For the next few weeks, we'll be evaluating many of the new fall shows as they air. At long last: one worth watching again for real.
Ben and Kate, Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox
One-sentence description: Ben (Nat Faxon) and Kate (Dakota Johnson) are siblings and they exist, basically.
How good is it?: It's great. It's the first show of this new TV season that I actively enjoyed on a straightforward level – I want to see more not to laugh at it, but laugh with it. It is basically about nothing but the bond that these people have. In the intro, Kate explains that they raised themselves – he "never grew up," and she "grew up too fast," as having a child at a young age will force you to do. And so, Ben has moved back in with her to free up some time so that she can experience the life she didn't. Annnnd, that's it. Really, it's all chemistry and jokes here. Despite its snappy cleverness and self-reflexive winks ("I'm not getting sucked into another one of your harebrained schemes!" says Kate), this is a sitcom's sitcom.
Best joke: Oh, I loved so many of them, but my favorites involved Kate's British coworker at the bar she manages, BJ (Lucy Punch). After a discussion between Ben and friend Tommy (Echo Kellum) about Kate's fanny pack, BJ asks, "Do you know fanny means in my country?*" Kate replies, "Do you know what BJ means in my country?" "Very well, indeed," says BJ. There is also a fantastic scene where BJ makes over Kate's daughter Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and tells her, "Because you've got quite thin lips, it can make you look mean." Maggie is a 5-year-old.
What's annoying about it: Ben is an inexplicably idiotic manchild like so many idiot manchildren we've seen onscreen (think Step Brothers for one of several recent examples). He does things like entering the house in a hockey mask, explaining, "I was stealing cable from your neighbor, I didn't want her to recognize me." But Faxon is convincingly doofy and his character is written so that the brain power that he has is used to consider other people. He's entirely endearing. Kate should be annoying as the authority figure, but Johnson does normal-cute extremely well. She's Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson's kid, so she's probably been encouraged to perfect her charm her entire life and now she's eating the profits.
There are a few mushy moments, like when Kate encourages Ben to announce his love to his soon-to-be-married ex by saying, "Do you know what a woman is most afraid of in the world? It's that she is not going to find that one person who accepts her for everything that she is. And that when she finally starts to let him in, he's just going to leave." But those pass as quickly as the jokes.
Is it worth watching again?: Yes, duh, I love it. It let me in and I'm not going to leave, unless I forget to DVR it.
* In case you don't know, Brits use "fanny" to refer to "vagina." This is something that I have long laughed about, especially when considering fanny packs. This show really gets me.
Vegas, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET, CBS
One-sentence description: Former cop and current cattle rancher Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) lives on the outskirts of the burgeoning social hub of Las Vegas in the early '60s and gets enlisted to fight crime in the city.
How good is it?: This isn't the West Coast Boardwalk Empire, not that that would be great, either. At best, it's a complimentary suite with a clean hooker in your bed, but that's only if you're into police procedurals. I couldn't be bothered to care about the search for the killer of Samantha Mead, but I did want Lamb to solve the murder just so everyone would shut up about it. And then I realized that there'd be another case and they'd just keep talking and Carrie Ann Moss (who plays Assistant DA Katherine O'Connell) would still be smirking and doing coy things with her eyes and Quaid would still be mugging like a 58-year-old Shirley Temple whose secret penis needs adjusting and ugh ugh ugh.
Best joke: There was a motel pictured that was called Westward Ho!
What's annoying about it: Ralph is a country mouse in a city, an old-school cowboy who is set in his ways. Cool, his wrestling match with modernity shouldn't be excruciating or anything. Vegas is just too dull and too unsmiling to enchant with the trashy flash that actual Vegas does. So much takes place in the desert or in back rooms and I want bright lights in my eyes, damn it. I have no opinion on Michael Chiklis, but something tells me that having him play a barely drawn mob boss/casino owner stereotype Vincent Savino (supposedly based on Marcello Giuseppe Caifano) is not the right way to use someone as beloved as he is?
Is it worth watching again?: No, god no. If I never have to hear someone say, "I am the law here, Mr. Savino, and I will decide who's breaking it," in a context in which I'm not supposed to cry from laughing as a response, it'll be too soon.