Mayim Bialik goes back to work with ‘Call Me Kat’

Rick's Reviews

Mayim Bialik returns to TV with “Call Me Kat.” (Photos courtesy of FOX)

Mayim Bialik’s acting career blossomed with the series “Blossom” and got a big bang from “The Big Bang Theory.” Now she’s hoping her next move is purr-fect as she stars in the comedy “Call Me Kat.” The new FOX comedy debuts at 8 p.m. Jan. 3.

Kat (Bialik) has been disappointing her mother since she was born. Her mother (Swoosie Kurtz) is particularly worried now that her single daughter has spent her life savings to open a cat café.

The battle comes down to Kat trying to find her own path to happiness. The same can be said for Bialik as she goes from being a supporting player on “Big Bang” back to the demands of being the series star as she faced in “Blossom.”

She describes joining the cast of “Big Bang” like moving to a new school for the final semester of senior year. She was a newcomer to a world where everyone had been working together for years and the show was moving along at a ratings-breaking clip. But it ended up a great experience.

“I’ve never had a job like this. I can absolutely say that my time on ‘Big Bang Theory’ was fantastic and life‐changing, and my time on ‘Blossom’ was fantastic and life‐changing,” Bialik says. “But the way that we get to work and these actors that you see and our writers and just this whole team has made this, for me personally, the greatest job I’ve ever had.

“That includes being a mother because, like, that’s really rough most days.”

That’s high praise considering the series had to go into production during a global pandemic. Cast and crew had to adjust to working under strict guidelines to protect everyone’s health.

The show also threw an acting challenge at Bialik as her character often speaks directly to the audience. That not only goes against everything she has been taught as a performer but draws immediate comparisons to the much heralded “Fleabag” where Phoebe Waller-Bridge broke the fourth wall.

“Call Me Kat” is based on the BBC series “Miranda” where the title character spoke to the audience. Bialik’s character does that as a tribute to the original series that was around before “Fleabag.”

Bialik points to another difference between her new series and “Fleabag.” The simple fact her show is a traditional four-camera situation comedy makes the tone different.

Jim Parsons, who played Dr. Sheldon Cooper on “Big Bang,” is an executive producer for “Call Me Kat.” He suggests that it is easy to make comparisons on paper to other programs but the best way to see how different that productions are can be seen in one episode of “Call Me Kat.”

“It’s just completely its own – it’s its own beast,” Parsons says. “Its own machine. And Mayim is so distinct as an actor but also as a human being.

“To build the show around somebody like that, it doesn’t ‐ to me at least – matter how many similarities there are or aren’t to any other show. It’s going to be its own thing.”

That thing includes a supporting cast of players that start with Kurtz. Working alongside Kat at the café are confident millennial Randi (Kyla Pratt) and the recently divorced Phil (Leslie Jordan).

Kat’s former crush and good friend, Max (Cheyenne Jackson), returns to town and takes a job as a bartender at the piano bar across the street. That bar gives both Jackson and Bialik a setting to show their musical skills.

The musical element comes from executive producer and writer Darlene Hunt. She saw that music was a big part of “Miranda” and decided to incorporate it into the new series.

Hunt adds, “I always have a lot of music in everything I do. And I can’t sing, personally, but I just enjoy it. Certainly, we have a Broadway star on our cast, and Mayim is exquisitely talented in all singing and dancing arenas.

“So, I really wanted to lean into that. And I created not just a bar, but a piano bar from the outset, even before we cast Cheyenne.”

Jackson’s thrilled to be on a show where he gets the opportunity to show the kind of musical abilities he displayed while on Broadway in “Finian’s Rainbow.” He jokes that despite being on the music-heavy TV series “Glee” he never got to sing a single note.

Any musical numbers will only be in “Call Me Kat” to support the story of a woman in her very late ‘30s making major decisions about her life. Bialik credits Hunt with giving Kat multiple layers.

Bialik adds, “It’s not so much that she’s uncomfortable with dating. She’s uncomfortable with the expectations that have been laid are out for her, and I think that a lot of people will resonate with that.

“What I love is that this is not a show about a woman trying to find someone. It’s a show about a woman trying to be happy finding herself and seeing what happens along the way.”

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