Faxon admits to fretting over 'Ben and Kate' ratings, hopes show finds audience | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Faxon admits to fretting over 'Ben and Kate' ratings, hopes show finds audience

This image released by Fox shows Nat Faxon, as Ben, in a scene from "Ben and Kate." On the new sitcom Faxon portrays the male half of the title as an impulsive, irrepressibly happy-go-lucky sort, the kind of guy who can't even crash a wedding on time and who thinks fusing a leather recliner with a waterbed is a million-dollar idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /Fox, Jennifer Clasen)
October 28, 2012 - 6:00 AM

TORONTO - On the new sitcom "Ben and Kate," Nat Faxon portrays the male half of the title as an impulsive, irrepressibly happy-go-lucky sort, the kind of guy who can't even crash a wedding on time and who thinks fusing a leather recliner with a waterbed is a million-dollar idea.

In reality, Faxon — who won an Academy Award for co-writing the George Clooney dramedy "The Descendants" — is not so carefree. And he might have wanted to channel some of Ben's anxiety-free frivolity when sizing up the freshman show's early ratings.

Although the heartfelt ensemble comedy has been a hit with critics, its ratings haven't reflected that goodwill. TV By the Numbers, a website that predicts a show's odds of staying on the air, prognosticated this week that the show was a likely candidate for cancellation.

And Faxon admits he's concerned about the show's small viewership.

"I got very panicky about it and had to talk to Dana Fox, the creator," the down-to-earth Faxon said during a promotional visit to Toronto this week.

"I was like: 'Are we doing OK? Do people like us?' (It was) this very neurotic need to be constantly reassured that everything is OK. So I'm dealing with it the same way (fans of the show) are.

"It's a process," he added. "There are shows that open to huge numbers and are hits right from the start, but there are also a ton of shows, great shows ... that took a long time to get going. Obviously, 'Seinfeld' and 'Everybody Loves Raymond' and a lot of those shows that just needed the time to be nurtured and to get people onboard with it and to watch it and then they became huge things.

"So I don't know. I pray that this is the same situation."

And even if the numbers aren't robust, there are reasons for optimism.

For one thing, there are the reviews — the Hollywood Reporter noted that the show was one of only two new comedies this season with "enormous potential" (along with "The Mindy Project"), while TV Guide predicted that the "charmingly offbeat" show would become a "sleeper hit."

And then there's the fact that the Fox network — which airs the show on Tuesdays in the U.S., with Citytv carrying it here in Canada — has already ordered 19 episodes, giving Faxon and his crackerjack cast the chance for at least an extended audition with viewers.

Faxon stars alongside Dakota Johnson (daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), whose Kate is a responsible single mother whose proclivity for careful calculation clashes with her gleefully irresponsible brother, who nevertheless moves into Kate's house to help raise her precocious five-year-old daughter (Maggie Elizabeth Jones).

On paper, Ben is the Oscar Madison to Kate's Felix Ungar, but the show quickly establishes that Kate is every bit the mess that her uninhibited brother is. And with talented supporting players including British comic actor Lucy Punch ("Bad Teacher," "Hot Fuzz") and newcomer Echo Kellum, the show operates without a strict straight man.

Fox, who executive produces the show, based the sibling dynamic on her relationship with her brother, a notoriously zany sort who has apparently given her plenty of material to work with over the years. Faxon has relished getting to know the man who inspired his role, even if the real Ben is a bit more restrained now that he's grown.

"He still has that infectious kind of thing going on, where you would follow him in any direction he went just because it seemed like a good idea at the time," laughed Faxon.

"It may lead to horrible things and consequences that were unexpected, but there's something about him that makes you want to follow his lead."

Faxon could relate to the character as well.

Especially in his younger days, the blond, charmingly goofy actor — who might well be the world's most cheerfully unassuming Oscar winner — acknowledges that he shares some of the character's exuberance.

"I think friends that I grew up with and went to college with certainly are like: 'Dude, that's just you. That's like, you. You're just like, on my TV, but it's just you,'" he said, affecting a lunkhead tone of voice.

The show's comic chops aside, Faxon says what drew him in was the sweet dynamic between the titular siblings — they bicker and clash near-constantly, but support one another unflaggingly.

And Faxon waited a long time for the opportunity to step into a leading role, with the graduate of the Groundlings improv troupe previously filling his resume with bit parts on a long succession of sitcoms and movies.

Well, that and writing. In the wake of their Oscar breakthrough, he and screenwriting partner Jim Rash (best-known for his role as the reliably bizarre dean on "Community") are co-directing "The Way, Way Back," a film project based on a script the duo penned years ago. It's set to star Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell.

"My fall's been packed, but I wouldn't have it any other way — I feel so fortunate to be in the position I'm in," said Faxon, who nonetheless noted he hasn't reached the point where he's recognized much by strangers.

"It's been a lot of raised eyebrows — 'Isn't that guy from something? Didn't I go to school with that guy?' Then it's that embarrassing thing where you're like: 'No, you probably saw me on TV.' And they're like, 'No, actually, we did go to high school together.'

"Now I will never say that again."

Well, his closest brush with fame was probably at the Oscars. As he, Rash and co-writer/director Alexander Payne rose to claim their trophies, Rash created one of the evening's watercooler moments by mimicking a leggy pose struck by Angelina Jolie earlier in the night.

Faxon said the duo never found out either way what Jolie thought of the gesture.

"Funny enough, we never heard anything. And I hope that's a good thing.... I hope that she understands that it was just a silly thing and we didn't mean any harm by that whatsoever. That it was just taking advantage of a silly moment, as we would make fun of each other, not with any bad intentions."

He pauses a beat.

"I sound like Ben now."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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