LOS ANGELES—Add “Kath & Kim” to the list of American network television shows based on programs created abroad. It follows the likes of “The Office,” “Coupling,” “The Worst Week,” “Life on Mars” and “The Ex List.”
The new NBC comedy, starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, is based on an Australian comedy of the same name. Just like the series from the land Down Under, “Kath & Kim” looks at what happens when a mother and a daughter with a dysfunctional relationship end up living under the same roof again.
Despite there being only seven years’ difference in the actresses’ ages, Shannon plays the mom.
The task fell to executive producer Michelle Nader, whose past works include “Spin City” and King of Queens,” to adapt the Aussie version for an American audience. She jumped at the chance because of a close understanding of this mother-daughter dynamic.
“I grew up with a single mom and I understood that relationship. We wanted to really sort of get the emotional core of the show more than they did in the Australian version. The Australian version is very funny, and we’re absolutely going to be hopefully as funny as them. But they do eight episodes and we do 22,” Nader says during an interview at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “You just have to sort of dish out the level of reality in a different way. It has to be more grounded.”
Nader says the show will work because Shannon and Blair are perfect choices for the roles.
Blair’s character of Kim is a self-described “trophy wife.” The actress, best known for her role in the “Hellboy” movies, says Kim was a character she wanted to play.
“I just really wanted to play someone that was different than me. Now, I find that she’s not that different from me. So that’s weird,” Blair says with a smile. “My character’s really in a state of arrested development. Which I see all the time. People don’t want to grow up.
“So it’s part of the humor that my character could be 20, she could be 30, she could be 40, and she’s in her clothes from when she was in seventh grade and thinks that that’s hot.”
Shannon was familiar with the series, having received a copy of the Australian version from a friend. As soon as she heard NBC was making an American version she wanted to be part of the show.
“I really love doing characters. I prefer that to playing close to myself. It just feels more fun to me and freeing,” Shannon says. “I like my character—Kath is positive, strong. She’s spent her whole live raising her daughter and now she’s got the daughter out of the house and she wants to move on, focus on herself and her dating life and her figure and her diet.
“Then the daughter moves back in. She keeps getting sucked back into the drama with the daughter.”
And that drama must play out as comedy.
KATH & KIM
8:30 p.m. EDT Thursday