While Todd is away on what I can only assume is a fantastic adventure that involves finding and then scaling the original Nickelodeon Aggro Crago, I’m grateful to have a chance to weigh in on 2 Broke Girls. Talking about this show feels like defending that one friend you have from high school who always shows up too drunk to a party, vomits on the coats, and then passes out in the yard. Yes, that was bad. We all know it was bad. But if you just got to know him you’d realize that he’s actually pretty solid! And there’s such potential there! Sigh.
2 Broke Girls has many faults—endless awkward stereotyping, going at jokes with a hatchet, plots that fall apart at the seams—but I can’t stop watching it because there are still a handful of elements there that could make a solid, even transcendent sitcom, if they were just better arranged, toned down, or played up. Beth Behrs and Kat Dennings have classically great comedy chemistry, and its one of the few shows (see also: the wonderfully nihilist Pulling) that lets women characters be as vulgar as they please, though perhaps not as despicable. And the writing has moments of being genuinely funny and interesting, though some of the recent episodes have seemed like the cast was paddling furiously in a leaky raft, trying desperately to make up for holes in the script or an unwieldy clutter of one-liners.
But one of the biggest problems with the show, whatever Michael Patrick King’s protestations on the subject , wasn’t at all alleviated by this week’s episode, “And the Kosher Cupcakes,” better known as “When Max and Caroline Realized There Are Jews In Brooklyn.” Han sends Caroline down to a pharmacy in South Williamsburg, where Team Diner manages to get a gig providing cupcakes to a bar mitzvah. The Jewish jokes fly fast and furious, and most of them flop to the floor gasping for air or inspire a wince rather than a chuckle. Though I did think the writers handled one piece of the exchange between the pharmacist and the eager-to-please Hebrew-spouting Caroline nicely: When Max, clearly a tad embarrassed by Caroline’s efforts to ingratiate herself, compared her “Shalom”-dropping to trying to get a free beer at an Irish pub by using an awful fake accent.
To Caroline’s confusion, the Bar Mitzvah family takes more of a liking to the sass-spouting Max than her, which leads to the family taking care of a sick Max and Max confessing that some of the cupcakes she made were, in fact, not kosher at all. There were a handful of moments in this that were great, like Max’s accurate description of kugel as “lasagna with crazy raisins.” I laughed at Beth Behr’s look of horror as the Orthodox boxes went from timid to faux-gangster, particularly the scene where it cuts to one of them making it rain with their Bar Mitzvah bucks. No 13-year-old boy I know has those kinds of huevos, but that over-the-top joke worked here, as did Max half-reconsidering showing them her “tay-tays” when they whipped out a fat roll of cash no doubt recently culled from their doting family.
But the nagging problems of the show resurfaced in force, as well. The most irritating and prolonged one is that, like a fifth grader giving a book report, the writers just don’t seem to trust in the ability of the audience to retain information or get a joke that isn’t highlighted, starred, and given to you with 10 exclamation points. I imagine the script for 2 Broke Girls occasionally looks like posters for the circus, with jokes written in 80-pt type. I’m not asking for subtle, but I am asking the show to turn the volume down a bit. The idea that Max doesn’t understand why kosher traditions are important because she didn’t have a family was a bit much. We get it. Every episode does not have to contain a reference to Caroline’s father’s financial difficulties and Max’s rocky upbringing. That kind of repetition can be helpful in a twisty, plot-filled drama, but here, it ends up hampering the characters’ growth.
Jennifer Coolidge returned as Sophie, but the writers aren’t giving her much to do besides flirting with Earl, rebuffing Oleg, and speaking in a thick Eastern European accent. This week, she met up with a date who was a terrifically bad stereotype of a gay man—his hair was either a Backstreet Boy toupee or an unfortunate bleach accident, and he wore a plaid vest with a cat pin. Her plot didn’t really make sense with the rest of the activity, and it seemed like it was mostly an excuse to have Jennifer Coolidge deliver the final line: “He’s dating another woman… and she had a penis.” I won’t quit you just yet, 2 Broke Girls, but I wish you’d stop yelling.
- How many junior high schools in the 1990s had a group of kids who actually call themselves the Jew Tang Clan? My guess is 70 percent.
- Of all the Caroline put-downs, “This one’s seen some Barbra Steisand movies” was my favorite
- Max’s family, defined: “We’re not family until we have to testify against each other in a manslaughter case.”