Ask Matt: Calling Out ‘Kat,’ Hallmark’s Christmas Obsession, Pet Peeves & More

Call Me Kat Mayim Bialik Leslie Jordan
Lisa Rose/FOX
Call Me Kat

Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic — also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist” — Matt Roush, who’ll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.)

One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it’s already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.

Sending Kat to the Litter Box

Comment: Thought I would watch Call Me Kat because of Mayim Bialik. Two words: EPIC FAIL. I am a huge fan of the UK’s Miranda, which I watched on PBS. This was a terrible copy of a great show. Bialik is a fine actress, but she does not have the comedic physicality and facial expressions of Miranda Hart, who had me from the very first episode to the last. LOL at every episode. Sooo missed it when it was over. Do Miranda or do nothing! — Christine (70 years), Conestoga, PA

Matt Roush: Well, they’re certainly trying to do their version of Miranda, including its various breaking-the-fourth-wall gimmicks (more on that below), but something obviously got lost in the translation. Christine’s response inspired me to go to Hulu, home to all three seasons of Miranda (which originally aired from 2009 to 2013). I hadn’t seen it in years, but I laughed frequently watching the original whereas I rarely cracked a smile during the remake.

It reminds me of failed efforts years ago by various U.S. producers to adapt Absolutely Fabulous, which could never capture that singular British essence of extreme absurdity that’s also evident in Miranda Hart’s mini-masterpiece. The show was so tailored to Hart that asking anyone to step into her oversized shoes, especially in something played as broadly as Kat, is almost inviting disaster. I kept imagining some British dude (even someone as talented as Andrew “Hot Priest” Scott) trying to replicate Seinfeld‘s comedy for a different audience. It’s just not going to work.

Question: I really wanted to like Call Me Kat. It has a great cast and a good premise. However, the constant asides to the audience quickly became unbearable to watch. What are you hearing and any odds that they will revamp the show to change this? — Ken

Matt Roush: I’ve seen four episodes of Kat, and the format is the format, all based on the aforementioned Miranda, which opened with the main character talking to the audience and frequently addressing them throughout the ensuing farce and ended with the actors breaking character to wave as their names flashed on the screen. In Miranda, it worked. In Call Me Kat, it feels forced, perhaps because the set-up (a cat café instead of a joke shop) and the approach to the writing aren’t as sharp and barbed. Kat sentimentalizes her situation and feels more pandering, and for whatever reason, what worked for Miranda falls flat for Kat. Unless they choose (if they get the chance) to distance themselves from the source material, I figure Kat won’t change its stripes anytime soon.

From another angle, I’d like to offer this perspective from Rose of Hazlet, N.J., who wrote in before the premiere aired: “I am so excited to hear that Mayim Bialik is getting a reboot in Call Me Kat. Especially as a volunteer at a great cat café in Asbury Park N.J., Catsbury Park Cat Café and Tea House. We’ve been shut down since March due to COVID-19 but the wonderful people who run our café continue to do adoptions and TNR. This show is a great premise, as the people I’ve worked with and met through the café are wonderful people, not to mention the hundreds of wonderful kitties I’ve been able to pet and socialize with and play a small part in their adoption process. I so hope it is a successful series!!!”

Whatever we might feel about Kat‘s merits as a sitcom, this urgently makes me want to visit a cat café (when it’s safe), so thanks for sharing.

Why Does Hallmark’s Christmas Season Ever Have to End?

Question: With how popular Hallmark’s Christmas movies are, have they ever considered doing a Christmas movie channel? The ratings are always big for the movies. They can turn one of their current channels like Hallmark Movies & Mysteries into a Christmas channel. They are already airing Psych and Perry Mason on Hallmark Drama, so they can move the rest of the lineup there. So many Hallmark fans are saying to do a Christmas movie channel. Christmas fans love the idea of 24/7 Christmas movies, and non-Christmas movie fans love the idea because their favorite programs will not go away while Christmas movies are on. So what is your opinion? — Jackie

Matt Roush: As someone who only reluctantly is taking down his Christmas tree this week, I get it, and in today’s TV landscape, less is never more — but given industry trends, you’re more likely to have to pay for a Christmas channel should Hallmark ever go in that direction. (I checked out the lineup on the company’s Hallmark Movies Now streaming service, and there are quite a few Christmas movies currently available in the mix, ready to watch whenever.)

Hallmark has a history of peppering the schedule with Christmas films during the off-season, especially with stunts like “Christmas in July,” but to offer them 24/7 12 months a year just might begin to dilute the brand, making premieres even less special than they already are given the glut of movies that also appear on Lifetime and other competitors. Hallmark obviously understands the value of Christmas branding, but even so, I’d like to think there’s a limit. But if they could produce an extra revenue stream with a streamer that celebrates yuletide all year long, I wouldn’t put it past them.

Kenan Is Ready for Prime Time

Question: Is The Kenan Show still happening? If it is, do you think the sitcom stands a respectful chance at being renewed for a second season? Or is NBC planning on giving its first season a poorly promoted and eventually canceled summer run? Also: With the announcement of the new showrunner, when will there be casting and character breakdown news released for all of Christopher Meloni‘s Law & Order: Organized Crime co-stars? And will any of the co-stars be joining him on his upcoming SVU guest appearance? ‑ Alex

Matt Roush: According to TV Guide Magazine‘s 2021 preview issue, Kenan Thompson‘s long-awaited prime-time sitcom is now simply titled Kenan and is listed as having a tentative February start date. Your question presumes a lot, with that sort of “are they trying to kill the show?” cynicism that assumes NBC wouldn’t want their longest-tenured Saturday Night Live star to be a success in prime time. The premise sounds awfully conventional, in which he plays a widowed dad who hosts a morning show in Atlanta and suffers family members including a father-in-law (Don Johnson) and a live-in brother (SNL colleague Chris Redd). Still, best not to judge it until we see it, and for now it appears Kenan won’t be shuffled into the summer, although this season everything’s up in the air because of the ongoing COVID crisis.

As for Law & Order: Organized Crime, be patient. That’s still very much a work in progress, and few if any details have surfaced about the series, or the SVU episode that will launch it, since Empire‘s Ilene Chaikin was brought on last month to run the show. We’ll see it when we see it.

TV Pet Peeves

Comment: I’m not sure if this topic has been brought up before, but I’ve been following you (and your columns) for years, and don’t seem to remember reading about this concern. I have a large problem (I’m not sure why) with “empty cups” in most television shows. You can obviously tell when a cup or mug has liquid in it, and TPTB continually refuse to add any liquid into these vessels. Then, when a character “takes a drink” of said liquid, it’s again obvious there was no liquid in the cup to even drink…followed by a fake swallow. I realize there are real problems in our world, but this has annoyed me for years, and we need to stand up for what we believe in, I guess. Thank you for any follow-up or insight to why these decisions are continuously being made. — Adam

Matt Roush: I can’t explain why they keep faking this sort of thing so badly — I’ve stage-managed church plays with more attention to realism — but I am aware that this is one of many pet peeves that aggravate those of us who watch TV regularly. (This is where I usually include a gripe or two about the sound volume of background music that drowns out dialogue, by far the #1 complaint in my mailbag. But it’s more fun to air new grievances.)

Question: Have you noticed how often the pronoun “I” is misused on TV? It is so prevalent that I’m afraid it is becoming mainstream. Maybe you can help get the word out. Here is an easy way to decide which pronoun to use: Remove the other person. For example, you don’t say “Dad is dropping I at the mall,” so you wouldn’t say “Dad is dropping Joe and I at the mall.” It has to be “me”. (Sounds like a Sammy Davis Jr. song!) And let’s not forget “It’s between you and me.” Anyway, thanks for your help. — Jeanne

Matt Roush: I notice this on TV all the time, as well as in real life, and while I’m tempted, I don’t think I’ve ever corrected anyone face to face, preferring to let this minor lapse of grammar slide. (Maybe I’m contributing to the problem.) Perhaps TV writers and actors will see this and use your tool to correct themselves going forward. For unknown reasons, “I” sounds better than “me” to some people even when it’s wrong.

And Finally …

Question: I loved the show Las Vegas with Josh Duhamel. I was so disappointed that the show went off the air because of a writers’ strike. They left the audience hanging on a cliff! Just recently watched all the episodes and find myself frustrated again with no resolution. Will they ever consider doing maybe a two-hour reunion movie to resolve the open stories? I’m sure I’m not the only fan who would love to see that! — Liz

Matt Roush: I’m sure you’re right about the fans, but the more time that passes — the show ended in 2008 — the less likely it is to bring all of the elements back together for closure. And while Las Vegas ran for five seasons, it hasn’t stayed in the public and pop-culture eye the way some series have. (A quick search couldn’t find it on any major streaming service, and I could only find a mini-marathon of episodes in the wee hours airing on E! on my cable in the next weeks.) Although with Peacock reviving chestnuts like Saved by the Bell and (next month) Punky Brewster for a new generation, I suppose anything’s possible.

That’s all for now. Remember that we can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. (Please include a first name with your question.)