TV Review: Kath & Kim

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In theory, a hit format overseas should have an edge over an untested format developed at home. If Latin Americans love "Ugly Betty" and Brits adore "The Office," then American viewers will enjoy U.S. versions, right?

Not always. In practice, there are at least as many "Couplings" and "The Ortegas," as there are "Bettys" and "Offices." Finding a hit is one thing. Adapting it is another.

Reveille, former home of NBC Entertainment's Ben Silverman, specialized in staking out international hits, including Australian sitcom "Kath & Kim." So it's not hard to understand how an American version of the show ended up on NBC's fall schedule. What is hard to understand is why NBC thought this particular adaptation would work.

It lacks the charm of the original. Worse, the characters in the NBC show are so exaggerated that the whole thing feels like a skit. A long, long skit.

Kath and Kim Day are mother and daughter. They are played by Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, respectively, who are about eight years apart in real life. Kath is shallow and self-absorbed but, compared to Kim, she's practically Mother Teresa.

Kim, a textbook case of stunted mental maturity, aspires to be a trophy wife. She is newly married to Craig Baker (Mikey Day), a salesman in an electronics superstore. He adores her but constantly says the wrong thing, like asking for dinner occasionally.

Kath, on the other hand, is gaga over Phil Knight (John Michael Higgins), owner of a mall sandwich shop. He feels the same way but ends up most of the time sharing Kath with Kim.

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.
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