“Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23” on ABC
There’s been an awful lot of talk about representations of the female gender in the current television lineup. And why not? Between HBO (“Girls” and “Veep”), CBS (“2 Broke Girls”), FOX (“New Girl”) and NBC (“Are You There, Chelsea?” and “Whitney”) there’s plenty to ruminate on. One of the more attention-grabbing debuts in the last month or so has been ABC’s midseason replacement sitcom “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23.”
Let’s skip right over the unwieldy title (complete with trendy, “$#*! My Dad Says”-style censored cursing) and get right to the heart of the matter. TV is suddenly obsessed with breaking the mold of typical female characters, giving them foul mouths, rapacious sexual attitudes and an arsenal of punch lines that would make Tucker Max blush. On the extreme end, we have “Whitney,” which is packed to the brim with crude jokes and endless euphemisms for female genitalia. It’s hard to argue that a show this retrograde has much of any redeeming social value. A show like “Girls,” on the other hand, is a little more debatable (and boy are people debating it). “Don’t Trust the B” seems to sidestep any argument—feminist, sexist or otherwise—by existing in its own demented, slightly vulgar universe.
Krysten Ritter (famous as Jesse’s junkie landlady/girlfriend in “Breaking Bad”) stars as Chloe, an unrepentantly awful party girl living in Manhattan. She makes her living luring newbie girls as roommates and then driving them out with her repellant behavior—all the better to steal their security deposit with. This habit brings her in contact with June (Dreama Walker), a naive girl from small-town somewhere who arrives in NYC seeking her dream job in high finance. When the job falls through in spectacular fashion, June is left scrambling for a place to live. She ends up at Chloe’s funky loft. But her surprising grit and unwillingness to admit defeat keep her from fleeing immediately. Despite some casual drug trafficking, offers of orgies, the feeding of alcoholic beverages to underage kids and the sexing up of June’s fiancé, Chloe can’t manage to shake her new roomie. And so the two become friends. Sorta.
The idea behind this odd-couple pairing is that Chloe might secretly have a heart and that June kind of needs a take-no-prisoners city girl to show her the ropes. Throw in the occasional euphemism for female genitalia (“panty hamster,” for example) and James Van Der Beek playing a clueless actor named James Van Der Beek, and you’ve got a self-consciously edgy, occasionally shockingly funny show.
So far, the scripts are a bit rickety. Some moments are genuinely, catch-you-off-guard funny. Others are way too manufactured. (Van Der Beek hasn’t quite hit the Neil Patrick Harris self-mocking sweet spot.) The strongest element, though, is Ritter—who is can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her fearless as the world’s worst best friend. I’m not sure if this tribute to backstabbing, cocktail-guzzling, boyfriend-stealing frenemies is a step forward or backward for gender parity on TV. But it’s sure a kick in the ass for ABC’s hump day lineup.
“Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23” airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on KOAT-7.