It’s all about being cool. I usually hate when a show slaps glasses and a messy hairdo on a superhot actress and asks me to buy that she’s a nerd (though I always wish I could have seen the uglification hair-and-makeup process). The flashback to June’s high-school years, though, was pretty sweet, particularly the cut from teenage June with headgear in a mascot costume looking around the cafeteria for somewhere to sit to grown-up June doing a similarly awkward wander through a club, only to be waved over to do shots with Chloe and a bunch of attractive people, finally one of the cool kids. So many shots, in fact, that she has to go get her stomach pumped before the opening credits, and then starts wondering whether she and Chloe have anything in common but booze.
So of course with the continuing inverse correlation between the roommates’ development and June becoming cooler than she used to be, this is the first episode we see a break in Chloe’s cool-kid affect. She pretends not to be aware that she’s the star of an ongoing comic-book series (I know certain subcultures got all snotty about “it’s not a comic book, it’s a graphic novel” a while back, but if something’s being published in serial-issue form, it’s a comic, dammit) called Tall Slut No Panties. But June discovers Chloe keeps a stash of every issue hidden under the floorboards, and, in fact, is concerned enough about things like original packaging and finger oils to let out a really funny shriek when June, bluffing, goes to open one.
JVDB also has a stash of potentially embarrassing self-referencing memorabilia, though his is action figures of himself. (He prefers to play with Prince Of Persia JVDB.) The JVDB subplot this time around was surprisingly unfun, a common trait to episodes where he and the two roommates are mostly kept apart. Van Der Beek’s a lot of fun on Don’t Trust The B—— In Apartment 23, but his character is most funny when he’s interacting with June and Chloe, not cartoonishly bitching out his assistant for picking a Dancing With The Stars dressing room that’s six inches smaller than Dean Cain’s. (All there is to say about that particular cameo is that Dean Cain’s looking a lot… different, and the writers couldn’t think of anything to do with him.) This episode is a good illustration of a problem I have with the mostly fun JVDB character: He’s inconsistent, switching between a Kramer-like cartoon when he’s off on his own and a fairly insightful guy around the two leads.
When JVDB's in sane-but-funny mode, he's less apt to fall into comedy cliches like obsessing over something petty. But he often gets turned into a mouthpiece for one of the annoying yet convenient-for-reviewing-on-the-fly things about A23: how each episode almost always has some character actually speak a thesis statement. This varies in tolerability, with the Chloe-gets-a-foster-child episode's “I guess I cared too much and you didn’t care enough” at the low end. Tonight’s JVDB speech about the temporary nature of the It Girl falls somewhere in the mid-to-high range.
ABC’s calling this the “season finale”—that’ll be it for a while, though there’s several more first-season episodes still in the hopper. Come fall, A23 and Happy Endings will be new that-makes-sense Tuesday-night buddies after Dancing With The Stars; A23’s primary competition (well, its most similar competition) will be the new Mindy Kaling thing at the same time on Fox. H.A.G.S!
- Go-get-’em June is a terrible coffee-shop employee.
- This show has great timing when one character is used to prematurely break up things that are purposely boring or cringe-y, as in the Alanis Morrisette karaoke in “The Wedding” and Chloe setting fire to June’s handmade comic as she goes on about it. It comes right at the moment I was thinking “Ugh, this is starting to get—”
- The illustration of the faux comic books was pretty awful-looking, particularly the cover of Strong Bowling Girl Talks A Lot #1. The tag looked pretty bad, too.
- Some things that Tall Slut No Panties does in her guest spot in The Adventures of Trina & Sissy: Has pointy boobs that shoot bullets, breaks Trina in half, holds a different martini glass or liquor bottle in each frame, yells “Stop smiling and being great flautists!”
- The show does right by its minor recurring characters, giving each at least a little screen time—June’s pastor even briefly pops up at a restaurant, Mark and June power-walk, Eli finally makes it into the apartment, and Robin is downright not-terrible.
- The next show ABC will throw at the wall behind Modern Family to see if it’ll stick will be The Neighbors, a sitcom about wacky aliens in the suburbs.
- “I CAN SEE!”
- This week’s Thing Not To Trust In Apartment 23: Byron.