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NBC's 'Kath & Kim' is downright dreadful

Molly Shannon and Selma Blair star as a mother and her daughter.
Molly Shannon and Selma Blair star as a mother and her daughter.
Mitchell Haaseth, NBC

"KATH & KIM" is this season's most annoying new network TV show.

It's populated by characters who are the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. The kind of people you'd sprint away from if you encountered them in real life ... so why would you want to spend a half hour a week with them on TV?

When you toss in the fact that this is supposed to be a comedy but it's painfully unfunny, this has all the makings of yet another NBC disaster.

Based on an Australian sitcom (because Hollywood has pretty much run out of ideas), "Kath & Kim" is about a mother and daughter. Kath (Molly Shannon) is a 40-something woman whose only child, Kim (Selma Blair) has recently gotten married. A longtime single mother, Kath has found love with a sandwich-shop owner, Phil (Jon Michael Higgins), and is well on her way to building a new life for herself.

But Kim, who turns out to be the world's most self-absorbed person, moves back in after six weeks of marriage to Craig (Mikey Day), who's dumb as a post but seems to be a relatively nice guy.

Kath is not thrilled.

"What did you think marriage was going to be? Flying off on your private jet to have cocktails with the prince of Delmonico?" she asks.

"Well, I didn't sign up for cooking dinner or being interested in how anyone's day was. I'm a trophy wife, like Melania Trump and Mrs. Larry King Live," she says.

"Kath & Kim" never gets any funnier than that in its first couple of episodes. And, most of the time, it's considerably less amusing.

The show was ordered by NBC without first producing a pilot, which I'm sure has nothing to do with the fact that NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman is one of the executive producers. (Just the way I'm sure that his involvement in most of the new shows on NBC is just a coincidence.)

The show has been through a number of writers, producers and actors and previous versions were scrapped along the way. And this is as good as it could get?

Sad.

"Kath & Kim" is trying to be several things at once, and not succeeding at any of them. It wants to be a mother-daughter comedy. It wants to be a commentary of some sort on America's obsession with celebrities.

(Kim believes she's "like a celebrity.")

It wants to be comedy about relationships.

Apparently, it wants to appeal to viewers who find racism amusing. There's a throw-away line in tonight's premiere when Kim tells her mother to go "past the Mexican guy," referring to a dark-skinned man wearing a turban who's quite obviously not Hispanic.

It wants to be funny like the original Australian show, but with more heart.

"That other show was broad and big," said executive producer Michelle Nader," who said she wants "to do sort of exaggerated, heightened stuff as well. But there will be just sort of an emotional underpinning to all of the episodes."

It's hard to find in the first two. Maybe it's just hiding behind all the bad writing and unpleasant characters.

Just being a comedy of any kind would be an improvement over this.

IN REAL LIFE, Molly Shannon and Selma Blair could not be mother and daughter. Shannon is 7 years, 9 months older than Blair.

"I'm playing a little older and she's playing a little younger," Shannon said.

"I'm playing a lot younger," Blair added.

It's not like this is anything new on TV. Or in the movies. And, at 44, Shannon is pretty much exactly the right age to play Kim.

It's Blair who's more than a bit old for her part.

"In the original show, the two actresses are the same age," said Blair, and she's pretty much right. Jane Turner (who played Kath) was born in December 1960, and Gina Riley (Kim) was born in December 1961.

"Actresses play different people all the time," Blair said. "It's weird. It's this thing called acting, and so you just, like, play different characters that aren't your age or anything."

Blair was apparently feeling a little defensive that day. Or maybe a little secure about being a 36-year-old woman playing a character who's barely past 20.

"If you squint your eyes when you're watching it and you don't put it on hi-def — if you're, like, squinting and put some Vaseline on your eyeballs, I look so young," she said.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com