Sandwiched between Entertainment Tonight and James VanDerBeek’s desperate attempt to relaunch his career is the slot formerly held by sitcom heavyweight How I Met Your Mother—Monday night at 8 p.m., Eastern, 7 p.m., Central. Too early in the week for must-see-TV; too early in the evening for anything remotely edgy or controversial.
Advertisers, clearly, have a very specific idea of who’s watching. 2 Broke Girls is brought to us by Marshalls; 30-second spots for vacuum cleaners, stain removers, and laundry detergent abound. One inspired ad uses kids learning how to do hard things—like riding a bike, eating asparagus, and getting a haircut—as a hook for considering selling your house with this particular real estate agency.
Into this hellscape of pandering comes the greatest panderer of all: Michael Patrick King, who proved himself over the course of several seasons of Sex And The City and two astonishingly bad films in the same franchise. My colleagues Todd VanDerWerff and Pilot Viruet have already painstakingly combed through 2 Broke Girls’ few triumphs and many, many failures far better than I could. Everything they’ve said is still true in tonight’s offering, “And Let Them Eat Cake Cake Cake.” The jokes are terrible—punny, racist, sexist, and/or relying on only the most basic idea of what New York is. The performances are uneven; the friendship between the titular broke girls is perfunctory at best. In an era where so many sitcoms distinguish themselves with excellent editing and lovable ensembles, 2 Broke Girls is weirdly satisfied with being a show where Kat Dennings says things in a snide aside, to uproarious applause from a canned live audience that is probably watching Seinfeld instead.
But it is a new level of pandering, even for 2 Broke Girls, to snare Lindsay Lohan for a guest-starring role. Lohan plays Claire, a bride-to-be who can’t make up her mind. That is her only defining characteristic and it is her only role in the episode. She literally has trouble making up her mind. Does she want fondant on her wedding cake? Or does she not want a wedding at all?
“Indecisive,” in the episode, is code for “unstable”—and that’s so Lindsay, after all. Lohan, who is publicly struggling with an alcohol addiction that has largely destroyed her career, is pulled into the script to be the diva everyone says she is. Claire is wealthy, demanding, and selfish: She doesn’t care how hard it is for Max to change the cake a bunch of times; she doesn’t care how many times her fiancé has to reverse his vasectomy. She will get what she wants.
It is indicative, I think, of 2 Broke Girls’ hatred for women that the most villainous characters it can come up with is a woman who is figuring out how to exercise freedom of choice. Lest her choices become too powerful, Lohan’s pigeonholed into the role of an unambitious bride-to-be—even the stray detail about her dress shop doesn’t get packaged into an episode-ending moral about following your dreams!—meaning that her decisions are limited largely to safe consumer products. Which wedding dress should she wear? Which veil? And of course, which cake?
Claire’s affect is so similar to the Lindsay Lohan we’ve seen in prior roles that Lohan might as well be ad-libbing. She’s perfectly coiffed with her signature long, strawberry blonde hair; she says “ohmygod” in the same way that Cady Heron learned to in Mean Girls. The studio audience—which, again, must either be goaded with sharp sticks to laugh at every expression Dennings makes, or watching some other show entirely—goes predictably nuts when they see her, though it’s unclear why. Not because they like Lohan—Oprah made it quite clear that no one likes Lindsay Lohan anymore. No, they’re cheering because they’re hoping she’ll fuck it up.
An anonymous blogger at Crazy Days At Nights posted a first-person account of the taping of “And Let Them Eat Cake Cake Cake,” observing that Lohan could barely make it through her lines, dragging out what should have been a four-hour taping to something like 10 hours. Also, her phone rang during the taping. The details in the post are so accurate as to invite immediate trust, but both Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs denounced the post on Twitter, claiming that Lindsay Lohan “knew her shit” and was a general joy to work with.
The media back-and-forth about it—and the fact that Lohan’s guest-appearance on 2 Broke Girls coincides with the show’s move to fill in that 8 p.m. block—indicates to me that 2 Broke Girls booked Lindsay Lohan so that she would be a “train wreck.” It needed the controversy to publicize the show.
Isn’t that why anyone books Lohan these days? Oprah booked Lohan’s reality show Lindsay, claiming that she was trying to help. Paul Schrader snagged Lohan for The Canyons with the excuse that she is a “great actress,” but who would have heard of The Canyons without her?
Lindsay Lohan is a train wreck for many reasons. But at least one, as tonight’s 2 Broke Girls aptly demonstrates, is that she is a train wreck because she only gets paid to be a train wreck.
“And Let Them Eat Cake Cake Cake’s” title refers to Marie Antoinette’s “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” a dismissive response made by entitled royalty upon hearing the peasants had no bread. But here’s the rub: Marie Antoinette never said it. After her beheading, after the French Revolution, historians made it up to explain why it had happened. It was so convenient, hearing these words from her mouth—it sanctioned so much, and neatly tied off so many loose ends.
The phrase “train wreck” is Lohan’s “let them eat cake.” It could be true—it should be true—it might as well be true. So it’s true. It’s easier to watch 2 Broke Girls if it’s true, anyway.