Thursday, May 12, 2016

It's Time to Bury 2 Broke Girl$

Image from Wikipedia
I just watched the season finale of CBS' 2 Broke Girl$, which just wrapped up its fifth season, unbelievably. Now, I do realize that as a 50-year-old, I am not this program's target audience. Though I was a wee 45-year-old when it started, have been a fan of Garrett Morris since episode 1 of Saturday Night Live, and adored the show's prototype, Laverne & Shirley. Also, I'm of the gay persuasion--a demographic that the show manages to lampoon, insult, pander to and sometimes embodies the spirit of. So, I'm sort of in the mix after all.

But the show is terrible. Just awful. Oddly, even so, I probably saw the majority of the first four seasons, and a decent amount of season five. I don't even know why. I kept hoping its vortex of bad would stop sucking me in, but no. The awfulness of it, for some reason, compels me. And it's bad in so many ways, and on so many levels. The casting is bad. The acting is bad. The writing is bad. The jokes are bad. The storyline is bad. The continuity is bad. It's thorough, I'll give it that. But why is it so bad? That's a tougher nut. Because though all of what I just said is true, I really don't think the actors are bad, or that the creator (Whitney Cummings) or writers themselves are bad. It's just that somehow, the show is so tremendously less than the sum of its parts.

A horse in Georgetown. Seems legit.
The premise is simple. A Bernie Madoff type goes to jail, and leaves his rich bitch daughter broke and alone in New York. She's taken in by a lower class waitress, and the two embark on a dream to open a cupcake shop, while working in a diner. Nothing particularly bad about the premise. The diner is run by a short Korean man, who is the endless butt of jokes, generally about his height, alleged androgyny and/or boyishness. The jokes never evolve, get better, nor have ever been funny. The character hasn't improved from a one-note caricature either. Oleg, the repellent, horny, ethnic cook is equally undeveloped, non-evolving and unfunny. Kat Dennings is the streetwise Max, authentic broke girl, and Beth Behrs is the newly broke, blonde Caroline. Garrett Morris rounded out the original cast, and came off best, as the grizzled cashier of the diner.

Another wasted actor (Sandra Bernhard) in another
illogical (and ultimately aborted) story arc.
In season one, the immediate impression given by the show was that it was primarily a vehicle for big eyed, big boobed Dennings to crack wise, and deliver double- and single-entendre jokes about sex and body functions. At top volume. Dennings (and to be fair, most of the cast) seems to be unaware that the studio has microphones. Lines are shouted to the rafters, as in a high school play. And with nearly as much subtlety. The show does not do subtlety, and does not do hushed tones. At all. The decibel level is astonishingly grating.

Many episodes center around Max and Caroline trying to pick up extra work, or just extra money via schemes, part-time jobs, second or third jobs, going to pastry school, running a pastry shop, a cupcake window, working in an airport restaurant, in an upscale restaurant, and on and on. These side jobs and adventures can last an episode, a short arc, a season-long arc, aborted arc, you name it, and they seldom make a bit of sense scheduling-wise with their diner jobs. This sort of thing was easier to accept in the simpler 70s, when Laverne & Shirley would somehow keep their brewery jobs while joining the army, or becoming candy stripers. TV was simpler then, for one thing. The brewery was a day job, for another. And I was ten.

Laverne & Shirley wasn't perfect, and was just as loud,
but they were so much better.
L&S never tried to pass off a thoroughbred horse being kept as a pet, in the courtyard of an inner city apartment as normal or possible either. They did have loud and annoying secondary characters in Lenny & Squiggy. Girl$ has one, embodied by the (usually terrific) Jennifer Coolidge Sophie character, a brash, Polish, zaftig neighbor, greeted by whoops from the audience whenever she appears, in seam-bursting, over-stuffed dresses. Sophie has little reason to be in each episode, so they paired her, despite logic and lack of chemistry, with Oleg, and have not only made the couple over-sexed (and public about it), but have decided by season five to have 54-year-old Coolidge (depicted as a cougar in American Pie some 17 years ago) become pregnant.

Despite the show's many faults, I have, as I said, for some reason watched a majority of the show while it's been on. Occasionally, they've done something right. As when they've brought on love interests for the girls, notably Nick Zano's Johnny, Ryan Hansen's Candy Andy, Eric Andre's Deke and Ed Quinn's Randy (the best of the bunch, despite his nineteen-year age difference with Dennings). But as with the aborted storylines with all of the mini-careers the girls have started, each of these relationships seems to abruptly end, not because the storyline demands it, but because it seems the show is just like that.

Ed Quinn wasn't enough to make this a good show. But
it sure got my attention. Looking good for almost 50,
Ed! Well played, show.
2 Broke Girls loves the reset button. They love to have the girls in the diner, in those awful outfits, screaming their lines, ignoring no sexual pun, even stretched ones, still making fun of how short Han is, and how old Earl is. So, out with the boyfriend. Out with the gay waiter, or the Irish waiter, or any other staff at the diner. Out with the separate cupcake shop they somehow ran at night simultaneously with their night time diner jobs. Windfalls of money must be spent down to nearly (or past) zero. And no character development can take the characters out of their originally established one-note personality.

So, what spurred me to write about this terrible show, now renewed for its 6th year? Again, I don't know. I think checking in on it after missing several episodes, wondering why the impossibly good looking, talented, and much-too-old-for-the-part Ed Quinn was hanging around, and incredulous that the show manages to stay on the schedule, despite never improving. The show should be put down, as should poor, neglected Chestnut, the pet horse.


  1. It sneaks up on me. I'll be working on the computer with the TV on in the background and suddenly a shrill female voice is screaming a forced premise, get-you-fired-in-real-life, sex joke with a cringeworthy, pun-based punchline to thunderous whoops and applause followed by that anger-inducing guitar riff. And far too often, my hands or lap is full and my remote out of reach.

  2. I wondered what you'd think of it. Whether or not Dennings' boobs would cancel out the bad jokes. The oddest thing about this show is, if you got a GOOD writing team (and a set wrangler who could convince everyone to bring the decibel level down), the show COULD be just fine. There isn't anyone in the cast who couldn't put in a good performance, with decent material. That's what's kind of stunning about it to me: the pieces are all there, but the end product is horrible.

    And for me, worse than all of that for me (and an insight into how my pop culture brain works) is the impossibility of the scheduling. There aren't enough hours in the day or week for their adventures while working everyday in a diner that apparently has no other staff.

  3. Oh, and yeah, I still give all of those 70s & 80s shows a bit of a pass I guess. L&S, Alice, Perfect Strangers, Bosom Buddies. They all had wacky adventures while managing to keep their dreary jobs. But I don't think any of them stretched it quite this thin.

  4. I'm glad I don't have television... But I do like boobs. Both physically & intellectually.


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