Judge Gordon Sullivan almost moved into Apartment 23.
"One of the most original and edgiest comedies on television."
For a while there I was getting sick of Krysten Ritter. Not the actress herself, but the fact that she kept getting cast in films that made her (at best) the quirky best friend (see Confessions of a Shopaholic). On television she has fared slightly better. She was great on the second season of Veronica Mars, and her turn on Breaking Bad shows that she can hang with some of the best actors on television. However, she didn't really get a chance to showcase her lead abilities until Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23. Though she was still cast as a quirky character, her role as Chloe propels the short-lived sitcom above its rote The Odd Couple stylings. Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23: Complete Series set shows that the series' cancellation was a bit of a tragedy.
Facts of the Case
June (Dreama Walker, Compliance) is the new girl moving to New York to work on Wall Street. She has a job, a sweet apartment, and a man to marry. In the first few minutes of the show, she loses her job, her apartment, and the man turns out to be a cheater. The loss of her job and apartment force June to find a roommate, and she ends up with Chloe (Krysten Ritter). Chloe seems like the perfect roommate, but once June's put down her first, last, and deposit, Chloe starts a campaign to get June to leave (including sleeping with June's fiance). When June stands up for herself rather than caving to the terror campaign, Chloe takes June in and shows her a different side of New York (including her friend James Van Der Beek, played by James Van Der Beek).
Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 is one of those rare examples of a title that really does say it all. Of course it lays out the basic tension in the show: June has to live with the "bitch" in Apartment 23. More than that, the weird censorship of the title shows exactly why this show was doomed from the start. On the one hand, the show is obviously trying to be "edgy" and "hip"—that's why they even tried to get "bitch" into the title. They could have called it Apartment 23 (as it was titled at one point in pre-production). On the other hand, the show is obviously on network television, where that kind of edginess is barely tolerated, let alone rewarded. I wasn't keeping a running tally, but the word "bitch" is used maybe twice over the course of all of these episodes.
Without knowing too much of the production background, it really seems like this is the central tension of the show. Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 gives us a portrait of the title character, and it's a great one. Krysten Ritter's Chloe is so monumentally self-centered it can be fun guessing just how crazy she'll get. June exists to set her off by being the good girl from the small town, but both women get really amazing dialogue and prove interesting despite the flaws that both have. The show is concerned with pushing against the boundaries of what can be seen and shown. It has a surprising amount of nudity (all pixilated, of course), we see Chloe take her panties off under a dress at least once, and the show makes a big deal of June wearing a bathing suit instead of lingerie when she doesn't have time for laundry (and the difficulties that creates for her when she needs to go to the bathroom).
It's all really well-crafted takes on the typical sitcom formula: take two mismatched people and force them to live together. ABC didn't quite know what to do with the show; although it ordered a second season, it refused to air the episodes in order despite the fact that there are definite multi-episode arcs (about Chloe's love life and James Van Der Beek's appearance on Dancing with the Stars). I don't know why the show was cancelled, but it's not hard to see that ABC (which is the same company that has a "Family" channel) was ill-equipped to deal with a show that was pushing against the limits imposed by standards. The show is nowhere near as "adult" as stuff you'd find even on basic cable, but for a big-three sitcom, it's definitely on the shocking side. That probably alienates the easily offended half of the audience, while those who can stand a little cursing will probably find the show too tame.
What this DVD set demonstrates is that Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 is perfect for binge-watching. These twenty-six episodes go down really quickly. Spread here across four discs, the transfers look like typical broadcast television. The 1.78:1 anamorphic images are clean and bright, with plenty of detail. There are some nice shots of Manhattan that showcase bold colors. Dark scenes are infrequent, but black levels are fine, and no noise creeps in. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks are similarly solid. Dialogue is always clean and clear, and the balance with the show's music is excellent.
This is a burn-on demand set, so it's pressed on DVD-R discs, and sadly there aren't any extras. Given the passion the people behind the show seemed to have for it, a few commentaries or interviews would have been great.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Of course Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 is a contemporary sitcom, with all that implies. Expect pretty stereotypical roles for minority characters. While James Van Der Beek's gay assistant Luther gets a decently developed character, he's also stereotypically flamboyant. So too with the Asian neighbor who's in love with Chloe; although the crush is a novel twist, she otherwise lives up to stereotypical "smart Asian" stereotypes. The show tries to do new things, but it's still hampered by the format.
The best thing I can say about Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 is that I'd love to see further dispatches from the world of Chloe and June. This is the perfect show for a Netflix pickup—a dozen or so episodes every six to twelve months would go down in a few hours, and I'd be glued to the TV for them. As for this DVD set, it'll allow viewers to catch up with a great twist on the usual sitcom standards.
She may be a B , but she's not guilty.
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