Of all the programming on TV, I’m probably the pickiest about sitcoms. In truth, I tend to stay away from them except in two instances:
1) People I know can’t stop talking about a show.
2) The premise just grabs me by the jugular.
Raising Hope is a perfect example. I had a friend who loved it and wouldn’t stop talking about it. Looked it up to see what it was about and thought, “Okay, this could be funny,” and it was. I still think it is much funnier than New Girl. Then again, I think both The Simpsons and Family Guy have run their course.
The main problem I have with sitcoms is, most of the time, there is only one really funny moment for me in each show. I think this opinion comes from watching Comedy Central back when it was all just reruns of HBO comedy shows and specials– with breaks of SNL from the late 80s/early 90s. From that alone, I think I’ve heard some permutation of every joke in the world.
But then there are shows like Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 (from this point on I’ll just use Apt 23), that come along and do comedy right.
Apt 23 tells the story of June (Dreama Walker), who moves to NYC only to find out her Wall Street job– and company apartment– are lost on her first day due to the government seizing her employer’s assets. In search of a new place to live– and to get her life plan back on track– June moves in with Chloe (Krysten Ritter). As the eponymous “Bitch in Apartment 23,” Chloe decides to do everything she can to make June’s life miserable so she leaves New York… A trick that Chloe has pulled on former roommate/now stalker neighbor Robin (Liza Lapira) and best friend/former lover James Van Der Beek. But unlike the countless other girls Chloe has done this to, June is quick to fight back– solidifying a show worthy of the mismatched roommate legacy started by The Odd Couple.
I’ll admit, I came to this show by people telling me about it. The strongest recommendation came from a person I first got hooked on Dawson’s Creek– and then began watching everything that ever featured James Van Der Beek. If you haven’t seen him in either Formosa Betrayed, The Rules of Attraction, his stint on Mercy or his videos at Funny or Die, there is a lot more to Mr. Van Der Beek than you may expect… All of which is well executed in his Apt 23 role, where he plays himself.
But unlike most shows from the past decade that had stars playing themselves, the main characters played by Walker and Ritter are just as strong and well executed as Van Der Beek’s. In fact, they are the dominant presence in the show. Not being familiar with either actor, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As each character was introduced, both captured my attention and held it for the duration of the show.
The first episode is a little set-up heavy. I almost cringed when June went through her whole background in a monologue at the very start. Luckily, that is about the worst offense the show commits. From that moment on, the humor takes over. The best way to describe Apt 23 is “Community lite”. By that I mean, it’s the not the typical set-up/punchline structure because of a slight absurdism in the characters. The set-ups here are natural actions and the punchlines are the reactions of other characters.
What’s great about this kind of humor: Not only does it quickly engage the audience, it’s also a very quick way for the audience to learn about these characters. The faster it is done, the more time can be used for story. The second episode exemplifies this and the other strengths I have talked about.
Finally we have a non-family centered ABC sitcom for us “Nearly Thirties”– who prefer not to be reminded we don’t have our own clan and the hi-jinx that comes along with. We are just like the viewers that grew tired of ABC’s family sitcoms back when they had their “TGIF” programming block in the early 90s.
Showing on Wednesday nights in the States, I can’t see how this series will perform badly in the ratings. There is no real competition in the 9:30pm time slot. Bent and I Hate My Teenage Daughter are both horrible. Most everyone watching Happy Endings probably won’t cross over with the audience interested in Apt 23. So if this show does poorly, I will be very surprised and heartbroken. I need my laughs like a depressed circus clown.
Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 premieres on Wednesday, April 11th. The first two episodes are available on ABC.com and Hulu or free for download on iTunes. You can also view the First Episode in the Mondo Video section of the IMJ Sidebar.