Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review - Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23

I greatly anticipated seeing this new sitcom, having read good things about it and being a current fan of shows with a similar premise (2 Broke Girls) and similar pacing and bite (Suburgatory).

The series stars Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad, Gilmore Girls) as Chloe, a seemingly black-hearted con artist who cycles through roommates, moving them in, charging them falsely higher rent and keeping the extra cash for herself, then becoming a horrible presence and doing unspeakably horrid things to drive them out, enabling her to keep their security deposit as a bonus. 

Enter her latest "victim" June (Dreama Walker, The Good Wife, Gossip Girl), a doe-eyed, overly optimistic, sunshiny gal from the mid west who, when we meet her, has her life plan on full steam ahead:  great new job, gorgeous new apartment, loving fiancé.  But within moments, it all goes to hell and she is forced to lift up her chin, put on a grin and start anew. 

First up - moving in with Chloe. Chloe seems like a great person to live with - she's fun, worldly and she's besties with with James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek), playing/paroding (one hopes) himself here with subtle, self-involved bravado and an all-about-me attitude (to get laid, he often appeases fans by wearing flannel and blasting the Dawson's theme song).  It's not until June receives fair warning from neighbor (and roommate #4) Robin (Liza Lapira, Dollhouse, NCIS) that all may not be as it seems.  Quite simply, Robin says "don't trust the bitch in apartment 23!" BAM!  Got there in just over five minutes in.  A good thing when setting up a new show - get right to the point.

Among Chloe's many shenanigans:  she walks around naked, eats food that is not her own, has men over for sexual trysts at all hours (though it's all for show - she's not really so promiscuous), serves alcohol to minors and invades private bathroom time.  But she is perhaps too quick to underestimate June, who manages to fight back with surprising gusto (for example, to get even for the hiked up rent, June sells all of Chloe's furniture).  It's a character trait you don't outwardly expect given her Pollyanna-like personality, but it's a nice twist.  And one Chloe is surprised and even impressed by.  Not such a pushover after all.  Could this be - of all things - the beginning of her very first female friendship?

Later, when she discovers June's fiancé is cheating on her, Chloe does the unthinkable - she seduces him.  On June's birthday.  On June's birthday cake.  But what normally would have been just another antic in Chloe's usual scheme is actually meant to help, showing June (who walks in on them) what a mistake it would be to marry the scumbag.  It's Chloe's first selfless act ... and the start of that aforementioned friendship.

So where am I at with this show?  Like I said, the premise is a bit like 2 Broke Girls - two ladies from different worlds - one hardened and cynical, the other optimistic and trusting - coming together to form an unlikely friendship.  It's a show I'm a big fan of, and Don't Trust the B---- isn't quite there yet for me.  

Apt. 23 is also a great match for the Wednesday ABC lineup it has joined, fitting in great with Modern Family, Suburgatory (another favorite of mine), The Middle and Happy Endings, which all have quick pacing and a plethora of imperfect, charmingly flawed characters.  It's definitely a good match.

Van Der Beek is a highlight.  It's going to be fun to see snippets of his past - nods to the Creek and Varsity Blues in the pilot alone - worked in.  Plus, it's capitalizing on a popular trend right now:  celebs playing, often self-depricating themselves (see Matt LeBlanc in Episodes, Neil Patrick Harris in the Harold and Kumar films, Bob Saget among others on Entourage). 

Ritter has Chloe's point-of view well in hand and she may be the newest person you'll love to hate.  But you can also see that the writers are going to play around with her discovering what it's like to actually be friends with the person she's living with rather that sabotaging them at every turn.  That does seems to go against the very premise of the show it was touted to be, set up quite clearly in early promos (a montage of "former roommates" reviled the many horrible things Chloe did to them to drive them out).  So where will the show go from here if it's to deviate from that right off the bat?  

I'm going to stick with Apt. 23 for at least a couple more episodes to see exactly where we're going to go.  Didn't love it outright like I thought I would, but I see snippets of promise.  And who can possibly resist "The Beek from the Creek?"  

Bottom line:  give a little trust to the gals in Apt. 23 ... for now.

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.

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