Ben and Kate Season 1 Review “Guitar Face”

It’s conflict week on Ben and Kate, and it’s not just the titular “Guitar Face,” belonging to Will, that’s causing trouble; BJ is jealous now that Kate’s attention isn’t solely focused on her, and Ben is screwing things up for Tommy in pursuit of his own get rich quick schemes. And, with the exception of Tommy and Ben (which I’ll get to later), it all plays perfectly.

The opening, with Kate and Ben tag-team parenting Maddie, is perfect, and shows off the easy chemistry the two leads have built up this season, while also letting Maddie speak just a little bit more than normal. Eventually, I guess, she’ll have to be a real character, with personality traits beyond “standard child,” but I appreciate that we’re getting there at a slow pace, rather than being thrust into quirky-child territory from the start.

Will and Kate being annoyingly cute-couple-y would be horrible, if BJ weren’t there to react with the disgust any sane person should have to made-up text acronyms. But Will is looking a little too perfect, even if he is in a ZZ Top cover band called ZZ Scott, so BJ decides to spy on his ex-wife at a divorced women’s support group. The spying doesn’t last, though, and instead we get what may be the most interesting thing BJ’s done so far: she buys into Nan’s vague therapy-speak wholesale. Not that she believes it, or cares, or something; she just loves the attention.

It’s premises like this one that give me faith that, given the opportunity, has sticking power. Not once does any action she takes feel out of character for BJ, and yet, we end up exactly where we never thought we would, with her dispensing Oprah-level platitudes and relationship advice. It’s fun, and more importantly, funny. At the same time, though, the show gives us extended moments of genuine silliness, like everyone demonstrating their various sex faces at the bar. It’s a moment that lives or dies entirely on the strength of the actors, and boy, does it ever live. The grace note of BJ mistaking Kate’s genuine sadness for BJ’s own sex face was just the cherry on top.

But, like I said, not everything worked. Just like in “21st Birthday,” Ben and Tommy are in a fight over Ben’s erratic lifestyle. It’s the kind of conflict that deserves to be given focus multiple times, of course; defining Tommy outside of “Ben’s friend” is something the show has struggled with occasionally. Here, though, it just doesn’t seem to work; the plot resolves itself too quickly, without any real repercussions for Ben. If, at some level, the show is about a prodigal brother returning home and learning to settle, than we need to really see his old lifestyle collide with his new one in more meaningful ways.

Overall, though, “Guitar Face” is another solid showing for Ben and Kate. Not its finest hour, but far from worst, and certainly competitive with every other sitcom on air this season. Are you all inclined to agree? Or are you coming down harder on this newcomer? Hit me up in the comments and let me know.