At this point, 2 Broke Girls is almost certainly just fucking with me.
I mean, yes, on some level I’m aware that the show isn’t produced by people who write a perfectly serviceable script, then say, “Let’s tear this all up and make it really incoherent just to mess with Todd VanDerWerff!” But it’s starting to feel like I’m trapped in a really, really bad relationship with this show, where every time I start to think it’s getting its shit together, it reminds me that what it wants to do more than anything in the world is have a purportedly stinky man with a heavy Eastern European accent call a small Korean man a mouse. I’d say this is an episode worth throwing up my hands over and saying, “Jesus. They just don’t give a shit!” but the fact that CBS is airing it on a particularly dead night of television when it probably won’t be watched by as many people as would watch it in its regular timeslot suggests somebody somewhere knew this one was a stinker and pulled off a mercy killing. Or maybe not. I’m through the rabbit hole and down the looking glass here, people. Maybe we all are.
After all of the things I said last week about how the show seemed to be trying to retool on the fly—largely due to the fact that it doubled down on showing the economic reality of the characters’ situation and got rid of the horse—this week was like a constant reminder of the things that the show does poorly. Don’t dig the puns? Here are, conservatively, 55 of them, all in a row, all delivered by Kat Dennings like she’s dying a little inside having to say them. Think the show’s story structure is weird? Well, here’s another episode that has a weird, rambly structure for no real reason, then crams an entire three-act story into about five minutes. (And that story was way more interesting than the one the writers wasted so much time on!) Think the supporting characters are largely racist caricatures the show will never be able to salvage (and, thus, it’s probably better off ignoring them until it can cut them loose at the end of the year)? Well, here’s an episode that doubles down on them for no particular reason. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that the near-deus ex machina was yet another trope of ethnic stereotypes, there was a joke about Mexican girls magic markering on their eyebrows, and the show started reminding us of the premise again as if we needed to be told about it at this late date.
Look: I don’t think it’s necessarily a terrible idea for the show to try to figure out a way to make the supporting cast work. It’s probably stuck with these actors, and it probably can’t start having Han and Oleg start speaking perfect English out of nowhere, just because of the need for some sort of continuity. If it can figure out a way to make these people funny that doesn’t involve playing to stereotypes, well, that’d work out just fine. I like Garrett Morris a lot, and I think he’s done well the few times the show’s made Earl something other than an aging hepcat. Jonathan Kite seems to be having fun as Oleg, and the character works somewhat when he’s a participant in the girls’ crazy schemes and games. Han’s the most problematic character just from the viewpoint of figuring out a way to make him not seem like a racist caricature, but both Matthew Moy and the show have shown a willingness—somewhat—to make him a hyper-earnest, dorky boss, something that has nothing to do with his ridiculous accent.
So I think there’s a way to make this cast, as currently constituted, work. It would take a lot of rethinking, and it would require just going with the fact that the writers are playing around with accent gags that have been tired since Taxi’s Latka Gravas, but I don’t think these characters are un-salvageable. I know many of you disagree, but in tonight’s scene where the five gather together for a post-work staff meeting, and there’s a genuine sense of camaraderie between them, I thought, briefly, that the show was figuring out a way to work within the straitjacket it built for itself in the pilot. These weren’t very good characters, but they were at least people not wholly defined by their stereotypes anymore. There was something worth working with here, something that could be developed over the weeks to come.
Of course, from there, Oleg and Han had a fight where they made fun of each other’s poor English, and Earl was just someone who sat behind his counter and yelled things. It was like the show was taunting me, acknowledging one of its flaws while suggesting there was a way through it, then just giving in to the flaw whole hog. And that’s to say nothing of the awful scene where even more ethnic stereotypes—and rich-girl stereotypes and working-woman stereotypes and on and on and on—wandered through the story. Why were any of these people here? Well, ostensibly, it was to get a laugh from the girls bouncing off of someone completely ridiculous, but the show has seemingly forgotten that it once had a way to make people ridiculous without resorting to the cheapest of gags. It was just an ugly progression of events.
And yet the core of the episode—Caroline wants to buy Max the oven she needs—was both sound and the sort of thing the show does well. It was a story about the dire financial straits these women are in, and how Caroline’s going all in on this whole “cupcake” thing. The character development of the central two women and the serialized nature of the cupcake storyline have consistently been the best things about this show from day one, and there was—in the midst of a whole ton of crap—a really nice scene, one of the best the show has done, where Max told Caroline that after Caroline left her at the store where the two were trying to sell Caroline’s old rings in the women’s restroom (don’t ask) because Caroline wanted to have lunch with two of her former rich friends, she was just waiting for Caroline to leave long-term. She’d stick out the short-term friendship and wait for Caroline to leave her entirely. It was a great scene, despite the fact that it came out of nowhere and relied on Caroline acting almost completely out of character (as she’s been developed), and it really spoke to the strength these two actresses have with each other.
But it also got me thinking: What if this whole storyline had been about these two women helping each other figure out a way to buy the oven they needed for their business but coming across some of Caroline’s old friends in the process? What if this was about whether Caroline was really “rich” or really “broke,” and what if it made an effort to put a cap on how far this relationship has come in 12 episodes? In some ways, it felt like the episode was trying to do that, but it also regressed a whole hell of a lot to get to that point. Whatever, 2 Broke Girls. You can’t win me over with one scene in a storyline that needed more time to develop than five minutes. Get better in 2012 or even I’m going to ditch you.
- Anybody catch the introduction from the women of The Talk? I swear to got that Sharon Osbourne pronounced “Two” as “True.” My wife thinks I’m nuts.
- I’m not one of those spending lots of time picking up on the sexy subtext of this show, but it was kind of hard to miss in several scenes tonight. I wonder if the show is trying to play to that portion of its audience.
- Didn’t it seem like the show was going back to auditioning a new supporting cast in that scene where the girls ran into Caroline’s shopkeeper nemesis, Jeffrey? What a weird scene that was.