Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23" with Les Chappell

Cross-talking about the new show "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23" (on ABC) with Les Chappell of  

Me: I thought the bitch character (can't remember her name) was unusually cartoonish but I was thinking "By golly, it's so crazy it just might work" like those 1950's movie executives. On the one hand, her desire to ruin the lives of innocent midwesterners moving to NEw York City in an effort to set them straight is a poor choice for a defining trait of a character because it's so thin and baseless in any which number of ways. This isn't Pushing Daisies or Once Upon a Time so I expect more realism. However, she's so unwaveringly outrageous that I think she could be TV's next Sue Sylvester. Then again, I'm not sure I know of a show where one of the two leads is the over-the-top X factor. That's a delicate balance to hold.

Les: I don't think she was purposely trying to ruin their lives, she just used that as a flimsy justification for stealing their money. I do think they maybe went too over-the-top in her bitchdom, but for now I'm excusing that as a pilot thing they'll tone down in upcoming episodes. Also, the character was named Chloe.

Me: Don't get me wrong, the one's roommate is nuts while the other one's sane has been done before. Two and a Half Men, the short-lived Tony Shaloub-Neil Patrick Harris vehicle Stark Raving Mad are the first two to come to mind and neither of them had roommates insane as advertised (Remember, Charlie Sheen's offscreen antics don't count) but I think Chloe is more the equivalent of Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover: Someone who's just so ridiculous that they're best used in the background rather than driving the plot forward

Les: I think I have more confidence in Krysten Ritter to drive a sitcom than you do - I didn't find her over-the-top ridiculous, just portrayed as meaner than she actually is. I think in a few episodes it'll settle into more of an Odd Couple sort of thing and they'll move closer to each others' poles and even out. Plus, the Beek from the Creek adds a hell of a lot of humor to things.

Me: While other tv reviewers feel they can distinguish themselves through being thorough in their research, I prefer the opposite. I like to research as little as possible, for authenticity's sake and out of laziness, but thanks for the assist. Chloe it is! Back to the review and I'm sorry to take up your valuable facebook wall real estate with my shennanigans but I'm kind of on a roll and the inspiration to write has just sort of struck me here and now, so I'm just going to continue reviewing if that's allright with you. In response to you, I disagree: Her M.O. was lulling Midwesterners into her apartment and making them miserable so they'll leave and go back to the Midwest. She's in it for the money, but she's also doing it out of a deluded sense of chivalry. I mean this is a deluded character that if she existed in real life might qualify for an episode of Ripley's Believe it Or Not or one of those wierd world of crime museums. Not only that, I think that's the source of her humor. I kind of hope they tone it down, but I think it's too late to really change directions two episodes in because there's not much else about her but that. She sort of spends an inordinate amount of time doing that so it almost is the equivalent of a career for her and defines her relationship with at least two other characters already.

Les: I didn't get the chivalrous vibe from her - not to say that's a wrong theory, but I got nothing in the way of being helpful from her. She's got as the Beek put it pirate morals. And I really don't think she's that extreme - I could find people like her easily amongst Portland's population.

Les: Oh, and two episodes in? There's a ridiculous amount of time left to adjust. It usually takes comedies at least half a season to get the calibration right. 

Me: And how about the James van der Beek factor. I read a review the morning the show premiered (the only one I read, I'm weak) that lamented the use of J vdB because bringing in a star to play a slighter more degenerate version of themselves is too "been there done that." I've seen it done with one-off guest roles in Extras and Curb Your Enthusiasm and presumably it's been done in Entourage, but I think there's a major difference between that and having James van der Beek be a fabric of the show week after week. I'm guilty of not subscribing to Showtime and thus never having seen Episodes but I also believe Matt LeBlanc and his degenerating was the purpose of the show, and here James van der Beek is like 3rd-billed. That seems a much better fit 

Les: I skipped Episodes because everyone said it was awful, though apparently Matt LeBlanc was the best part of the show. I think the Beek isn't a big enough star for it to be too distracting, and this is something he's done on Funny or Die videos before so he knows how much he can get away with. And agreed, if he's part of the show's universe on a regular basis that's different from a cameo here and there on some other shows. My concern would only be if every episode focuses on "Dawson's Creek" references and him either cashing in on or trying to escape the fame of it. (And really, all I want is for him to act on his apparent feud with James Franco he mentioned in episode two so Franco can make an appearance channeling the way he was in 30 Rock S4. "I'm the actor James Franco! And I'm in love with and common-law married to a Japanese body pillow!")

Me: Oh I totally forgot about Franco's love with a body pillow. With Kevin's body pillow girlfriend and van der Beek's rivalry with Franco, that's two distinct reasons to bring Franco on the show himself. I'm guessing he's already slated to appear a few episodes down the line and this is very weak foreshadowing

Les: If it brings James Franco in, I don't care if it's weak foreshadowing. All Franco, all the time.

Me: Also, they have a weird neighbor with a Lars and the Real Girl thing going on and who has an odd juxtaposition of being an out-and-out pervert and seemingly an acceptable member of society. He's kind of the wacky guy I expect to be in a sitcom but not the guy who's being asked to carry the plots. Add him and Mark's girlfriend who's so thin that she can only make love underwater (Maybe Niles' ex-wife picked up this guy on the rebound?), and it seems as if the show is aiming for the most offbeat characters it can think of. It's the humor of wackiness, agree?  

Les: Again, it's a pilot, it's trying a few things out. The masturbating neighbor, the obsessive girl down the hall, the banker turned barista - if the showrunners are smart they'll find a way to give them more depth or phase them out gradually, and if they're not they'll stay as they are. It could be a "New Girl" or an "Are You There, Chelsea?"

Les: But anyway: I like Krysten Ritter, I like this version of himself VDB's playing, I like Drema Walker, and I think the show's funny enough I'll add it to the comedy rotation. ABC's got a good track record of comedies that start out rough and get better ("Happy Endings" and "Cougar Town") and what I saw makes me think this one could slide in alongside those two. 

Me: I don't think Happy Endings started out anywhere near as ambitious as this. It was an unremarkable Friends clone that found its grove (although for the record, not with me, I'm just acknowledging its success). This is a high concept show with balls-to-the-walls ambition. It reminds me in how far out in left field it is with Knights of Prosperity which ABC failed to nurture. I get a good feeling from this show as well. I like it but I think for it to have legs, it's going to have to smooth out its edges in the opposite direction of Happy Endings: It has to tone down its more outrageous characters  

Les: I really don't get the left-field, high-concept vibe from this you're getting. It's a classic Odd Couple scenario with both sides of the equation modernized.


1 comment:

Carla said...

If you are going to have a roommate, you have to make sura that it is the right person, meaning: does not play the drums, does not yell at night, does not bring girls/boys every night, and knows how to cook. When I travelled to Argentina, I got one of the buenos aires apartments they usually offer and it was cheaper because it was with a roommate. She was great, cooked the greatest Argentine dishes!