Ben and Kate Season 1 Review “21st Birthday”

“21st Birthday” is just one more in a run of solid episodes of Ben and Kate, and proof that this show is sturdy and dependable. The story is solid, the characters are defined, and the jokes succeed more often than they fail. We’re only on the fourth episode, but the show already is filling out its world and the history of its characters in a way that feels natural and organic.

So let’s start with the history, which popped up here much more prominently than it has before, in the shape of Ben’s ex-girlfriend (who we saw in the pilot as well) and Kate’s friend from her pre-motherhood days. Neither of those characters felt entirely three dimensional, which could have potentially brought the whole episode down, but the action around them was solid, and they didn’t need to feel like real characters, when we already have 4 real characters (plus a child) to work with.

Opposite last weak’s pairing, this time we get Kate and Tommy together, and BJ tagging along with Ben. It’s the kind of thing that’s smart for a sitcom to do, seeing hwo each character bounces off every other one, and, predictably, Ben and Kate nails it. Tommy’s crush on Kate, which was previously a little creepy, honestly, is suddenly much sweeter (although I don’t know how I feel yet about that ending), and BJ with Ben is just hilarious.

The high point of the episode, for me, was BJ’s extended speech to Darcy. For all this show keeps to the model of a standard sitcom, it’s certainly not afraid to hold on a scene for far longer than most shows would, and it works particularly well here, with BJ going on forever about circuses and how every knows her. It’s fantastic, and following a few scenes of her moping in the background as Kate bonds with an old friend, puts a fine point on a showcase episode for BJ.

If there’s one way this show could fail, it would be that it leans too heavy on the sentimentality. This episode, like all the episodes before it, is a little treacly; the reveal that Maddie was with Kate the entire time was kind of an emotional cheat. It didn’t jibe quite right that a flashback had lied to us, just so we get a good cry opportunity at the end. But, for now, it hasn’t weighed so heavily that it overpowers the laughs, and maybe I’m just tolerant of sappiness, but a sprinkle of it in my comedies is very much a welcome thing. Was it too sweet for y’all? Or, like me, are you fully on board with Ben and Kate?