TV execs love Americanized versions of imported series. Occasionally, they're hits: The Office, Ugly Betty. But often, the shows turn into total train-wrecks (see: Coupling). New NBC series Kath & Kim was adapted from a hit Australian show of the same name, and seems to be headed for derailment. It centers on a mother and daughter, Kath (Molly Shannon) and Kim (Selma Blair), who reside among the lower levels of the suburban middle class. Handled differently, the show might skewer America's materialism and self-indulgence. Instead, it's just annoying. Critics are quick to note that Shannon and Blair are gifted comedic actresses (though unbelievable as mother and daughter), but the show just can't live up to the Aussie original. Then again, critics said similar things about The Office when it first aired. Reviews after the jump.The Hollywood Reporter:
Shannon and Blair are fun to watch, at least for a little while. After that, Kim's whining goes from amusing to annoying. By the second episode, about a third of which incongruously takes place in a gay bar, you're forced to concede the two characters, as written, have a combined repertoire of a single note.
Molly Shannon and Selma Blair are two hoots worth a happy holler in NBC's "Kath & Kim," a cleverly funny sitcom debuting tonight after scoring a smash with a different cast in Australia. The show has been painlessly Americanized and might as well be an indigenous creation, armed as it is with wicked, wacky comment on the mores and morals of the mall culture
The Australian version is broader, bolder and more callous, gleefully unabashed about sending up lower-class accents and suburban vulgarity; the NBC adaptation tiptoes a little too squeamishly through snobbery and bad taste. “Kath & Kim” should be funnier, and could yet be, but the pilot disappoints.
If this seems like a lot of space to devote to wardrobe, it's only because everything just gets worse from here, and, frankly, it pains me to write about it. For one thing, the original Australian "Kath &Kim” was very funny, and it's always embarrassing when a U.S. version doesn't measure up. Though why anyone would think we could take on an Aussie comedy is beyond me. Can you imagine, say, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" with Brad and George in the lead roles? For reasons perhaps only Christopher Guest understands, it is very difficult for Americans to do the broad hyper-social satire that the Brits and Aussies specialize in. Perhaps it's because Americans are not comfortable with lead characters who are lovably absurd. We have a disturbing need for simple-mindedness to be recognized as wisdom, à la Forrest Gump.
Snide but not smart, "Kath & Kim" will likely leave American audiences scratching their heads, wondering what Australians saw in the concept — or if something was seriously lost in translation. The producers have sought to give the project a Yank accent mostly by having their low-class protagonists reference National Enquirer-type gossip about U.S. stars, but the show irritates more than it amuses. Most fans of the better NBC sitcoms surrounding it that say "G'day" probably won't be able to say "G'bye" fast enough.
Copycatted from an Australian TV template, Kath & Kim wants to be a combo platter of Absolutely Fabulous and Gilmore Girls. The always limber, usually hilarious Molly Shannon plays Kath, a single mom who dresses funny. Pop-Tart Selma Blair plays Kim, her Doritos-eating princess of a daughter, who hardly dresses at all. Kath wants to remarry. Kim’s idea of a lasting relationship is Applebee’s; she’s moved back home after her young husband asked her if she might, personally, microwave something. Except for a visit to a gay bar for hip-hop, most of the action (tantrums, blubberings) occurs either in the house or a sandwich shop at the mall. This is because the unappetizing Kath & Kim is fixated in the oral stage.
'Kath & Kim' premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. on NBC