This was a sad week in television for me. Two of my favorite sitcoms, Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 and Ben and Kate were pulled from ABC and Fox’s schedules effective immediately. As of now there are no plans to air any remaining episodes and while both networks have yet to confirm cancellation, Twitter buzz from both creators and stars of both shows indicates the inevitable.
Both of these shows are created by women: Apartment 23 by Nahnatchka Khan and Ben and Kate by Dana Fox. Both shows weren’t doing well in the ratings but both got enough critical love to garner notice, which unfortunately is not always enough to save a show. With the series finale of 30 Rock next week, we are, at least for the time being, losing Tina Fey, who, we can argue made the networks perk up and take more notice of women created comedy (although NBC doesn’t have a great track record with their female showrunners).
Between the ratings bait Chuck Lorre created sitcom sludge, Apartment 23 and Ben and Kate, were completely unique and different takes on the sitcom format which can largely be attributed to the women who created them. Apartment 23, starring the hilariously acerbic Krysten Ritter, goofy and sweet Dreama Walker and a weirdly meta yet hysterical James Van Der Beek as himself, was a show that was unafraid to be unlikeable. Ritter’s Chloe, from the get go, is upfront about her sex life, inclination for extreme scheming and her unwillingness to change. The show is biting, sharp, completely refreshingly bizarre at times and features the best feminist takedowns of romantic comedies, dating shows and the whole ridiculous institution of People’s annual Sexiest Man issue that I’ve ever seen.
Ben and Kate, takes the traditional sitcom format of one guy, one girl and completely subverts it. Instead focusing on a brother, Ben (played by the endearingly silly Nat Faxon) and his sister, Kate (a sweetly neurotic and awkward Dakota Johnson) and her young daughter Maddie. Ben helps Kate take care of Maddie alongside their group of friends, BJ (the truly, brilliant Lucy Punch) and Tommy (a charming Echo Kellum). The group gets into various hijinks usually fueled by Ben and Tommy’s weird business ideas such as “Bunk Bed Pizza” and “Rail Mall” or Kate’s awkward attempts navigating the dating world while being a young mom. The ensemble cast has a tremendous amount of chemistry and the show has a lot of heart— a weird, silly heart.
To ax both these shows, shows with an entirely different sitcom perspective, is a major loss for expanding comedy and as one of my favorite television critics Alan Sepinwall tweeted, “not a good trend for a biz that needs more female voices.”
We need more voices like Khan and Fox’s on our television screens, especially with the impending loss of 30 Rock. We need more smart, hilarious female created sitcoms out there, especially ones that continue to subvert the typical sitcom format and bring us hilarious and interesting women characters.
ABC Yanks ‘Apartment 23’ From Schedule, Doubles Up on ‘Happy Endings’ (The Hollywood Reporter)