By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol
9:33 PM CDT, September 24, 2012
"Ben & Kate" (7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Fox; 3 stars out of 4) will live or die by how much viewers love, or hate, Nat Faxon's exuberant portrayal of Ben Fox.
Faxon (Oscar-winning screenwriter, with "Community" star Jim Rash, of "The Descendants") spins like a top as Ben, the man-boy of a brother to more mature, but younger Kate (Dakota Johnson, daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), who has put her love life on hold while raising her 5-year-old daughter Maddie (Maggie Jones from "We Bought a Zoo").
For years Ben has popped in and out of Kate's life--mostly to ask for things like her car, a pinata, a bear trap and six dresses sizes 8 to 12--but now he wants to move in and help raise his niece. Their friends BJ (Lucy Punch) and Tommy (Echo Kellum) help out too.
Like Faxon, "Ben & Kate" pours on a little too much quirkiness and charm in the pilot episode. But the writers leaven the show's family-friendly sweetness with smart, biting humor. I'm still laughing at a scene in which Ben, unable to curse while in the car with Maddie ... well, you just have to watch it. Faxon may have his too-manic moments, but the rest of the time he's pure perfection.
The series is based on show creator Dana Fox's relationship with her own brother, Ben, and you can tell she has great affection for the man. "Ben & Kate" is at its best when the siblings lovingly spar--usually about one of Ben's hair-brained schemes. Faxon and Johnson have great chemistry, convincing us that their characters have each other's backs no matter what.
"Who knows what will happen?" Kate asks in voice over. "As you may have noticed, my brother's an idiot."
He's looking like a winner, too.
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