2 Broken Episodes of ‘2 Broke Girls’ – a Review
These past few years have been a boon time for television sitcoms. After Friends and Seinfeld packed it in without downright disappointing finales we entered a void. Everyone was trying to emulate the previous champions but without any originality. The odd hit like Scrubs brightened our day but on the whole the pickings were slim. Now things are starting to turn back around. How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory and, best of all, Community (which NBC is currently trying to force into mainstream popularity like a toddler forcing a square peg through a solid brick wall instead of letting it be the cult smash with moderate success it so clearly enjoys being) have all provided laughs and fun. Now that they’ve hit the end of their seasons we need something else to relax with. To that extent I decided to check out 2 Broke Girls, mainly because it has Kat Dennings who has proven that she great comedic timing is a variety of smart projects already.
The premise was pure sitcom. Two girls, one living on the poverty line and works two jobs to get by and the other a heiress from a family that just had their indicted and has had their finances frozen, wind up working together in a Brooklyn diner. They realize that with Max’s baking skills and Coraline’s business education could create a new business opportunity. About two thirds of the way through the second episode I turned it off. This is why.
The concept creates problems. It’s easy to come up with a concept for a sitcom – coming up with one that will sustain a long narrative is a different deal altogether. It needs to be simple enough that it’s not going to get in the way of a typical episode, flexible enough to be molded to different situations and open enough to be the basis of the show for potentially years to come. How I Met Your Mother is constantly struggling with this idea, but the concept is flexible enough to be keep the show afloat because it’s really a simple idea – a guy retells his life. My Name is Earl is a prime example of his this goes wrong. 2 Broke Girls stumbles on its way out of the gate, with the story having so many parts to it that fitting them into a 22 minutes story every week leaves the writers juggling to many balls. It’s also so inflexible that it dominates each episode. HIMYM is a bit anchored by it’s concept but it doesn’t have to dominate every story.
Two characters can be enough to carry a comedy show, but they need really good chemistry or talent. Kat Dennings is doing most of the heavy lifting here and I’m not convinced that these two actors actually speak to each other outside of the set. This doesn’t kill a sitcom though – they can have a strong supporting cast to help carry the show. Let’s look at what we’ve got here…
Supporting Character #1: The Black Guy. This guy sits in the corner of the diner all day and switches between imparting sass or folksy wisdom. He is literally introduced as someone who will make you feel ‘whiter’, and I believe it. That kind of stereotyping really emphasizes the difference between races.
Supporting Character #2: The Russian Guy. Going the Borat route with the approach to Eastern European stereotyping he’s ugly, sleazy, disrespectful to women, dresses in dirty clothes and works as a short order chef.
Supporting Character #3: The Asian Guy. Speaks in broken English, talks politely, dresses like a kid going to Sunday school, is awkward around women and wants to be good in business.
Supporting Character #4: The White Guy. He’s dumb and loud. That’s about it.
No doubt a Latin character will be introduced in the next season. Riding a donkey.
Finally, we have the humour, and let me tell you that this is where the show really falls down. The jokes almost consistently fall flat. Most of them rely on racism. One would’ve hoped that we were past this type of humour, the “look how black that guy is” type of humour. Making fun of stereotypical racists has replaced it. See Pierce and Britta from Community for characters who do this well. Pierce is the stereotypical old man who hasn’t adjusted for political correctness and Britta is the opposite end of spectrum, who winds up being offensive by doing her best to be ‘accepting’ of people. Yet 2 Broke Girls proves that people who actually sell themselves as comedy writers still go in for this kind of humour.
Whenever there isn’t any racial stereotypes around to impart whacky cliches, the girls clumsily fall back of crude, risque humour. This always comes across as forced and awkward. There’s a place for this kind of humour and this isn’t it. It looks like a 7pm sitcom, it sounds like a 7pm sitcoms and jokes where the entire punchline is ‘backdoor’ or ‘masturbating’ simply doesn’t gel. South Park succeeds with this because it contrasts with the ‘Peanuts’ style animation, and Weeds manages it because it is part of shows concept. in 2 Broke Girls it’s completely out of place and isn’t clever enough to have shock value.
If there’s one moment that really encapsulate this lack of talent or smarts on behalf of the writers comes when Caroline wanders into Max’s room at night only for Max to pull a knife out from under her pillow. “This is the only home security I can afford,” she explains.
Ok, that was kinda amusing. She has this risky sleeping arrangement because she’s poor and…
“Also, I’m a cutter.”
Holy sweet bejesus you just made a joke about self harm. You did it with a smirk. It was a throw away line. It was chucked in there as a side thought. The timing suggests that this is the gag used to diffuse the awkward situation of Max being to poor to afford to protect herself…and for that they went for a JOKE about SELF HARM.
Seriously show, that’s cheap. Cheap and low. I like me some inappropriate humour. I have the special edition of Bad Taste and every season of South Park. The difference is those materials have something to say about the controversial topics or a clever, subversive approach to humour. They don’t simply use a topic like this for cheap shock value or a throwaway gag.
I stuck it out for another ten minutes after this but nothing funny happened, meaning the last joke I left the show on was the one about cutting yourself. I did have a few episodes on my computer to watch, but they have met their fate.