I never really got how beloved Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 was until Logo announced it will broadcast its eight final, unseen episodes, starting this Saturday at 10 PM. They were left unaired when ABC pulled the plug midway through its second season last year, and the show’s cult following is stoked to watch the show wrap up as it was meant to.
I’ve been delving into the episodes – turns out both complete seasons are already available for streaming on Netflix – and they’re as satisfyingly devoid of hugging and learning (hat tip to Seinfeld) as the rest of the series, though there was a consistent sprinkle of true affection to season the hurt delivered by Krysten Ritter’s brilliant, titular “b—-” Chloe.
I’m always surprised and thrilled by the appearance of a character like Chloe, who exists in a cartoonish bubble of narcissism and glitter. She’s been compared to the gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but I feel like her closest pop cultural relatives are Patsy and Edina of Ab Fab; their spinoff Cybill Shepherd in Cybill; and Jackie and Tara in the criminally underrated, quickly cancelled The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman. These women are delivery vehicles for dialogue aimed at puncturing the sickly sweet atmosphere in which most mainstream female TV characters must live. They make my heart sing.
June: I’ve always wanted to go to a real-life Hamptons lighthouse. Rainy weather. In a fisherman’s sweater. On a bike. With a sandwich and my thoughts.
Chloe: [pause] I almost just hit you. I almost just lost control and hit you.
Don’t Trust the B—- gave us a pretty standard Odd Couple scenario in which June (Dreama Walker), the naïve Midwestern transplant, moved in with Chloe (inspiring the title’s words of advice) and began trying to accomplish her dreams in the big city, foiled at every turn by her sociopathic roommate. The sitcom also included a splendid role for James Van Der Beek as a caricature of himself as Chloe’s arguably even more self-centered best friend.
Created by Nahnatchka Khan, previously of American Dad!, the show featured reliably hilarious writing, much of it sending up traditional gender expectations.
June: I can’t do this whole casual sex thing. I tried. But I get too attached. I can’t be like you. My lady harp has feelings!
Chloe: Why do you have to make things so complicated when it could be just sex?
June: Because sex is complicated! You’ve never had feelings for somebody you’ve slept with?
Chloe: “Slept with”? Honey, if you’re falling asleep, he’s obviously doing something wrong.
Not all of it came from Chloe, either:
James: I ordered you some food. I, uh, I don’t really know what girls eat.
Busy Philipps (playing herself): Oh, sweetie, we don’t. We don’t eat. We just live in caves, having our periods, until it’s time to have sex with the first guy who buys us a wine cooler and reminds us of our dad.
It also delved into issues of women and power, with Chloe teaching June valuable life lessons with satirically outsized moments of “leaning in”:
[Chloe shows June a copy of People magazine featuring James on the cover as “Sexiest Man Alive”]
Chloe: I had them mock this up down at the office. I became the managing editor of People magazine today.
June: Yeah, right.
Chloe: It’s true. I’ve taken over a bunch of companies before—Volvo, Dole, Febreze. You just gotta walk in like you own the place, fire the first person to ask you a question, fire the second person to ask you a question, and then gaze out the window and draw a peen on the board. It’s the traditional intimidation–confusion–submission technique.
The unaired episodes I saw include a bit of delving into Chloe’s formative past; how did she become the B she is today? “Teddy Trouble” features Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield) as a childhood friend of Chloe’s from “psychopath camp” and a very apt portrayal of the insanity that is the annual Barneys warehouse sale in Manhattan. The final episode, “The Original B,” looks back at the roommate from hell (Sarah Wright) who led Chloe to pathologize her future roommate, June. It also, awesomely, features a Charo cameo. Again, not a whole lot of growing and learning – whenever a moment threatens to become too sincere, the show pulls the rug out from under it. And that’s a good thing. We have too many Hollywoodized moments in our TV and movies as it is.
It’s tough to say why Don’t Trust the B—- didn’t make it. It’s not like there’s a dearth of prickly, contrarian or downright unlikable female characters on TV these days (though I continue to mourn the cancellation of Enlightened). It’s Always Sunny, sociopathic spiritual cousin to this show, continues its run after making the leap from FX to FXX. Mindy Kaling’s character on her show doesn’t exactly suffer fools gladly, and her show is still humming along. Aubrey Plaza’s April Ludgate on Parks & Recreation, who admittedly got a little softer as the show went on, always seemed to be a fan favorite. I don’t think anyone would argue for any of the characters on Girls being a model of sweetness and light. And, of course, as I’ve previously raved, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is killing it on Veep. These are high times for anti-heroines. And, well, at least there’s new life for Chloe on Logo in the short term.
Khan, meanwhile, has moved on and created a new show, Fresh Off the Boat, which is listed on ABC’s 2014-2015 lineup. Based on the memoir of the same name by chef Eddie Huang, it will focus on a Taiwanese family making a go of it in America in the 1990s. If it’s anything like Huang’s book, and Khan’s previous work, it’ll be outrageously blunt about notions of race, assimilation and American culture; Huang, a real person, could give Chloe a run for her money in the cringe-inducingly blunt commentary department.
And that’s a good thing: the more difficult characters out there, male or female, the better.