October 23, 2012



DON’T TRUST THE B– IN APT 23:  Tuesday 9:30PM on ABC

WHERE WE WERE:  New York City, where naive midwestern arrival June shares an apartment with street-smart, manipulative Chloe (Krysten Ritter).  Their neighbor, and Chloe’s best friend, is James Van Der Beek, playing the same kind of version of himself that Matt LeBlanc does on Episodes.  Every week, June gets embroiled in one of Chloe’s schemes, yet things always work out.

WHERE WE ARE:  In an uncharacteristic episode, at least based on the series as we came to know it last season.  This time, things revolve around the former Dawson Leery, and the possibility of his doing a Dawson’s Creek reunion show.  It’s all set in motion by June, and complicated by the fact that the letters James gets each year from his fellow cast members, begging for a reunion, are actually forged by Chloe (not to make him feel better, but because on the day he gets those letters, he’s so happy that he’ll do anything Chloe asks, often involving the use of a tranquilizer gun), but Van Der Beek is really the main character for the week.  It’s an odd choice for a show trying to establish itself for the first time outside the shadow of last year’s post-Modern Family timeslot, and one wonders if it was ABC’s decision on promotability grounds to air this as the season’s premiere episode, or series creator Nahnatchka Khan (who wrote the episode, directed by Wendey Stanzler).  Or if it means Van Der Beek will have more of a presence on the show this season than last.  This is a possibility, since Ray Ford, as Van Der Beek’s very personal assistant Luther, has been upped to series regular status.  In any case, the episode is silly but cleverly plotted, with cameos by real-life Creek co-star Busy Phillips, along with Frankie Muniz and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, as versions of themselves.

For as long as both shows are on the air, Don’t Trust the B will be compared with 2 Broke Girls, which took a very similar premise (naive ex-rich girl moves in with street-smart, loud-mouthed Brooklyn roommate) to a more prominent level of success.  Don’t Trust the B remains the more interesting show, with a borderline-surreal tinge and smarter jokes.  Girls, though, has a more engaging relationship between the two leads, as well as Kat Dennings, who brings warmth and vulnerability even to her smarmiest put-downs.  (Both shows share an unfortunate taste for cartoon supporting characters.)  In TV terms, likability often trumps wit, and Don’t Trust the B doesn’t feel as though it’s found its proper tone yet, neither bracingly cynical (Chloe always does the right thing in the end, even if it’s for the wrong reasons) nor comfortably good-natured.

In the 3-way sitcom traffic jam that will exist for most of the season in the Tuesday 9-10PM hour (although only 2-way this week, since FOX aired a special X Factor at 9:30PM), Don’t Trust is surely better than NBC’s New Normal, but less assured than the early episodes of FOX’s The Mindy Project have been.  With both of its competing shows already flush with full-season orders, Don’t Trust may need to show some early strength to keep up with them.  Starting off the season with a stunt-ish episode may be a good way to accomplish that–or one that may backfire.

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."