The lead character in "The B --- in Apt. 23" doesn't live up to the show title -- she's just a horrible human being
This week, the great 2011-2012 lady-sitcom trend comes to an end, with the premiere of the last two series to claim membership, the stupendous “Girls,” debuting this Sunday night on HBO (more on “Girls” later today), and the not so stupendous “Don’t Trust the B- in Apt. 23,” which began last night on ABC. The truncated “B” in “Apt. 23” stands for “Bitch,” which suggests that one of the characters in “Apt. 23” should be even more prickly and obnoxious than the trying, caustic stars of “Whitney,” “Are You There Chelsea,” and “2 Broke Girls” — women who have reclaimed the B-word for themselves, but didn’t title their TV shows accordingly. This, however, is not the case here: The “B” in apartment 23 is the Disney princess version of a bitch, the bitch as lifestyle icon and self-help guru, so, really, the bitch who is not a bitch at all.
“Apt. 23” co-stars Dreama Walker (whose name I will never be able to type without imagining she was birthed in some free love hippie compound) as June, a nice girl from Indiana who, after losing her job, has the misfortune of moving in with Chloe (Krysten Ritter), the titular “B,” who also happens to be besties with James Van Der Beek, playing himself in a self-lacerating performance that has yet to fold in with the rest of the show. In last night’s episode, Chloe permitted June to move in, with plans to be such a horrible roommate that June would move out, leaving first and last month’s rent and a security deposit in Chloe’s care. But June proved to be up to the task of dealing with Chloe — Chloe stole June’s money, June sold Chloe’s furniture — which Chloe found endearing. So endearing that, as a favor to June, she slept with June’s fiancé, just to prove to a disbelieving June he was a cheater. June appreciated this.
This is more or less the format of future episodes. Chloe, a narcissistic, self-involved, casually rule-breaking party girl, does something horrible for June’s own good, and June understands it as such. June may be well-meaning, hardworking, kind and, as the furniture-selling incident suggests, not without backbone, but she is the student, studying at the feet of Chloe, the master of doing whatever it is she wants, whenever she wants to.
This formulation may be deranged — the message of “Apt. 23″ is basically, people who don’t care about anything have more fun, so wouldn’t it be better to be like that – but it goes down pretty easy. “Apt. 23” isn’t particularly funny, but at least it doesn’t have a laugh track to beat you over the head with this fact. Walker’s likable enough, and Ritter, simultaneously beautiful and gawky, is an upbeat presence, a constant good time, even when spewing insults and self-obsession. Ritter’s Chloe wears bitchiness like it is a cute jacket, something in fashion she thinks looks good on her for now, not as a reflection of some dark, damaged psyche. (In fact, it’s not: In a future episode we meet Chloe’s parents, who are nice people. She’s a self-created monster.)
It’s interesting to compare Chloe to Whitney, Chelsea, and “2 Broke Girls’s” Max, three characters who are bitchy in a much more unsettling, prickly, difficult and angry way. These unpleasant qualities can make watching their TV shows very trying — the women they play are strident and their shows full of ill will — but take the self-loathing and sharp angles out of these characters and, to judge by Chloe, all you’re left with is a sitcom in praise of selfishness.
Willa Paskin is Salon's staff TV writer. More Willa Paskin.
More Related Stories
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
- Mary Karr: David Foster Wallace and I kept each other alive
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11