March 12, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and 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 in the off-season) give plenty of notes, both 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 episodes of this year’s new series as well.
Previously… on GCB:  Amanda (Leslie Bibb) grew up in Dallas, where she was the meanest of the mean girls:  head cheerleader, girlfriend of the quarterback, with a major in making life torture for her less popular classmates.  But when Amanda got pregnant and was rejected by her mother Gigi (Annie Potts), she left town, moved to LA and changed her life.  Now she’s a really, really nice person, whose life has been upended by the scandalous death of her husband, leaving her penniless and forced to return to her manipulative mother’s home with her teen kids. Worse yet, she discovers that the same girls she bullied in high school have grown up to become at least as bad as Amanda was in her heyday.  Their new queen bee is Carlene (Kristen Chenoweth), who’s been transformed by multiple plastic surgeries and who wields her flamboyant Christianity like a battle-axe.  Carlene’s lieutenants are Cricket (Miriam Shor), a designer with a (barely) closeted husband (Mark Deklin), and Sharon (Jennifer Aspen), not as svelte as the others and insecure about her own husband (Brad Beyer)–with good reason, since he’s already made a move on Amanda.  Meanwhile, realtor Heather (Marisol Nichols) is also in Carlene’s group, but the only one somewhat sympathetic to Amanda.  Determined to support herself and unable to get a real job, Amanda has had to work at the show’s Hooters knock-off, called Boobylicious, and when Carlene publicly humiliates her at church for taking that job, Amanda does some detective work and humiliates Carlene right back by exposing her as the real owner of Boobylicious.

Episode 2:  We pick up shortly after the events of the pilot, as Carlene tries to recover from her public flailing–naturally, by continuing to try to ruin Amanda’s life.  In the case of this episode, written by series creator/showrunner Robert Harling and directed by Victor Nelli, Jr, that means turning Boobylicious into a charitably-minded restaurant where the waitresses wear Amish outfits, inviting Amanda to lunch and then leaving her at a truck stop 80 miles from Dallas, making sure no one attends the lunch Gigi is throwing for Amanda, and only vaguely disagreeing with the idea that Cricket’s daughter (Alex Elizabeth Gitter) should join the fun by humiliating Amanda’s daughter (Lauren Irion) by naming her a “javalina” (a sort of pig) rather than a “fox,” cateogires Amanda herself invented in high school.  By the time the episode is over, most of this has backfired on Carlene and her group.

GCB is almost unwatchably coarse and meanspirited, a festival of nonstop female cruelty and ridicule (written almost exclusively by men) with a couple of minutes of sappy sentiment shoved into the end of each episode.  The show revels in ugliness (tonight’s episode featured Sharon, the overweight character, attempting to lure her husband into sex with greasy fried foods), and even for someone neither Christian nor devout, its insistent equation of religion with hypocritical maliciousness feels unseemly.  All of this might be fine if the show were a genuine satire, willing to own its apparent anger and disgust toward its characters, but GCB wants to have it both ways, cloaking its ugly hostility in come-on-we’re-just-kidding cutesiness.  
Some glints of talent on the part of the actors fight their way free.  Bibb is an appealing lead, and Potts manages to suggest a beating heart underneath her cartoon character.  But it would be hard to imagine a worse role for Chenoweth.  She has a tendency to be over-the-top anyway unless kept under control.  When she is, as she was on West Wing and sometimes on Pushing Daisies, she can bring something fresh and irresistibly likable to her parts.  Placed here into a role that’s exaggerated to begin with, she’s quickly becoming a grotesque, painful caricature of herself.  

GCB premiered tepidly last week, and although in its 2d airing it may have a higher lead-in than usual (because of a heavily-promoted killing-a-character episode of Desperate Housewives), it should fade quickly from the air.  It may not be the worst single show of the broadcast season–this was the year, after all, of Work It–but it’s close enough.
ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel
PILOT + 1:  Find A Test Pattern To Watch

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."