 British sitcom Miranda, the best way to describe it may be to say that it’s like Fleabag re-imagined as a multicamera laughfest for dummies.  As in Phoebe Waller-Bridges’ masterwork, Kat (Mayim Bialik) is a single woman who frequently breaks the 4th wall to speak directly with viewers, using us as a sympathetic set of ears for her deeper thoughts and the opinions she’s not going to share with the other characters.  Also as in Fleabag, Kat’s business is a small restaurant with a connection to pets, here a cat cafe, and she has an uneasy relationship with her family, personified by her mother Sheila (Swoosie Kurtz).  Kat, however, is considerably less sexual than Fleabag.  In fact, she’s an unending font of social clumsiness, which provides the main vehicle for the show’s purported humor.

The opening episode, written by the US version’s creator Darlene Hunt and directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller, puts Kat’s insecurities at the script’s center by having her invited to best pal Tara’s (Vanessa Lachey) renewal of vows ceremony with a plus-one.  Not having a boyfriend, Kat invites one of her employees, gay and elderly Phil (Leslie Jordan, of Will & Grace), leading to complications, especially when another guest turns out to be Max (Cheyenne Jackson), Kat’s college crush who’s suddenly back in town, and who’s instantly established as the only one around who “gets” her.

There isn’t an original gag to be found in Call Me Kat.  Our heroine snipes affectionately with her friends and mother while delivering winking punchlines to the camera, and she’s constantly falling over herself or spilling things, so that we’ll know she’s awkward.  That might not have been fatal if the show had any signs of charm or cast chemistry, but Bialik and the rest of the cast push every punchline too hard, and they deliver the mechanical dialogue with a focus on nothing but the next gag.  (Bialik’s Big Bang Theory co-star Kaley Cuoco made a much better choice by shifting to the streaming dramedy genre with HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant.)  Kat is wearying by the first commercial break, and the episode’s runtime feels as long as a 59-minute Netflix hour.

Call Me Kat had a preview tonight to take advantage of the season’s final afternoon national NFL game, and will hereafter air on Thursdays as the lead-in to Last Man Standing, a show aimed at a similarly traditional sitcom audience.  Perhaps it will find some success there, but for those imagining 2021 as a 2020 redo, the wait will go on.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on screened.com and the-burg.com. In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."




2 Comments


  1. ...

    Miranda broke the fourth wall long before the very thought of Fleabag popped into PWB’s head.

    The clumsiness and awkwardness is also from Miranda.


  2. terrance

    I feel like Nostradamus. I predicted this train crash and sure enough, it happened. Hard to believe 5 million tuned in. It took us less than half the show to ditch it.



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