Friday, January 11, 2013

Ben and Kate

Ben and Kate
Episode 11: B-Squad
By: Carlos Uribe

Ben and Kate is a show about a responsible single mother and her carefree older brother.

Spoilers Ahoy!

Three characters had to face disappointments this week. Kate dealt with her daughter not getting into the gifted class, BJ had a mother who never approve of her life, and Ben realizes that one of his business ideas he pitched could have taken off if he hadn't been so lazy. It is this similar theme that run throughout the episode that allowed Ben and Kate to deliver a funny and sweet episode even if the ending tried too hard. Before we get into each individual story, let's talk about the ending. It's supposed to be a heart-tugging ending where Maddie's normal classmates try to sing the pledge of allegiance. While it's cute and funny, the show didn't earn the emotional impact simply because it felt kind of random. If it had just ended with all of the kids in the golf carts and eating pizzas then it would have been a lot better. Even then, it would have felt a bit forced. I think the problem was that the writers didn't find the proper ending scenario for the episode. It might be because the idea was better on paper or maybe they couldn't think of a proper way to end it. The problem with B-Squad is that it could have found a much stronger finish. The good news is that everything before it was pretty much Ben and Kate doing what it does best: being funny and sweet at the same time.

So let's talk about Kate. She is a mother with a lot of expectations for her daughter. She wants to instill the value of never settling for anything below excellence. This is why she wanted her daughter to do good on the test to get into the gifted program. It comes as a big surprise to Kate when she learns that her daughter's test scores weren't high enough. Maddie is clearly a bright kid so Kate decides that the fault doesn't lie with her daughter but with Maddie only having a single mother. When the plot's climax comes at the planeterium, Kate is finally forced to confront her fear that she won't be able to be the best parent for her daughter. It's up to her brother to remind Kate that she's willing to do anything for Maddie. The problem isn't Kate's parenting skills but simply that Maddie didn't do as well as Kate had expected. Kate's issues as a mother are solved and she's able to process that information. It's interesting to note that Kate was never disappointed in her daughter but rather in herself. This is a good contrast to make between her and BJ's mother.

Wendy, BJ's mom, comes to visit in this episode. BJ isn't completely happy about this because she's having trouble navigating the huge web of deceit she's been feeding her mom. She's claims to have been married to a spy before he was captured and killed so she now works as a news anchor to support herself. She went as far as to create a fake news program to try and fool her mom. Throughout the episode, BJ did her best to gain her mother's approval but always falling shorts. No matter how impressive she pretended her life was, her mother always found fault with it. That is until Wendy meets BJ's boyfriend and she approves of him. The one true thing about BJ's life and her mom liked it. This is to state that BJ shouldn't be ashamed of her life because it's a good one. It's still vital to note that Wendy is different than Kate. Rather than be disappointed in her own parental skills, she disapproves of her daughter. This is two different approaches they could take and they both ended up being completely wrong. Kate realized this but BJ's mom doesn't. Wendy only approves of BJ because she's attracted to BJ's boyfriend. Wendy can only be proud of her daughter when BJ shows similar tastes to her own. Likewise, Kate is worried about her daughter not getting into the gifted class like she presumably was. The two are similar in what they want for their daughter but different in who they blame when life doesn't go according to plan.

Now let's shift the conversation to Ben. Ben finds out that an old friend of his took his business idea and founded a pizza franchise. His friend is now successful while Ben is still trying to find a product he can sell. The reason that the friend found success is because he believed in the idea and he stuck with it. Ben was content to sell it for eleven beers because he didn't want to put the work in to make it a reality. Ben is at first angry at his friend but only because he's actually disappointed in himself. This is a major fault of the character that's going to continue in future episodes until he can finally grow and learn. At least he's aware of the problem so that he can start to confront it and maybe find a business that will actually take off.

B-Squad is a funny episode that largely works. The main plot with Kate goes into her fear that one parent isn't enough to raise a child, Ben deals with his inability to stick with a business idea, and BJ has to tell the truth about her life to her mother. These three plots share a similar theme that allow the episode to function well. The only problem is that the ending was a bit forced and was almost cheesy. It simply could have used a little bit more work to get it just right.

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