Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23: “Parent Trap...”
B-

Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23: “Parent Trap...”

“Parent Trap” is the first episode of Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23 I’ve watched like a regular person—on a Wednesday night at 9:30, preceded by Modern Family, interrupted by commercials—but that’s not the only reason tonight’s episode seemed caught in the Standard ABC Sitcom Tractor Beam after starting strong with a gloriously uncomfortable opening joke implying Chloe’s carelessness killed first a plant, then a goldfish, then an elderly man. After that “Oh, shit!” moment, the rest of the episode drops right back down into slightly more vulgar Modern Family territory.

One of the most enjoyable things about A23 so far is its ability to surprise, through plot twists or plain old weirdness. Tonight, though, most everything proceeded from point to point exactly as expected: “A character tries to do too many things! She gets stressed out! She snaps in a loud, humorous way! She resolves not to do so many things!” or “A character wants to learn to be cool in an unfamiliar culture! He tries too hard, gets too ambitious with slang, and looks foolish!”

“A character adopts a foster child to use as an indentured servant!” was a new one, though. When June takes an unpaid internship, Chloe picks up her own new unpaid intern/foster child Molly, part of the work-internship-child stress triumvirate that finally drives June to a full-on screaming freakout on her foster daughter in public. Dreama Walker fully commits her face and voice to the crazy, but the way the tantrum is filmed doesn’t disguise that she’s obviously not shaking the girl very hard, which breaks the mood. The Mommy-snaps content of the rant is also unconvincing—though I haven’t heard one with the specific phrase “YOU SUCKED IN FLOWER DRUM SONG!” before.

The episode’s JVDB plot guest stars Kiernan Shipka of Mad Men; here, she plays herself as JVDB’s co-star in a comically terrible Freaky Friday-esque movie. (Tagline: “Giving new meaning to the term ‘Daddy’s girl.’” A reference to the previous episode? Still need to wash my brain, ew.) That’s a thing the show does consistently well: throwaway names and slogans that embody the overthought mediocrity wrought by focus groups. (What She’s Having vodka, It’s Just Beans coffee shop, a script sent to JVDB titled Check, Please!) The tag, which shows the filming of the body-switching comedy, is similarly funny in that same squirmy way (“Do you think I like making out with Mommy?!”). Chalk the show’s skill with throwaways up to A23 creator Nahnatchka Khan coming up on American Dad.

Another traditional sitcom element that seeped into this episode is A Lesson Which Is Learned And Then Stated Aloud. (“I guess you needed more responsibility, and you needed less!” was Full House levels of on-the-nose.) Chloe finding Molly a good home seems like a copout, and inconsistent — Chloe so far has not been the sort of person with the attention span or desire to do something nice, even for people she likes, if it requires more than five minutes of work. Then again, how many people’s parents told them Fido went to live on a big farm in the country? Molly’s totally buried in a cardboard box in the backyard.

Stray observations:

  • The BIG NUTZ arrangement of alphabet fridge magnets June copyedits in the opening has changed to NICE TOTZ in the background of the next scene. Guess George Carlin’s seventh Word You Can Never Say On Television can also never be Spelled On Television (even out of focus and with a Z).
  • My biggest laugh this episode was at the plausibility of Chloe manipulating June into acting like the perfect lesbian partner for the foster-care inspection by telling her they were being featured on an apartment blog.
  • “My friend Special K works in Child Protective Services.”
  • “Walk with me,” was funny if only for imagining The West Wing done entirely on treadmills.
  • No Eli today, but more Luther—one of his duties as JVDB’s assistant is to tickle his forearm while they're watching TV.
  • Was my TV acting up or did ABC censor out part of something Chloe said twice? Both times the blip was over when she’d mention “my busy s-----”.
  • Krysten Ritter sounded like she just barely stuck the landing on “I wanted to wing some Tagalog at you, but I didn’t know the pluperfect.”
  • If you caught the version of this that initially posted, all I have to say is... uh, prosopagnosia?
  • Today’s thing not to trust in Apartment 23: Banjo.

More TV Club