Warner Bros. // 2011 // 516 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // September 19th, 2012
"Last year, I was taking meetings on Wall Street. This year, I'm eating meat from the street by a wall." -- Caroline Channing
2 Broke Girls, created by Sex and the City creator Michael Patrick King and comedian Whitney Cummings, was the most popular new series of the 2011-12 TV season despite a number of bad reviews and some controversy around the show's racial stereotyping. Now that the show is making its Blu-ray debut, does it deserve to be such a big hit? Or is it as bad as its critics have said?
When her father goes to prison for ripping off half of New York in a Ponzi scheme, former millionaire heiress Caroline Channing (Beth Behrs, American Pie Presents: The Book of Love) finds herself penniless, sleeping on the subway and taking a job as a waitress in a Brooklyn diner. There she meets Max (Kat Dennings, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), who is dark and sarcastic and has had a hard life -- basically, the total opposite of Caroline. Would you be surprised to learn that they become roommates? And best friends? And that they start a cupcake business together? And have the wackiest series of misadventures this side of Laverne and Shirley?
Here are the 24 episodes that make up 2 Broke Girls: Season One:
* "And the Break-up Scene"
* "And Strokes of Goodwill"
* "And the Rich People Problems"
* "And the '90s Horse Party"
* "And the Disappearing Bed"
* "And the Pretty Problem"
* "And Hoarder Culture"
* "And the Really Petty Cash"
* "And the Very Christmas Thanksgiving"
* "And the Reality Check"
* "And the Pop-up Sale"
* "And the Secret Ingredient"
* "And the Upstairs Neighbor"
* "And the Blind Spot"
* "And the Broken Hearts"
* "And the Kosher Cupcakes"
* "And the One Night Stands"
* "And the Spring Break"
* "And the Drug Money"
* "And the Messy Purse Smackdown"
* "And the Big Buttercream Breakthrough"
* "And Martha Stewart Have a Ball Part 1&2"
What a frustrating show 2 Broke Girls is. The sitcom has a solid, of-the-moment premise, two incredibly good lead actresses and a strong behind-the-scenes team that includes not only creators Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings, but also talented female comics Laura Kightlinger and Morgan Murphy. Even the supporting cast is good, I guess, but it's hard to see past their broad characterizations and the incredibly hacky writing they've been given.
Ah, there's the problem. The writing. Anything good the show has going for it is squandered by bad scripts, nauseating word play, confused plotting, and offensive stereotyping. In many ways, 2 Broke Girls fits in perfectly with the CBS Monday night lineup, which, when the show premiered, also consisted of Two and a Half Men and Mike and Molly. This series has much more in common with the latter than with the former, as it suffers from many of the same problems: despite two winning, funny leads, the show is repetitive, broad, grating and, more often than not, just stupid. Like so many sitcoms, it feels the need to basically do the pilot again and again for its first 10 shows, lest any new viewers be left out should they be a little late to the party. But even after it's crossed that threshold, 2 Broke Girls can't stop insulting the audience's intelligence. For as much as it wants to be a serialized sitcom -- there's even a running total of how much money the girls have made towards their cupcake business that ends every episode so that we know how much progress has been made (a nice touch early on that never really makes any kind of impact) -- the show never seems to think you've been paying any attention. Relationships are explained and defined over and over again. Characters restate the plot after every act (commercial) break. It is clumsy and it is heavy handed, and it plays even worse on Blu-ray.
The series has drawn a lot of negative attention for the way it reduces so many of its characters to stereotypes. The negative attention is well deserved. There is no reason that in 2012 any sitcom should be as racist as this one is. Characters only relate to one another on the basis of race and stereotypes. Every line from or about Garrett Morris's Earl is about the fact that he's black. Or, when those run out, that he is old. That's as much as we know about him. He is old and he is black. Han, the diner manager played by Matthew Moy (No Strings Attached), speaks in a heavy Korean accent that's played entirely for laughs. Also, he is made fun of for being Asian. And for being short. Oleg (Jonathan Kite) is a sleazy Russian cook who only talks about sex in his heavy Russian accent. Eventually, Max and Caroline get an upstairs neighbor, played by Jennifer Coolidge. But she can't just be Jennifer Coolidge; she has to be Polish and speak with a thick (and terrible) accent. Also, jokes should be made about her boobs. Sometimes, there are gay characters, but they aren't just gay. They're G-A-Y, and they're defined by it. That's the kind of show this is: everyone (except the two leads) is defined by the things other than what make them real people.
At least there's Dennings and Behr holding it together at the center. Their dynamic is annoying at first -- Behr is perky and spoiled, Dennings is sarcastic and rolls her eyes -- but as the show settles into a little more of a groove and their chemistry comes together, they become the only reason to watch the show at all. It's especially impressive considering what thankless "types" they're both basically playing. It's clear that Behrs is having a lot of fun playing a goody-goody, and the fact that she so often can be seen smiling or laughing at things the other characters say is a nice touch. It so rarely makes sense on sitcoms that all of the characters speak only in jokes and one-liners but no one ever acknowledges that it's the case. Dennings, too, finds her groove as the season goes on, finding new ways to sell a joke that might have otherwise felt tired or obvious -- sometimes just by throwing it away, as though she knows she should be at least a little embarrassed by what she's saying. She's saddled with most of the horrible puns that the writers seem to love (this was often the case on King's Sex and the City as well, but in that instance it at least made some diagetic sense, with the main character being a writer who was constructing a column), many of which are incredibly crass and sexual in nature. The jokes are much better when they're weird and (especially) dark, like when Max proclaims "I can't afford lube. I just use my tears." That's a dark joke for a network sitcom. 2 Broke Girls needs to embrace that side more if it wants to be more than rehashed a '80s sitcom with the references and language updated.
2 Broke Girls: Season One arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Bros., with all 24 of its episodes split across two discs. The show is presented in its original 1.78:1 TV format in full 1080p HD, and looks as good as in its original broadcasts. Colors are warm, detail is solid and the image is completely clean all around. In the age of high definition, it's pretty much what every contemporary sitcom looks like. The lossless 5.1 audio track is mostly just serviceable, with the dialogue clearly audible in the front and center channels and the back speakers being reserved for music cues (there's basically just one, which is used over and over and over again) and the ever-present laugh track. If only I could have laughed as much as those people did.
The only extras included are a standard behind-the-scenes featurette (with comments from King, Cummings and several key cast and crew members) and a collection of alternate scenes/jokes. Even for fans, it's not much to be excited about.
I want to be able to recommend 2 Broke Girls: Season One for the work done by Dennings and Behr, but there's just too much other stuff getting in the way of the show being even enjoyable filler. This is a show that has many of the building blocks to be a decent sitcom (and, let's face it, in the era of Arrested Development and Community, our standards are pretty low for the three-camera, laugh track-heavy iteration of the format), but still needs a lot of work. Maybe Season Two will start to address the problems. I'm not sure I'll be around to find out.
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 516 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site