Dress Sexy At My Funeral: Why did NBC axe Lipstick Jungle and spare Kath & Kim?

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TV heaven got a bit more cramped last weekas NBC announced the cancellation of two of its prime-time dramas: My Own Worst Enemy, starring Christian Slater as a double-life-leading former CIA agent, and Lipstick Jungle, starring Brooke Shields, Kim Raver and Lindsay Price as rich white women making bad choices in the Big Apple.

Having never seen an episode of My Own Worst Enemy, I can only attest to the quality of Lipstick Jungle (and read on, I will), but by now we should all know that even the best showssnagged enough viewers to stave off the executioners blow are no match for the bad ratings. And both of these shows had 'em, so the cancellations should come as no real shock. Instead, the surprise of the week was which show had, indeed, snagged enough viewers to stave off the executioner's blow: Kath & Kim.

A month ago, I begged the simple question, "Will Kath & Kim be any good?" and then proceeded to not answer it. That's partly because I've been really busy, but also because I've spent the weeks since the show's premiere grappling with the full magnitude of its all-consuming crappiness.

Molly Shannon and Selma Blair star as the gratingly ditzy titular duo in this Australian import, a polyester-swaddled mother and daughter of seemingly below-average intelligence and indeterminate socioeconomic status. They live together in Sarasota, Fla., where I have been, and which in my experience was not washed in the putrid, peachy glow in which the show basks; it's as if the camera lens, like the cast, has been slathered in too much self-tanner. Twentysomething Kim recently left her new husband, Craig (Mikey Day), for unspecified reasons likely involving his reluctance to put up with her raging indolence on a daily basis. Meanwhile, much to the chagrin of her freeloading daughter, fortysomething divorcee Kath has found true love in the form of Phil Knight (John Michael Higgins, not Fred Willard), proprietor of a sandwich shop at the local mall.

Apparently, Kath's intermittent hairdressing work and Kim's career as an ungrateful slob afford the ladies a moderately comfortable lifestyle, because the two spend most of their time at that mall. Indeed, despite Sarasota's lovely beaches, parks, parking lots, back alleys, rooftops and other various outdoor spaces, rarely are the characters shown anywhere other than the mall, their godawfully tacky house or their concrete paver-lined patio. It's a conspicuously claustrophobic, fluorescent light-lit suburban hellscape. The scant outdoor scenes mostly involve Kath and Phil power-walking in their McSubdivision-- a running gag that ceased to be funny sometime around the time Michael Phelps won his fourth gold medal, way back in August when NBC began running previews for the show during the Olympics.

Initially, Craig boasted some promise as a put-upon young dude just trying to win his girl back, but has only proved deserving of his bride as they've become ever more embroiled in a tug-of-war of passive-aggressive antics involving garishly flaunted thongs, ranch dressing and dog breeding. Phil, Kath's sandwich-hawking loverboy, is the show's only saving grace: He's an idiot, too, just not a completely self-obsessed one. It seems like only a matter of time before he gets fed up with his fiancee's bubble-headed nonsense (or, like Craig, earns every bit of misery heaped upon him by his refusal to bail).

I have seen all six episodes of Kath & Kim aired thus far. I have taken notes. I have pondered and mused. And I have concluded that no one with a normally-functioning brain paying full attention to this show could in any way find it genuinely hilarious and touching. I can only assume that the rest of the oh so important 18 to 49-year-old demographic, whose viewership has earned this festering cold sore of a TV show a full season on NBC-- has been tuning in out of a perverse curiosity like my own. That, or America just forgot to turn off the TV during its post-My Name Is Earl, pre-Office power nap. That, or we are a closeted nation of masochistic, platform flip-flop fetishists. I honestly don't know which is worse.