Tuned In

The Morning After: Life’s a B—-

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ABC

Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 is bad. I don’t mean that as a statement of quality, but as a statement of character, or at least of attitude. And as a compliment. The new ABC sitcom, about June  (Dreama Walker), a naif new to Manhattan who ends up with a sociopathic roommate (Krysten Ritter), is committed to reveling in the cynical, self-interested worldview of Ritter’s title character, Chloe, without cutting it with too much nicey-nice. And that, so far, is proving to be a pretty good thing.

I didn’t have a chance to review Don’t Trust the B—- before going on vacation last week when it premiered. (Confession: when I say the title in my head, I pronounce the “Bitch,” because “Don’t Trust the B in Apartmentt 23″ sounds like a Dr. Seuss book.) And I tend to doubt it will ever become the kind of great sitcom that I make an appointment for every week; I’m not sure it has the depth of characters for that.

But after two episodes, it is at least a pretty good time. When broadcast comedies build themselves around a morally bankrupt character like Chloe, they tend to hedge their bets by either quickly showing their sweet side or giving them regular comeuppances. Don’t Trust the B—-, on the other hand, mostly just gets a lusty kick out of topping itself with Chloe’s cruel behavior.

In the pilot, for instance, Chloe sleeps with June’s fiance (ostensibly to wake her up to the fact that he’s a heel). In last night’s episode, she sets up newly single June with a guy who turns out to be (wait for it!) Chloe’s dad, who turns out to be (wait for it!) separated for only five days from Chloe’s heartbroken mom, who turns out to be (wait for it!) in a wheelchair. June does give the audience a moral anchor to grab onto, but she doesn’t really teach Chloe lessons; the comedy comes from seeing straight-arrow June try to keep her head up in the vortex of Chloe’s corruption.

I’m less sure what I think about the secondary storyline of Chloe’s best friend, James Van Der Beek, playing himself. His subplots, about dealing with life after Dawson, have been funny so far, but I don’t see how many the show can do, or whether it can develop him as a character beyond that. (I could see this being very, very good in a different kind of show, along the lines of Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback, but this is not really that show; and last night’s subplot, in which Dawson taught an acting class out of rivalry with James Franco, felt like a separate sitcom.)

For now, though, I’m just enjoying watching the show enjoy Chloe’s depravity. Already in the second episode, there were little nods at the idea of exploring her past hurts and having her learn about herself–was she just re-enacting her childhood drama with her parents? But the show quickly doused the idea of too much learning, and closed out the story by having Chloe push her dad into traffic. For the sake of this enjoyable little half-hour, let’s hope it never tries to get too good.

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