Kath and Kim are the clueless, flamboyant, and extremely tacky Australian mother and daughter on the show of the same name. The Aussie series—whose cocreators, Jane Turner and Gina Riley, are also its stars—is a hysterical parody of suburban life in Australia. EVERYthing is over the top—the accents, the clothes, the props, the plotlines. And from the first time I saw the show, the thing I loved about it was the fact that the two female leads were willing to wear silly prosthetics and unflattering clothes for the sake of good comedy.
Voluntarily making oneself unappealing is business as usual for American male comedians—think Jack Black, Eddie Murphy, and Will Ferrell, for just a few examples. American female comic actors, however, almost always have to stay pretty: Friends, 30 Rock, and Will and Grace all testify to that. The general rule seems to be that if you’re a funny woman, it’s best to also be sexually desirable, and though a few women (like Amy Sedaris) seem to delight in perverting that directive, way more embrace it. (Take a look at this photo from a recent Vogue article for a nice example.) The same rule simply doesn’t apply in British and Australian shows like Absolutely Fabulous, The Royle Family, I’m Alan Partridge, and Nighty Night, and ultimately, I think that’s why American comedy will never stack up to what’s being done in those countries by female comedians.
(above from left to right: Strangers With Candy, Absolutely Fabulous, The Royle Family, I’m Alan Partridge and Nighty Night)
So what bums me out about the Yankified Kath and Kim is that not only has the outrageousness of the original been watered down, but it stars Selma Blair as Kim, the clueless twentysomething who fancies herself a living Barbie doll but who in fact is a lazy, selfish, and frumpy brat—you know, someone you might have sat next to in high-school Algebra. In the clips and photos I’ve seen, no real effort has been made to conceal Blair’s beauty and movie-star figure. I’m worried the ridiculousness of this character is going to be lost in translation. To make things worse, all the clips on the show’s official website focus on Kim, despite the fact that we all know her costar Molly Shannon is the real comedian—and, in my humble opinion, it’s Kath who always steals the show in the Aussie version.
Admittedly, I haven’t seen an actual episode yet (the show premieres on October 9), so I’ll have to eat my words if it does in fact turn out to be a decent remake. For now, however, I’m biting my fingernails in nervous anticipation.