It’s always fun to watch a show retool itself on the fly, even if it’s a little terrifying as well. The usual time for a retool is after the first season, when things are good but could be better, and everybody has time to figure out what works and what doesn’t and tweak accordingly. The best recent retool was the one on Parks & Recreation, where the show toned down Leslie, played up certain other elements, and moved itself out from The Office’s shadow. A major retool—carried out at the behest of the network, no less—that actually worked out was that of Newhart, which went from a pretty good show that was nothing special to one of the best sitcoms of the ‘80s thanks to ditching several cast members and tweaking the show’s premise. But both of those shows carried out those retools during the hiatus.
To say that 2 Broke Girls has big problems is an understatement. I probably don’t need to restate them, just as much as I don’t need to restate what works about the show. Yet the show’s a big hit, and it’s run by Michael Patrick King, a guy who, if nothing else, has been around the TV block once or twice and knows how these things work out. (I continue to hope the show’s a big hit because it’s one of the few shows on TV speaking to the current economic catastrophe, not because it’s filled with bad puns and racist stereotypes. Sadly, I’m probably wrong about this.) After the last new episode, I bemoaned that the show seemed to be content to just settle in at a level where it was basically a renewed Laverne & Shirley, with wacky “girls in goofy situations” humor and a supporting cast the show seemed vaguely ashamed of. But here’s an episode that suggests that not only does 2 Broke Girls know it has problems, but that it’s willing to do something about them and do it while it’s in production, no mean feat.
And, look, if 2 Broke Girls is going to start cleaning up some of its messier elements, the easiest one to start with is getting rid of the horse. The horse has never bothered me as much as some of you, but I’ll certainly agree that it doesn’t make a lick of sense that these two women would be able to care for the horse on the salary and tips they get as waitresses. Still, getting rid of the horse—as the show does at the end of the episode—is nowhere near as complicated as, say, firing the entirety of the supporting cast and eating the costs therein. (Indeed, this plot seems to tie the titular girls more tightly to Peach, which is just about the last thing I want to see happen.) But in the spirit of the season, I’m going to assume that this is a sort of symbolic gesture. We’re getting rid of the horse and doubling down on the “broke” aspect of the title. And I’m cool with that.
Plus, this episode was funny and stuff! I was thinking about this a little bit, but one of the reasons I stick with 2 Broke Girls is because I’ve laughed a number of times in just about every episode (that abominable second episode aside). In fact, I daresay the only new comedy I laugh at more is Suburgatory (also a pretty messy show with several problematic elements and too-broad supporting characters but a strong central relationship). And outside of the Peach stuff—Peach being a character I’m just never going to warm to—I laughed at quite a few things in this episode. Hell, I even laughed at Oleg when Max tossed him the camera to take a picture of his junk, marking the first time I’ve ever laughed at Oleg doing anything. Max’s addiction to kitten videos was a smart subversion of her character (though the show is getting dangerously close to subverting her too often). Caroline’s request to have Max thank her for coming to the party was great, too. And I even came around to liking the girls taking offense at the stable owner calling Chestnut fat, a joke that was stupid at first but got better through repetition (as these things sometimes do).
On the other hand, Peach. Peach is just a dumb character. I think I’ve gone on at length about how I don’t really like her. She’s a tie to Caroline’s old rich life, I guess, and she’s a way for Max to see the life she doesn’t have, but we don’t really need either of these things. We’ve got plenty of other elements that already accomplish this, and the whole character of Peach is just “She’s dumb and sheltered!” Plus, the show doesn’t even tell good jokes using that setup. She’s just always blathering on about her stupid babies, who are named BRAD AND ANGELINA for some reason. I appreciated that the show realized she would be a way for Chestnut to be written out as painlessly as possible, but I kind of wish this was the last we’d ever seen of her, as I assume it’s the last we’ll see of Chestnut. (Caroline says they’ll figure out a way to move the horse back in the spring, but c’mon.)
Still, all of this is worth it for an ending that lets the show get just a tiny bit emotional. Many of the best multi-camera sitcoms have always found ways to take their characters fundamentally seriously, and even if I don’t quite buy that Max would be this sad about letting Chestnut go—she doesn’t seem all that sentimental otherwise, and she didn’t seem to have that strong of a connection with the horse—it’s a nice way for the show to see if it can get Kat Dennings to do stuff other than bark sarcastic gags. As it turns out, she mostly can, as her tears feel real, and the scene feels earned. It’s a bit of an odd way to end the episode, but it’s another promise from the show going forward—or at least I hope it is. It’s almost as if the show is saying, “We know we’ve done stupid shit over these last few episodes, but we’re ready to get rid of all of that and take it to the next level. Please excuse the mess.” Farewell, Chestnut. If your leaving is the first step in this show reaching its potential, I won’t miss you all that much at all.
- The week in terrible supporting characters: I think Han and Earl each have one line, and Earl’s is about how he knows the snow is coming, followed by a pretty raunchy joke about how he never knew when his first wife was cumming. (It wasn’t funny, but I was sort of impressed the show got away with it all the same.) There’s another dumb thing about hipsters, this time comparing them to homeless people, but it’s over almost before it even starts. And Oleg is kind of funny!
- I hope this concludes with Max and Caroline adopting the kitten from a couple of weeks ago. That was a cute kitten.
- I briefly toyed with bumping this episode up into the A range because it was by far the best episode yet, and it showed the show’s commitment to figuring out a way to get rid of the dumb stuff and go forward. But the Peach stuff was just too dumb for that level. (I will still give this show an A+ at least once, not because it deserves it, but because I want to see what will happen. I’m sorry. I’ve never met a hornets’ nest I didn’t want to poke.)