April 19, 2012

THE SKED PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “Don’t Trust the B— In Apt 23”


A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.
Previously… on DON’T TRUST THE B— IN APT 23:  June (Dreama Walker) is a new arrival in New York, with a great job, a fiancee and a lovely apartment… for less than the length of a half-hour pilot.  She’s almost instantly duped by Chloe (Krysten Ritter), a scam artist whose specialty is bilking prospective roommates out of their security deposits by proving herself absolutely impossible to live with.  June, though, is made of stronger stuff, and before long Chloe is helping her out (in her fashion) by seducing June’s fiancee on June’s own birthday cake to expose what a cad he is, and the two women are settling down to an uneasy apartment share.  Getting to know Chloe also means getting to know those near and dear to her, and that includes the obsessed-with-Chloe Robin (Liza Lapira), neighbor and flasher Eli (Michael Blaiklock), and most notably, a womanizing, narcissistic version of James Van Der Beek, played by Dawson himself.

Episode 2:  In a season notable for its women-oriented sitcoms, Don’t Trust the B– is particularly tied with 2 Broke Girls, the other comedy about a street-wise New Yorker sharing an apartment and wary friendship with a naive newcomer.  Broke Girls became an instant hit, while Don’t Trust the B– is proving, at least at the outset, more divisive.  This makes sense, since 2 Broke Girls is at heart a very conventional, even old-fashioned multicamera buddy sitcom–Laverne & Shirley plus vagina jokes.  Max, the tough one of the Broke Girls, is secretly a marshmallow who wants nothing more than to strive for success and help out her new BFF Caroline.  (Don’t Trust the B– can also be compared with Girls, another show about struggling young women in NY, but that’s a more realistic, seriocomic kind of comedy.)
The second episode of Don’t Trust the B–, written by series creator Nahnatchka Khan and directed by Michael Spiller, confirms that the show resides in more amoral territory.  When Chloe offers to fix June up with a seemingly perfect guy, she neglects to mention that it’s her own father.  And when both Chloe and dad complain that Chloe’s mother won’t join him in his love of bicycling, it doesn’t matter to them that the reason is became mom’s in a wheelchair.  (Asked what happened to her mother, Chloe says “I don’t know–I felt like she always wanted me to ask, so I never did.”)  Khan used to write for American Dad, and this Seth McFarlane-esque kind of dark humor is unusual in live-action network TV.  
So far, at least, Chloe isn’t asking anyone to like her, and that’s both the strength of Don’t Trust the B– and its potential limitation:  people weaned on soft network morality may not want to watch a character so dominated by self-interest.  And June, the audience stand-in, may be comparatively naive, but she’s not above spending the night (albeit sexlessly) with Chloe’s dad even after she knows the truth.  The edgy chemistry between Ritter and Walker keeps the show on its toes.
Don’t Trust the B– is weaker in its supporting roles.  It remains to be seen if the James Van Der Beek joke, amusing as it is, can last more than a few episodes before getting stale (this week, inspired by James Franco, he was teaching an acting class), while Robin and Eli are barely one-note cartoons.  At some point, the show is probably going to have to provide more for its ensemble to do.  
The premiere ratings for Don’t Trust the B–, following ABC’s big Modern Family lead-in, were good but not outstanding, and the numbers over the next few weeks (especially next Wednesday, when it airs after a Modern Family rerun) will be key.  Creatively, it’s off to a better start than Happy Endings, which took half its first season to find its voice, but when that show clicked, it zoomed all the way to sensational.  Don’t Trust the B– may never reach those heights, but if the show can hold on to its edge and cartoonish wit, it’ll be a worthwhile, distinctive addition to the line-up.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."