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Fox Presents Two New Comedy Shows After Football That Are Marginally Worth Watching
January 3, 2021  | By David Hinckley

A few new shows have started to creep onto TV schedules, which is noteworthy even when the shows sometimes are less so.

Fox launches a pair of new ones Sunday, Call Me Kat and The Great North, in the choice spot after NFL football games. North is better than Kat, but at least they're both, well, new.

Call Me Kat, adapted from the hit British series Miranda, stars Mayim Bialek (top) as Kat, a 39-year-old woman navigating life as a happily unmarried single.

Call Me Kat airs at 8 p.m. ET, more or less, depending on when the football games end.

Much of the drama in Kat revolves around her relationship with her mother, Sheila (Swoosie Kurtz), who has little feel for the line between concern and hovering.

Kat sees herself as an independent woman who left her job teaching at the University of Louisville to open a cat café. Sheila sees her as a spinster doomed to a lonely life as a cat lady.

Nor is Sheila the only one aware of the issue, when singleness subtly shapes many of the nuances of Kat's life. When she's invited to her best friend's marriage renewal party, she doesn't get a plus-one with the invitation.

Kat takes this with mild exasperation and sardonic humor, which we know because she spends much of the show talking to us. Like FleabagCall Me Kat demolishes the fourth wall, leaving Kat to spell out every reaction for the viewer, confiding in us how she really feels.

One of the best features of Call Me Kat is the two quirky employees at the cat café, Phil (Leslie Jordan) and Randi (Kyla Pratt). It's a sitcom, so they tend to go over the top, especially Phil, but it fits the tone.

The show also has Cheyenne Jackson as Max, a high school acquaintance on whom Kat once had a mad crush and who has now returned to town as a bartender at Kat's favorite watering hole.

Call Me Kat has likeable characters and the relatable premise of singlehood. The question is where it can take that beyond a steady stream of singles jokes. It could find more as weeks go by, but at the start there's just not a lot here.

The Great North, which starts at 8:31 p.m. ET, again more or less, joins Fox's acclaimed Sunday night animation bloc, and seems good enough to make the team.

It starts with the familiar premise of a weird and dysfunctional but loving family, in this case the Tobins.

They live in Alaska, where Dad, Beef Tobin (voiced by Nick Offerman), operates a fishing boat and talks rugged Alaska talk. Life, he declares, is what happens “between the time we chew off our mother's umbilical cord and a wild animal eats us.”

Beef has some issues, one of which stems from the fact that his wife, Kim, ran off some years ago with Marcus from Pennsylvania. Beef copes with this through denial, pretending Kim was eaten by a bear when everyone knows she wasn't, and sometimes retreating to his room to watch Gilmore Girls reruns.

He cares deeply for his remaining family, whom he fears will someday also leave him.

His oldest son, Wolf (Will Forte), has brought his fiancé, Honeybee (Dulce Sloan), up from Fresno and wants to move into the guest house with her. Beef sees this as too much separation.

His middle son, Ham (Paul Rust), and youngest son, Moon (Aparna Nancherla), still have some home years left, but his only daughter, Judy (Jenny Slate), who just turned 16, seems disinclined to go into the family fishing business.

She has landed a job at the local mall as an assistant in a photo shop, which becomes the centerpiece for the premiere episode's drama.

The Tobin kids are clever, perceptive, and not nearly as sarcastic and dismissive as the kids in a number of other family sitcoms. Living in Alaska has clearly created a survival bond among them, and while they have different life ambitions, they remain a pod.

The Alaska and rugged nature jokes feel fresh enough to engage those of us in the Lower 48, and while The Great North has sentimental moments, much of the humor seems nicely dry.

It should be mentioned that some of the humor is also adult, primarily dealing with bodily functions and some sexual allusions. This being a broadcast network, there are no four-letter words and there's no animated nudity.

Given the production restrictions through much of 2020, this new year will be challenging for TV networks in terms of new material. The process is now under way.

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