Review: GCB (Good Christian Bitches) (ABC) 1×1

A show in search of a decent title. And plot


In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, ABC

There’s a lot to be said for a good name. Take GCB. What’s that then? A recreational drug? Some kind of excavator? A vaccination?

Now GCB started with a good name, seeing as it was based on a book entitled Good Christian Bitches. That at least gave you a good hint as to what it was about – a bunch of Christian mean girls (well, women). But before that title could ever hit the airwaves, protest groups moved in and before you knew it, Good Christian Bitches became first the dull and unhelpful Good Christian Belles before finally becoming the useless and meaningless GCB.

Who’d want to watch GCB, huh? Watch as people skip nimbly over it in TV Guide and on their EPG*.

Now, Good Christian Bitches for all its apparent faults was at least an accurate and descriptive title. It sees Leslie Bibb (best known nowadays as the Vanity Fair reporter in the two Iron Man movies but who was the star of the previous generation’s GCB, Popular) as a former Dallas mean girl who marries a rich guy and moves to California. Nearly two decades later, her husband is running a Ponzi scheme and dies in a horrific car cash while eloping with his mistress. That leaves Bibb penniless, the mother of two teenage children and nowhere to go but home – to her mother and all the girls she used to be mean to at school who are all grown up now.

Except everyone’s changed. Now Bibb is sober and nice and all the grown-up mean girls – in particular Kristin Chenoweth – are wanting to pre-empt Bibb’s expected meanness and husband-stealing with some meanness of their own, largely during church.

Cue a desperate attempt to do Desperate Housewives but in Texas and without much actual excitement or fun. Just like the show’s title, in fact.

Based on the book Good Christian Bitches, GCB is a funny, sassy and heartwarming drama that begs the question: Can you go back home to a place where no one seems to have grown up?

When former mean girl Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb) moves back to Dallas 18 years after high school, former unpopular teen-turned-diva-of-Dallas Carlene Cockburn (Emmy and Tony Award-Winner Kristin Chenoweth) gets a major dose of PTSD. To top it off, Amanda’s living across the street from the Cockburns with her feisty mother Gigi Stopper (Emmy Award-Nominee Annie Potts)! Amanda has changed for the morally better but Carlene and her other victims — the GCBs — have their doubts. The GCBs now rule the school that is Dallas society and are about to settle the score with Amanda Vaughn.

The other fabulous GCBs include the shrewd, distinguished CEO Cricket (Miriam Shor); the endearing, consummate housewife and mother, Sharon (Jennifer Aspen); and the self-made, always-single-but-on-the-prowl Heather (Marisol Nichols).   

Behind every great GCB (except Heather, of course), is a great husband, which includes Carlene’s Ripp (David James Elliot), a devoted hunk with a secret or two; Cricket’s Blake (Mark Deklin), her gorgeously fabulous better half; and Sharon’s Zack (Brad Beyer), a good-time guy and former pro athlete.

Oh, let the games begin…

Is it any good?
It’s tepid. Not awful but not great.

Unlike Desperate Housewives where there was some attempt at character differentiation, you pretty much have Bibb (nice girl), two children (no noticeable personalities other than being teenagers), her mother (rich), her best friend from high school (listens), the three GCBs (Kristin Chenoweth and two tag-alongs, none of whom have any qualities other than Christianity, a mild dislike of Bibb and no really ability to act on that dislike) and the three GCBs’ husbands (one defining character trait each). So two maybe three characters-worth occupying ten human bodies. That’s a poor ratio.

Then there’s the plot. It’s not subtle, largely all about the GCBs blocking Bibb’s attempts to set up a life, trying to find out who her secret admirers are, all while pretending to be her friends. Not that over the top is necessarily bad, it’s just if you’re going to do OTT, you should go for it, rather than have your villain glare a lot. Full moustache twirling is needed here. I’m sure they could invest in some false ones.

With any show that includes ‘bitches’ in the title, you begin to suspect its feminist credentials, even if Sex and the City‘s first showrunner, Darren Star, is behind the series (it’s worth noting this first episode has four writers, three of them men). When Bibb arrives in Dallas, the only job she can get is working in a Hooters-like bar, where, of course, we have a woman explaining how wearing a cleavage-revealing top and hot pants is ’empowering’.

It’s not even an interesting satire of Christians, the South, hypocrisy or anything else. It’s like someone came up with Good Christian Bitches as a title, came up with a premise to based on that title, then removed the whole point for the show in the first place.

But it’s not without merits. Bibb is fine. Bibb’s relationship with her best friend is nicely handled. Chenoweth is (ironically) in full Wicked Witch of The South mode so heartily enjoyable. You can have a laugh trying to spot which are the authentic Texan accents and which are the ringers.

It’s just those merits are few and far between. It’s not fun enough to be enjoyed as a piece of escapism and as a result it comes close to simply mocking Christians (which was what those protestors were worried about in the first place). It’s not sharp enough to actually say anything.

If you want a new season, escapist show about redemption, go and watch Ringer. If you want a new season satire about the suburbs, watch Suburgatory. Don’t watch GCB, assuming you even notice it in the EPG.

* It’s worth noting here that the ABC web site, just so that everyone has a vague idea what the show is about, ensures that “based on the book Good Christian Bitches” is prominent in the show’s banner.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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