In the US: Wednesdays, 9.30c/8.30c, ABC
If there’s one good thing about this year’s season of shows, it’s that there are women in them front and centre. All kinds of women. Good women. Bad women. Secret agent women. Policewomen. Criminal women. PR women without children. Stay-at-home moms. Moms with careers. Playboy bunnies. Air hostesses. Christian women. Rich women. Broke girls. Bent women. Drunk women. Gifted women. Scared-of-commitment women. Fairy-tale women. Girls (more on them later). Not many female scientists – although what did Leslie Hope do in The River? – but a pleasing variety of women nonetheless.
Less pleasing is the growing fear of women in some of these very same shows. Apart from shows such as Last Man Standing and Work It, which are essentially about men’s fear of women, we have GCB – the show formerly known as Good Christian Bitches – which is all about grown-up mean girls. Ringer has Sarah Michelle Gellar being persecuted by her own twin sister. Revenge sees a woman trying to bring down the women (and men) who led to the ruin of her father.
Shows, in other words, in which women should fear women.
Now we have another show which can’t bring itself to use the word ‘bitch’ but kind of includes it in the title anyway – Don’t Trust The B—- in Apt 23. It’s all about a naive woman who moves to New York and finds her life falling apart, in part because of a new, female, sociopathic roommate, whom she absolutely should not trust.
Apparently. Even though the bitch is friends with con artist James Van Der Beek. Yes, Dawson from Dawson’s Creek. He’s out to get you and your money. Turns out you can’t trust actors either. Here’s a trailer.
A wide-eyed Midwestern girl moves to New York City to pursue her dream job only to find herself living with an outlandish girl with the morals of a pirate. June’s (Dreama Walker) well-planned well-organized life takes a drastic turn when she arrives in New York to find that the corporate finance job she moved there for no longer exists. As she tries to navigate her newly single life in the big city, her Midwestern scruples are constantly put to the test by her wild and sophisticated party-girl roommate Chloe (Krysten Ritter) and Chloe’s best friend, the actor James Van Der Beek (James Van Der Beek). The two girls form an unlikely friendship that leads them both to unexpected places and often-illegal experiences.
Is it any good?
It’s not too bad. The acting’s quite bad, the joke count is a little low and it’s quite derivative in places, but it’s quirky and unusual and James Van Der Beek does a much better job of sending himself up than Matt Le Blanc does on Episodes.
The show has two main assets: Van Der Beek (who originally was only going to be in the pilot) and Krysten Ritter, who’s slowly making a name for herself on US TV through shows like Gravity and Love Bites. The show really finds itself when these two are together, less so when it’s just one or the other, not at all when they’re not around.
Van Der Beek is the first of (apparently) many actors set to appear on the show as evil versions of themselves, but so far, he’s been doing a fine job as their representative, sending up his Dawson image (and fans) admirably. True, the idea of the stupid advert filmed only for the Far East has been done already (Le Blanc did it in Friends), but it was an admirably off-the-wall effort anyway and there are more such moments to come, hopefully more original.
Ritter, while not doing anything particularly subtle, has an obviously fun time playing a sociopath who’ll do anything in her own self-interest. The show does pull its punches here, with Ritter essentially being too nice to Dreama Walker’s character and not being one-tenth the presence of the truly sociopathic Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction. But it’s a comedy and if she really acted to type, the show would have been over within the first 20 minutes, so we have to make allowances.
Elsewhere, the show is looser, essentially a “mid-west meets east coast” culture shock piece, with Walker every New Yorker’s idea of the naive Christian from the sticks, Ritter every mid-Westerner’s stereotype of what a New Yorker is like. Walker survives all the standard TV trials of New York life, from crazy apartment hunting and losing jobs to creepy stalker people, all to minimal comedic effect but with some intriguing, occasionally original takes.
With the pilot out of the way, hopefully the writers will take stock and focus on the show’s strengths, because there is potential here. While the Walker/Ritter partnership isn’t one of those things, the good girl (with the potential to be bad)/bad girl (with a heart of gold) relationship between them has the potential to ground the show and form a basis from which Van Der Beek/Ritter moments can grow. And if it could be slightly edgier, slightly darker, that would be great, too.