This week the TV season kicks into high gear as the networks begin rolling out the new shows. Today Johnny Bicardi reviews 2 Broke Girls, a new sitcom on CBS, and Scott Malchus discusses NBC’s The Playboy Club. Hmm, do you think the two broke girls considered working at the Playboy Club? Only if they had a time machine and could travel back to the 60’s. Be sure to leave your comments below.
Take it away Johnny!
2 Broke Girls (Mondays, 8:30 PM, CBS)
Usually when you see that title, it’s attached to videos that you can view by going to one of those sites, you know the ones…but, sorry to say, there’s nothing of the sort going on here, even though there is some cutesy girl-on-girl action at one point in the proceedings. 2 Broke Girls seems to be set up as a potential star vehicle for Kat Dennings, who has made a solid impression in supporting roles in films like The Forty Year Old Virgin and Thor, as well as a leading part as Norah in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. She’s the hub that all the requisite oddball characters (and there are a surprising amount of them) revolve around.Dennings is a sassy tough-gal Brooklyn waitress named Max and Beth Benes is a Paris Hilton-like Manhattan heiress named Caroline, who has lost her inheritance and winds up working in the very same diner. After some initial misunderstandings (Max’s knucklehead Jersey Shore-style boyfriend comes on to her, she rebuffs him, Max thinks the opposite), she winds up inviting Caroline to live with her, and in turn Caroline proposes starting a business selling the cupcakes Max is skilled at making. We’ll even, as I understand it, get a running total at the end of each episode that shows how close they are getting to realizing their goal. Thus, the pieces for potential Odd Couple-style shenanigans are in place. As far as acting mojo goes, Benes can’t hold a candle to her co-star, but she does play her role convincingly. The large supporting cast is not an especially memorable lot, except for good old Garrett Morris, who still recites his lines like English is his third language.
The jokes fly fast and obvious (and more than a little blue, surprisingly so for a network show- but then again, I don’t watch a lot of series TV these days) , though I got a chuckle here and there. Even though Dennings delivers hers with enthusiasm, the two leads don’t really have a lot of chemistry yet so all the exchanges sound a bit forced. Hopefully it will improve, but for now it looks like it will sink or swim on Dennings’ considerable charm. It’s no classic, but if given time, maybe 2 Broke Girls (which was co-created by Sex and the City’s Michael Patrick King and current comedy “it” girl, Whitney Cummings) will find a groove and become, well, if not a hit, a solid, consistent performer and a reason to stay tuned after How I Met Your Mother, where is where it will be appearing beginning on September 26th.
If anyone tries to tell you that The Playboy Club isn’t influenced by AMC’s Emmy Award winning Mad Men, they’re full of shit. Male lead, Eddie Cibrian, is practically channeling Jon Hamm is the way he carries himself and delivers his lines. Cibrian is actually pretty good and I wish the writers would have taken their cues from Mad Men, as well because The Playboy Club pilot was overstuffed with plotlines and characters, too much information in one hour to digest and feel satisfied. Whereas Mad Men is methodical in its study of 60’s mores, The Playboy Club tried to cram as much as possible down the viewer’s throat in an effort to say, ”Look, this isn’t just a show about the objectification of beautiful young women.” If anyone tries to sell you on that last statement, they’re really…. Well, you know what I’m going to say.
The main attraction at The Playboy Club is Amber Heard (Drive Angry) as Maureen, the newest Bunny to work at the Chicago Playboy Club. Hired as a cigarette girl (yes, they actually smoke on this series), her first week finds her pulled on the dance floor by a mob boss, nearly raped in a store room by that mob boss, and then her killing the mob boss with one of her stiletto heels. That’s all in the first ten minutes! Lucky for Maureen she is helped out by big shot lawyer, Nick Dalton (Cibrian), a rising star in Chicago politics who has past ties to, you guessed it, the dead mobster that Maureen took out.
Nick and Maureen somehow manage to drag the fat slab of the dead man into the alley of the Playboy Club, plop it in the truck of Nick’s car, and drive it to the river’s edge. After Nick wraps the body in a chain, they dump it in the river. In a different kind of series, one that took it’s time, we’d witness Maureen suffer from remorse and Nick comfort her, but like I said, there are too many stories to introduce; character development be damned.
Back in the club, we meet a large ensemble of mostly women and a few male characters. Carol (Laura Benati) is the original Bunny, which means she already old at, what, I guess age 30. She’s in a relationship with Nick, at least until she thinks he slept with Maureen. She finagles her way into helping run the Playboy Club, rankling the club manager, Billy, (David Krumholtz). Brenda (Naturi Naughton) is Maureen’s roommate and has aspirations to be the very first African American Playmate. Alice (Leah Renee) is sweet, married young woman who we discover, in the final minutes, is a lesbian and that her husband is actually a gay man. Finally there are Janie and Max (Jenna Dewan and Wes Ramsey) as young lovers trying to make their relationship work, even though clients are always fondling Janie.
Somewhere in all of that we also meet the son of the mob boss and introduce more gangsters who are looking for their missing leader. In addition, there are four musical numbers, including two by singers portraying Ike and Tina Turner. Apparently The Playboy Club is going to take a page from that other NBC 60’s series, American Dreams, and feature contemporary musicians playing icons from another era. I hear Ray Charles may be in a future episode. Note to The Playboy Club producers: If you want you show to have an authentic feel, use a live band on set and find a music producer who uses analog equipment and not Protools.
It continues to surprise me that in an era when Lost was a hit show and also garnered critical accolades, so many ensemble dramas give us too much in the pilot episode. The CW does a better job of building intrigue in so many of their shows and drawing viewers back week in and week out. Some may scoff at shows like The Vampire Diaries, but each episode is well paced and gives you a reason to tune in each week. Should the producers of The Playboy Club pull back the reigns and allow for their characters and stories to breathe, the show could become successful, creatively speaking, that is. The set up of the series is certainly interesting (who doesn’t love a good mob story?) and the cast is definitely up to the challenge. But if each episode is written and paced like the pilot, I won’t be coming back too many times. I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels that way.