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Fall 2011 Review: 2 Broke Girls

20 Sep

I thought about sub-titling this review, “In Defense of Hipsters.”  I didn’t, but we’ll get back to that shortly.

It’s very early in the fall premiere season but we have an early contender for if not the worst show, the show I find most personally offensive.  Honestly, it’s not because the writing is bad, although it is.  But honestly, (and here’s a kind of compliment, to show this is all even-handed), the writing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  And Kat Dennings, who I haven’t liked since Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist  wasn’t as bad as I thought she would be.  The problem with this show is both its absolute lack of understanding of what it’s trying to make fun of, and the ridiculously one-sided stance that comes from that.  Allow me to explain.

The first minute or so of the show is the worst minute of television I’ve seen in years (is decades too far?) and although more concentrated than the rest of the show, is a good microcosm for the show at large.  I made a mention of a Coldplay reference in my preview of the show but I’m going to break it down further and attach the youtube so you can see for yourself.  I’ll break down the clip below.

Two men are sitting at a table in the diner in which waitress Kat Dennings, named Max in the show, works.  The men are maybe in their mid-20s and are dressed in plaid and have wool caps on.  One of them, after attempting to call her over to the table, snaps at her (finger snaps, not snaps in anger).  Without question, this is a rude action.  She then retaliates eight-fold.  She snaps directly in his face, an action far more rude in and of itself than snapping in the air for the waitress.  She then calls out the patron as a hipster, for having no job, which, first, she has absolutely no way of knowing, and second, even if she did, it would be extremely uncalled for and none of her business.  She and him are nothing alike at all, she asserts.  After the second man at the table notes that his friend has been “burned,” Max lets him know that he doesn’t get off either for this seemingly minor transgression.  She, she tells him, wears wool hats because it’s cold, while he, she claims, wears them because of Coldplay.

Let’s break this down.  First, if she was pissed, she could have, I don’t know, told them that snapping was obnoxious.  Instead she decides to be a total asshole, far more than was called for in retaliation for their snaps.  Second, these people don’t dress like hipsters do in New York.  Anyone who lives in New York should know this.  There is stereotypical clothing they could pick, horn rimmed glasses and tight jeans and trucker hats or beards, but they just got it completely wrong.  Third, fucking Coldplay?  I’m sure someone wrote this line and thought it was so brilliant that they didn’t want to actually bother to think about accuracy.  Coldplay could not be farther from a hipster band.  Do hipsters like Coldplay?  Sure, maybe, because EVERYONE likes Coldplay.  I’m going to go farther though.  If anything, hipsters are more likely to HATE Coldplay.  In wikipedia’s article on the hipster subculture, they rip a Time magazine quote which says (I know, Time magazine is truly the definitive source on hipsters), “Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay.”  I’m sure Max would like Coldplay if she didn’t seem to hate everyone and everything that wasn’t hardscrabble and poor and an underdog.  They’re probably too successful so she has to resent them.  Fourth, why can’t they wear wool hats?  Why is this an objectionable stylish statement to you?  If he’s uncomfortable or hot inside, this bothers you why?

And to the greater point, as I alluded to earlier, what the fuck is with this defenseless picking on hipsters for no reason?  Why is Max on so much of a higher plane than them?  Because they like indie music?  Since when did hipsters become so horrible?  I’m tired of them being an easy target for honestly no reason, even beside the fact that if there was going to be hipster bashing it should have happened five years ago.  There’s plenty of understandable reasons to pick on hipsters; their pretentious music taste, sure.  Where is this stereotype that hipsters would be mean to waitresses?  Later in the episode, Max notes that she doesn’t envy the other waitress because an Arcade Fire concert just got out next door and hipsters would be crowding the diner.  Why the fuck is this so terrible?  Not to mention, the Arcade Fire sell out Madison Square Garden.  They wouldn’t be playing in Brooklyn.  Of course, most of the audience of this show probably doesn’t even know who the Arcade Fire is, Grammy and #1 album or not and they certainly wouldn’t know a real indie band (The Drums, Yuck, or Wild Beasts, just to name a couple actually playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg in the near future).

The Big Bang Theory is despicable for its depiction of nerds, but at least it plays correctly to the horrible stereotypes of nerds.  2 Broke Girls can’t even get that right.

I can’t spend this amount of time on everything else in the show, and admittedly, that’s the single most painful minute, so I’ll move more quickly.  Williamsburg, a very gentrified area at this point where rent is not cheap by any means, is portrayed as a rough shithole where second broke girl Caroline, who lost all her money when her dad, a Bernie Madoff take off, got caught, can’t wear her nice coat for fear of getting robbed.  Her apartment definitely costs a significant amount of rent for such a titular broke girl.  The subway the two are on looks more like a stereotypical subway from the ‘80s than one from today.  By no means are all subways immaculate, but nor are they covered in graffiti.

Also, Max works a second job as a nanny for a clueless rich socialite in big bad MANHATTAN.  Max is smart and streetwise.  The woman she works for though, boy, rich people are so STUPID and LAZY, they can’t even pick up their own kids.

This isn’t fucking Williamsburg.  There is nothing New York about this show.  I know Michael Patrick King worked on a definitive New York show in Sex and the City but this couldn’t be farther from that.  It’s filmed on a sound stage and doesn’t look or feel at all like New York.  Beyond that, it’s just painfully inaccurate and patronizing to the people and to the neighborhood.

And I’m sure all this ribbing of hipsters and rich people and New York is all supposed to be taken in good fun, and you might say, chill out, it’s just a sitcom.  If that’s how you feel, that’s fine, I’ll respect that.  But to me, relying on stereotypes, and worse relying on inaccurate stereotypes is the worst, and maybe worse than worst, the laziest type of comedy.

I’m sorry this review is extra long, but I know I came in biased to this premiere so I wanted to make sure these were really my feelings and I wasn’t forcing it because I wanted to hate the show.  I took a good long think about the comedies I do like, and none of them have this attitude of patronizingly picking on certain defenseless easy target groups.  Sure, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia picks on everyone, but those characters are supposed to be despicable people, while somehow I think you’re supposed to love Max.

Will I watch it again?  No, I will not.  You don’t have to hate it.  But it wouldn’t hurt if you didn’t watch it at least.

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 21: White Collar

20 Sep

USA is showing up all over this list, but I believe this is its last appearance.  White Collar is a USA-style show about a federal agent and his partner, an ex-con who is helping out the FBI as part of a crazy special deal to suspend his sentence.  Basically, Neal Cafferty, a top class white collar criminal, master of cons, burglaries, forgeries and art theft among others, was a fugitive who top class FBI white collar agent Peter Burke chased after for years, before the show’s beginning.  Burke was the Tommy Lee Jones to Cafferty’s Harrison Ford.  Eventually, Burke gets his man, and due to a number of circumstances not worth explaining here, a unique Mod Squad like bargain is struck in which Cafferty will work for the FBI with an anklet around his, well, ankle, letting the feds know his location in case he leaves a set radius outside of the FBI office.  The two team up to solve all sorts of while collar crimes using Caffery’s knowledge and con-artist skills and Burke hard-nosed disciplined attitude, along with the help of Neil’s best friend, the eccentric Mozzie, who seems to be a bit of an expert on everything.

I love a good grift show. (who doesn’t?)  I’ve watched a good deal of Leverage, and a couple of Breakout Kings, but just short of the amount I’ve required to give either a spot on this list.  That said, White Collar is light and fluffy for a show about federal agents, but it’s a little bit more serious than some of USA’s shows, like Royals Pains or Psych, and it’s very well executed considering its set USA network limitations.  Individual episode plots are just about always nicely wrapped up in neat little packages, with, in USA fashion, little bits of continuing storyline slowly advanced throughout a season.

I couldn’t finish this article without noting one of the scene tropes I most enjoy in White Collar.  Occasionally, Neil and partner-in-crime (quite literally) Mozzie need to employ a grift for whatever end.  They talk about it, and rattle off a bunch or ridiculous names of grifts, such as the “Cannonball” or the “Lazy Susan,” which apparently any grifter worth his salt knows by name, and then one or the other will explain why that’s not suitable with a small snippet like , “too crowded,” or “don’t have a dog.”, before one of them will pick one and explain why it just might work.  It’s an exceptionally silly segment if you step back from it but also quite enjoyable in the moment.

Why It’s This High:  It’s probably the best USA show – it’s enjoyable every week, fun to watch, the chemistry between the two main characters is great, and as I said above, I love a good grift.

Why it’s not higher:  Some of the same factors that make USA shows have a floor of enjoyability, also give them a low ceiling – they’re fun to watch, but don’t have the depth required for greatness

Best Episode of Most Recent Seasons:   We’ll go with “Burke’s Seven” – It contains a couple of the great grifting tropes – a team – rather than the usual two man cons run on the show, and a character, FBI employee Peter, having to prove himself innocent of a frame job, through con – figuring out how a criminal stole Peter’s fingerprints to put them inside a gun which shot Mozzie so our heroes can clear his name to Peter’s boss, the always wonderful James Rebhorne.