It's a fact of life in the entertainment industry that there are corners of the TV world where you can work for years, but be functionally invisible for anyone who isn't actively watching your show. Were you aware that Grey's Anatomy's Sara Ramirez spent two seasons laying low on Madam Secretary? Or that Mad Men's Jessica Paré is a regular on SEAL Team? This is how we all lost track of Kat Dennings for a while. The good news is we're finally getting her back.
After her breakthrough success in the indie romance Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, and her scene-stealing work as Darcy Lewis in the first Thor film, Dennings was cast as one half of a pair of mismatched, penniless, waitress roommates in the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls. After a rocky and frequently controversial kick-off to their first season — co-creator Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City) spent the entire press tour putting his foot in his mouth over questions about the show's racist depictions of supporting characters — the series enjoyed strong ratings and populist appeal. It even won an Emmy for art direction. And then it lasted for five more seasons. During that span, Dennings made another Thor movie, again acting as an audience surrogate for all the weird Asgardian goings-on. But as the MCU evolved into an entity where the audience no longer needed surrogates to hold their hand through weird space-stuff (and since Natalie Portman was clearly done playing Jane Foster — for the moment, anyway), Dennings made no further appearances in the Marvel movies. And so. for a while, unless you were a long-haul 2 Broke Girls fan, you were left wondering where Kat Dennings' career went.
There were TV guest appearances here and there to remind you of the magnetic actress we were missing. An episode of The Newsroom where she went toe to toe with Sam Waterston. An enviable guest-judging gig on RuPaul's Drag Race. A voice role on Big Mouth, where she got to fulfill her destiny as an impossibly cool and sarcastic older sister. But each of these appearances only made us long for that moment in time when it seemed Kat Dennings could be one of the actresses of her generation. Go back and watch Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist again, observe her acting circles around Michael Cera, and then explain how she didn't receive a billion leading-role offers. She's always deserved better than what Hollywood has given her.
Which is why it's such welcome news to see Dennings back and headlining the Hulu comedy Dollface. Created by Jordan Weiss and executive-produced by both Dennings and Margot Robbie, it's about a woman (Dennings) who gets dumped by her boyfriend of five years and has to return to the friends and life she enthusiastically ignored while she was in a relationship. It's one of those observational premises that depends greatly on how well the cast can execute it. Dennings is cast opposite Brenda Song (The Social Network), Shay Mitchell (Pretty Little Liars and You), and Esther Povitsky (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) as her friends. The series looks to have a seriously surreal, whimsical bent to it, recalling nothing so much as the deeply 90s series Ally McBeal, where fantasy sequences, daydreams, and the odd smash-cut to literal metaphors like Ally getting tossed in a dumpster were the norm. If not Ally McBeal, maybe "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend without the songs.". Either way, this is Dennings' show to command.
Whether or not Dollface heralds a return to form for Kat Dennings, we can at the very least relish having her around again, even if it's just good enough to keep us occupied until Marvel's WandaVision series, which is supposed to include Dennings reprising the role of Darcy Lewis from Thor.
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.