Mayim Bialik can’t save snooze-fest of a sitcom


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Mayim Bialik left a big bang for a sad meow. 

The second “Big Bang Theory” alum in recent months, including Kaley Cuoco, to headline a distinctly unscientific new show, Bialik stars in Fox’s new sitcom “Call Me Kat,” about a 39-year-old single woman who owns a cat café. And her name is Kat. Get it?

That obvious “joke” is among the building blocks of the predictable, humorless sitcom (Sunday, 8 EST/PST; moves to Thursdays, 9 EST/PST, on Jan. 7; ★½ out of four) that wastes Bialik’s talents, as well as that of the rest of its cast, including comedy veterans Swoosie Kurtz and Leslie Jordan. Its trite attempts at humor and schlocky fourth-wall-breaking might be an attempt at a nostalgic throwback but wind up making “Kat” feel like a failed ’80s sitcom. 

The series focuses on Kat, her mother (Kurtz), her employees (Jordan and Kyla Pratt) and Max (Cheyenne Jackson), an old college crush who just got a job as a bartender next door. Although, as is repeated frequently, Kat is happy to be single and 39, her interest in Max is instantly reignited, and much of the first four episodes are spent on her trying to decide if he has feelings for her, too.

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Mayim Bialik chats with USA TODAY’s Bill Keveney about being a real-life cat lady and playing one on her new Fox sitcom, “Call Me Kat.”

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The audience is kept abreast of every development by frequent (and frequently jarring) narration from Kat, who stares at the camera in random intervals to share what’s on her mind. At the end of each episode, all the actors featured, even random guest stars, arrive to wave and smile as their names are credited. The device might work on a different show (or really, just a better one), but here it never stops being weird and annoying. The series’ Louisville, Kentucky, setting is completely unrelated other than a bourbon tasting and Jordan’s Southern drawl. 

Kat (Mayim Bialik, right) reconnects with her old crush Max (Cheyenne Jackson) in “Call Me Kat.” (Photo: LISA ROSE/FOX)

‘She does make it very easy’: Jim Parsons, Cheyenne Jackson on playing straight with Mayim Bialik

The problem with “Kat” is that it just isn’t very funny. Try as the writers might, the dialogue is unnatural to the ear and the jokes are flat. Despite Kat repeating how happy she is to be an “old” single woman, the series is most interested in her will-they-won’t-they relationship with Max, plus any other romantic prospect that crosses her path. She’s afraid to travel alone. Her mother sets her up on blind dates. Her millennial employee (Pratt) shows her how to flirt. 

Vanessa Lachey, from left, Leslie Jordan and Mayim Bialik hoof it on “Call Me Kat.” (Photo: LISA ROSE/FOX)

The bright spots of the series are mostly connected to Bialik’s inherent appeal. The amiable, goofy Kat may suffer from social anxiety but she’s nothing like Amy on “Big Bang.” A recurring joke about a comfy green pantsuit Kat wears to every formal event is even sometimes funny, but only because of Bialik’s physicality dancing in it (the character’s forced clumsiness is significantly less successful). The series simply isn’t up to the task of being a vehicle for Bialik. 

Unfortunately, there’s really no need to call on “Kat.”

Review: Kaley Cuoco easily departs ‘Big Bang’ in silly-but-thrilling ‘The Flight Attendant’

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