...Huh! I was expecting to watch “Monday June…” tonight, an episode that from the cast list appears to involve June’s new finance job. Instead we got “Mean Girls…”, which was initially slated as the second episode of the first season. (In my defense, IMDB and the TV Club layout elves were also taken by surprise.)
If I didn't have to get up for work tomorrow morning, I would attempt a deeper Googling of possible reasons ABC pulled this episode—initial efforts turn up no streaks of New York murders around April 2012 that might have elicited shrieks of “TOO SOON!” But seeing as all sorts of horrible things (because there was a mass shooting? In Oakland?) can cause even the most tangentially related TV and film to be rescheduled and Googling “horrible things april 2012” didn’t turn up anything obvious and I have to get to bed before two, I’ll just admit that I have no idea why this episode was put in cold storage for so long. (I’m currently pretending that it’s because of a months-long legal battle over the rights to use Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Missed You)”.)
Because, unlike a few of the first-season episodes that have been airing during the second season, “Mean Girls…” wasn’t benched because it sucked. In fact, it’s pretty delightful for such an early episode—the “Oh shit!” moment when it appears that Stephanie is dead is great, and the reveals at the end that June isn’t as dumb as she acts and that she’s also crazy enough to play “murder chicken” with Chloe are quite sweet, as she once again gets a little respect. There’s also quite a few good jokes, mixed in with some pretty bad ones—“turning busboys into busmen” is a great line; having them both instinctually start clearing the table when Chloe gets them both back to Apartment 23 was a little awkward.
Someone in the comments last week mentioned her tactic of treating these out-of-order episodes as if they were reruns she’d missed the first time around, and that is a helpful way to think about it. But it makes these week-to-week reviews (and particularly their grades) kind of hard to do—especially since you have to discount the ways the actors, characters, and writing have evolved and come together—and this show really does have a decent amount of character development for a half-hour comedy.
The out-of-orderness does make these episodes difficult to write about and grade, though, which is why I’m temporarily reverting to my first-season gimmick of just giving every episode a B. So, rather than have this just be a list of funny lines (and there were quite a few!) let’s take this opportunity of having a really, really early episode nonsensically dropped into the second season to compare and contrast the very early episodes of the show with what it is now.
- Detail-wise, they’ve really toned down Chloe’s drinking. I’d forgotten this, but in earlier episodes, she rarely appears without some sort of booze in hand. It gradually fades out as the craziness becomes more of something ingrained in Chloe’s character than the antics of a very drunk person.
- Ditto Chloe’s random conquests—while she still is sexually active, she doesn’t just leave random men lying around the apartment after taking all of their life force.
- June’s Sex And The City aspirations are no longer around, thank god.
- So are the attempts to make the title stick, a la Chloe’s “There’s only room for one bitch in apartment 23!”
- Eli’s really a PERV-neighbor rather than a perv-NEIGHBOR. (And he has a remote for apartment 23’s TV!)
- All the characters have gotten much less cartoonish, but particularly JVDB—despite the hilariously nonsensical shot of him brooding on a motorcycle in the middle of his living room, I’d say this is a positive thing. The JVDB plots tend to turn out best when he’s got some sort of human sensibilities rather than just being a caricature of a vain, washed-up teen star—there are limits to how funny a caricature can be, but no limits to how funny a person can be.
- The mention of Mark-Paul Gosselar made me remember the string of similarly washed-up male stars the writers kept throwing in to interact with JVDB, when “Hey, remember how he was Dawson?” was still a pretty major thing. I’m still glad they opted to give Dawson a Viking funeral in “A Reunion…”
- The writers’ attention to silly detail was strong even at the beginning—I’d love to have been sitting in on the brainstorming session that must have taken place around the contents of a Girl Grenade, the apex of horrible bachelorette drinks. (Blinking LED lights, an umbrella, a pom-pom thing, and no alcohol.)
- OK, I do have to mention a couple lines, starting with: “Just make sure you don’t get raped next to a marching band!” A rare appearance by June’s dad, demonstrating something even rarer: A rape joke that I found legit funny.
- “Can anyone go to Argentina, or do you have to be a Nazi?”