2

He Is the King!


 

I have to admit that I counted 2 Broke Girls out after the second episode and could never quite get back into it. I have a high tolerance for this type of sitcom, and am happy when one succeeds, but after the Sex and the City movies I don’t have a high tolerance for the work of Michael Patrick King. And the second episode of 2 Broke Girls was so weak that I just assumed it was never going to live up to the good parts of the pilot. I’m not saying all the good parts of the pilot were from Whitney Cummings, though I think she clearly has talent. It’s more that the second episode indicated that King thought the pilot was perfect the way it was, and he just had to do it again, except louder.

I’ve returned to the show off and on, and every time I do it strikes me the same way: King made a very good choice with the unknown Beth Behrs, and she and Kat Dennings are fun to watch together. (And when actors are good together in a TV show, I think the writers deserve some credit for putting them in situations where they can be good together; chemistry is written as much as it’s created on the stage.) But King is not a good joke writer and never has been, so the girls sometimes seem to be funny in spite of the things they say. And the three male characters are excruciating, and no one is trying to make them anything else. Even Mike and Molly, which has settled into a mediocre groove, made some effort to attack the problem of its weak supporting characters, giving all of them some stories, relatives, love interests, chances to play off the leads. But the men from 2 Broke Girls stand around and say the same thing every time they appear, and I haven’t seen any stories that would be different if those three guys did not exist. And there’s nothing worse than a sitcom character who has no reason to be there at any time. It’s like if the cook from the pilot of The Golden Girls had stuck around for the entire series.

King appeared at a panel for 2 Broke Girls today where critics, who tend to really like the scenes with the girls and hate the scenes with the three walking stereotypes, asked him about these problems. Except King clearly didn’t think he had any problems, so it got heated. And he really did seem to confirm the idea that he thinks there’s nothing wrong with the show. Here are two of the better reports from that panel: Alan Sepinwall has a detailed play-by-play, and Alyssa Rosenberg has a shorter take on how out of touch King seemed to be.

I guess you can see his point; the show is a big hit, so as far as he is concerned he is doing fine. But there’s something strange about his belligerent answers to critics, his bizarre analogies (he likes to trot out the idea that making fun of hipsters is the same thing as stereotyping an ethnic minority) and his general surprise that he wasn’t being asked about how great he’s doing. If he’d just say “the public seems to like it” and move on, I wouldn’t agree, but I’d understand. Instead he just seemed to suggest that he thinks the show doesn’t have anything that needs working on. (I don’t know how great a recipe this is for long-term success; you’d think a show with no interesting male characters would eventually lose some viewers. Even Laverne & Shirley had Lenny and Squiggy. Even Big Bang Theory, a show that’s basically about guys, spent most of its first season strengthening its sole female character.) And just like that, the people who thought “this show could eventually improve” were changing that to “this show could improve if someone else were running it.” Maybe that’s unfair, but it was hard not to get that impression.

Ah, well; there will be better traditional sitcoms coming along eventually. And while waiting, there’s always that episode where Laverne and Shirley worked in a diner. Who would have thought we’d look at a show and think that the supporting characters are weaker than the Big Ragu?


 

He Is the King!

  1. Why do TV critics think that they can improve a hit show? It’s nice to know that some showrunners pander to you guys, and it’s sweet to see that you think that your opinions are helpful, but broadcast TV isn’t for TV critics — it’s for TV viewers. There are all kinds of things that are that are technically-speaking crap that people like and buy lots of. 

    Just ask music critics. Do you really think that Justin Bieber should start taking advice from professional music critics or that he should continue to crank out catchy cookie-cutter pop music that’s made him rich? From a business perspective, it’s a no brainer.

    Frankly, if 2 Broke Girls even tried to have a “Han episode,” I’d change the channel and never watch it again. It’s not a sophisticated comedy, like Arrested Development, but that’s okay. It is a show with two poor women who are snarky and make fun of everyone, and the one-dimensional recurring characters simply punching bags. Why must critics want it to be more than it is?

    • Well, it’s true that the purpose of a TV show is to entertain as many people as possible, and when a show is a hit, it may be a bad idea to change it. Let’s say 2 Broke Girls tried to fix the things that aren’t good; they might just wind up making the show worse and losing viewers. It’s happened before. Look at Mork and Mindy — every character except Mork and Mindy was basically useless, so they got rid of the supporting cast, brought in new characters, and screwed everything up. You’re not wrong to think that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can apply even to a flawed show. That doesn’t make the flaws less real, though.

      For me, I would have liked the show to be better than it is because I happen to want to see a great comedy that isn’t a sophisticated niche comedy; I love mainstream mass-appeal TV when it’s good, and am disappointed when it’s not. So it’s not a question of wanting a show to be Arrested Development, but wanting it to be, say, The Odd Couple (also a show where the two leads were really the only strong characters).

      Criticism of a mainstream, popular work isn’t always about wanting it to be something it’s not. It’s sometimes more about wanting it to be what it is, only better. The same applies to criticism of pop music: saying that someone should stop doing pop music and do something else is unhelpful; explaining what would make better pop music is, while debatable, at least fair.

Sign in to comment.