Kath & Kim: articles

US critic pans American Kath & Kim as 'dreadful'

THE "jaw-dropping awfulness" of the American version of Kath & Kim has prompted a US television critic to apologise to Australia for the "painfully unfunny" and "dreadful" new adaptation.

San Francisco Chronicle TV writer Tim Goodman said the new series, made by US mega-network NBC, was among the worst television adaptations in history.

"Now we have to apologise to Australia," Goodman said.

"With American television buying so many pre-made 'formats' - a.k.a. importing shows from other countries and ruining them - the need for saying sorry has increased a hundredfold in just a few years.

"For every miraculous victory - say, The Office or, to a lesser extent, Ugly Betty - there are hordes of failures.

"This time, it's NBC's Americanised version of Kath & Kim, a fantastically funny Australian comedy that goes into the record books on these shores as a contender for worst remake ever."

In one of the most scathing critiques in a swag of negative American reviews, Goodman said the first two episodes of Kath & Kim were "jaw-dropping in their awfulness", with the show having "looks but not laughs".

Aussies can judge for themselves when the US version airs on Seven at 7pm on Sunday.

"The American version misses the mark so badly that it's barely recognisable as a distant cousin to the original," Goodman wrote in his review.

"One of the great things about the original Kath & Kim, a mother-daughter comedy about cluelessness, tackiness, blind hope and failed expectations, is that it found humor in all of its well-drawn characters and situations.

"In the American version, there's no humor at all."

Goodman slammed the show's writer and executive producer Michelle Nader who recently said she had decided to tone down the show and make it more grounded in emotion.

Goodman also said comedian Molly Shannon, who plays Kath, and Hollywood starlet Selma Blair, who plays Kim, "bear almost no resemblance in spirit to their Australian counterparts" Jane Turner and Gina Riley, who created, wrote and starred in the original.

"Nader makes you wonder if she ever watched the original - if she did, and this is what she came up with, then it's clear that she either didn't get it or knew immediately that it wouldn't work for American television," he said.

"In that case, she - and NBC - should have left well enough alone but they didn't - they made Kath and Kim better looking but less interesting and less funny - a trifecta of wrongs.

"Shannon, who tries to make the most out of nothing, and Blair, who's completely miscast as daughter Kim, are light-years removed from Turner and Riley.

"Of course, actually creating and writing the series is part of the reason Turner and Riley nail their characters - they inhabit them.

"They work the angles on what makes Kath and Kim funny - Kath's joyous pursuit of youth and glamour, which she has none of, and Kim's spoiled, wickedly self-involved notions of fame, beauty and happiness.

"In comparison, Shannon and Blair are merely trying to bring life to the embarrassment that Nader has rewritten for them - it's a complete wince-inducing mess that makes you feel sorry for Shannon and annoyed at NBC and Nader."

Goodman's take on the show has joined the overwhelmingly negative reviews published in the lead-up to the show's premiere on US television tomorrow (Friday morning Australian time).

Chicago's Sun Times newspaper said the show was "not the good kind of dumb" and the jokes "don't live up to the sitcom's promising suburban premise".

"In the opening scene of Kath & Kim, newly married daughter Kim bursts through the door of her mother's home and shouts that her marriage is 'over!' - and then she spells it out, just to make it clear 'O-V-U-R'," the review said.

"Get it? She's stupid. And the jokes don't get much better after that.

"Shannon and Blair do the best with what they have, and Higgins provides a little humor.

"But satiric comedy only works if it's funny - and in this case, it's not."

Orlando Sentinel (Florida) television reviewer Hal Boedeker was so unimpressed by the show that he refused to give it a star rating and limited his critique to one line.

"The results are simply dreadful - that is all," he wrote.

New York paper Newsday said while there was "some very funny stuff here", the premise would likely wear thin over the course of the 22-episode first series.

"The serious question before NBC is this - how long can it stretch the joke before viewers go stark raving mad?," the review asked.

"You jump straight into Kath and Kim's Velveeta world, but there's no ironic voice, or anchor - think Jim in The Office - to provide some ballast, or at least the obligatory wink and nod.

"Selma Blair barely bothers to break out of her eye-rolling sourpuss Valley Girl persona, which makes the portrayal a little bit of a solo note - there may well be someone lovable under this cliche, but good luck finding her."

East coast newspaper The Virginian-Pilot said while Shannon "exudes the same magnetism that made her so popular on Saturday Night Live", the show was disappointing.

"The banter between Kath and Kim shows signs of some clever writing, however, the show tries too hard to be zany sometimes," the paper said.

"You'll wonder why Shannon and Blair's wardrobes look like they were pulled straight out of the '80s, contrary to what everyone else is wearing.

"And while Blair skillfully plays up the self-centered Kim for laughs, viewers might like to see a bit more redeeming pathos.

"It'll be interesting to see how long the odd-couple shtick holds up."

By Peta Hellard
October 08, 2008
The Daily Telegraph