Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23: “A Reunion…”

Illustration for article titled Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23: “A Reunion…”

And we’re back! The second season of Don’t Trust The B—— starts off with a brief recap of the first season’s seven episodes to clue newbies in on the premise, then we’re off to James Van Der Beek’s funeral.

Well, it’s more like Dawson Leery’s funeral; having watched a minimal amount of Dawson’s Creek, I’m hoping this is a declaration by the writers that the tapering-off Paula Cole tape on the Viking funeral pyre will be the last time we’ll hear “I Don’t Want To Wait” this season. Maybe the larger plot about June and (temporarily) JVDB’s desire for a Dawson’s Creek reunion would have more meaning for me if I’d watched the show, but I found the setup a little boring. Particularly June’s earnest, French horn-backed slideshow presentation, which was thankfully interrupted by Chloe. But her laser-pointer Rack Attack actually exemplifies what I like most about the show, which I think I’ve finally managed to lay out in a semi-coherent way.

The characters of June and Chloe have always felt fresh—Chloe in particular. She’s the latest iteration of a particular TV archetype: The comic-relief character who’s clearly much less attached to reality than everyone around them. (If one was a big nerd, one might call these characters chaotic, in the Dungeons & Dragons “unpredictable” sense.) The first ones that spring to my mind are all guys—Kramer on Seinfeld, Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock, Barney on How I Met Your Mother, Gonzo on The Muppet Show, Charlie on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. There’s fewer chaotic-comic-relief roles filled by women, but there’s still plenty of examples—Anya on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Jane on Coupling, Phoebe on Friends, Jenna on 30 Rock… Kimmy Gibbler on Full House? (Deep cuts here.)

If you compare these sets of characters, there’s a slight difference in where the comedy around them tends to come from, and it’s always bugged me a little. With the male characters, it’s more likely to stem from their pursuing some crazy plan, while the female characters are more likely to be funny through misunderstanding or misinterpreting something. The formula seems to be that it’s funny when male characters act, whereas it’s funny when female characters react.

This is all to say that I didn’t just laugh out loud every time Chloe off-handedly tranqed somebody in this episode; I also got a small, hard-to-categorize lady-thrill. (FYI, I tried for, like, 10 minutes to come up with a way to phrase that that doesn’t fall back on the word “feminism” or leave me open to masturbation jokes, but… here we are.) It just felt very different in a way that’s hard to pin down, as you may have guessed from the number of words I’ve already expended trying to explain it. But it boils down to Chloe, like Lucy Ricardo and not that many others of late, being a batshit lady with agency.

This all wouldn’t really matter if A23 wasn’t turning out to be really goddamn funny; having now seen the first two episodes of the second season, I can say that it shows all signs of developing into a pretty great show. The writers seem to be really hitting their stride and getting comfortable with the characters, and are exploiting their knack for the alley-oop of setting up a joke up with words and then executing it as a visual gag—the tranq gun, the return of “Arrigato, heyyyy,” walking away from your past in slow motion as it explodes behind you like a John Woo movie. I’d imagine Nahnatchka Khan’s years on American Dad have something to do with A23’s visual proficiency, but so do the actors—I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m still so impressed with how much Krysten Ritter can do with just her eyes. Tyra’s got nothing on Chloe. Looking forward to season two.


Stray observations:

  • “BIG-ASS HAT!”
  • The godawful theme song persists. I guess I should probably give up bitching about it now.
  • Lots of cameos in this one (Frankie Muniz, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Busy Philipps) playing into the real pleasure of reunion shows: What do they all look like now?
  • Mark (the one played by Eric Andre, not Mark-Paul Gosselaar) looks he’s starting to get interested in June, the first sign of which is, hilariously, when the camera tracks him automatically checking out June’s rack after she complains that sadness is causing her boobs to shrink. I can’t imagine an actress weird-looking enough to live up to the details we’ve heard about Mark’s Creepy Anorexic Girlfriend, but I still hope the character appears at some point.
  • Nice wardrobe touches with June’s recurrent ugly (but not too obviously ugly) autumnal sweaters throughout the episode.
  • Luther’s middle name is Vandross, and, like my mom, he refers to Frankie Muniz’s character on Malcolm In The Middle as “Malcolm in the middle.”
  • Chloe: “Are we listening to a cab driver talk about how he was a dentist back in Pakistan?”
  • This week’s Thing Not To Trust In Apartment 23: Bison.