Broke Girls Season 1

TV Series

CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls has several elements not in its favor – it’s old fashioned, vulgar, full of stereotypical characters and stars the single most annoying thing about that CGI-choked turd of a superhero flick, Thor. And yet, and yet – it works!

Whether it’s the zeitgeist-tapping theme of finding humor in just getting by, the (usually) excellent scripts or the fantastic chemistry between the lead actresses, 2 Broke Girls counts as one of those rare shows that started out strong (the pilot was supposedly the strongest-tested pilot of any series in television history) and stayed consistently funny and fresh throughout its debut season. The arrival on DVD and Blu-Ray of The Complete First Season allows one the opportunity to see whether the show is all hype and no substance, or a real keeper.

Sitcom-wise, the 2 Broke Girls formula follows the tried-and-true multi-camera, filmed in front of a live studio audience format. Although the humor is more edgy than what can be found in stuff like Two and a Half Men (never funny and never will be) and The Big Bang Theory (once hilarious, now somewhat soft around the middle), there’s something comforting about a show whose basic concept would have worked just as well in 1962 as in 2012. The show might be unattractive for those who enjoy the contrived, suffocatingly smug humor found in most staged single-camera sitcoms; my personal preference is with this format and I find the show a complete blast.

For a reason I cannot understand, Girls has taken a lot of heat because of its easy-to-peg characters and frequent use of non-P.C. language (count the number of times “vagina” is spoken in each episode) but throwing about all the other words with a hearty disdain. The thing others criticize in this show is the very thing I like about it: it offends everyone at one time or another. It makes fun of blacks, Asians, gays, hipsters, the homeless, even companion animals. The characters all dish the jabs, but take them, too.

The titular characters in 2 Broke Girls are played by Kat Dennings and newcomer Beth Behrs (a genuine find), who portray waitresses in a down-and-dumpy diner in Williamsburg, a suburb of New York. Their boss is an obsequious, pint-sized Korean immigrant (Matthew Moy), the cook an over-sexed sleazeball (Jonathan Kite), the cashier a wise and hep older black dude (Garrett Morris). Although the “Alice for the Twitter Generation” setup provides the bulk of the show’s humor, there are a few sub-plots early on involving the Dennings character baby sitting for a ditsy socialite (the dryly hilarious Brooke Lyons) and carrying on a hot-and-cold relationship with a hunky street artist (Nick Zano). Halfway through the season, another regular is introduced in the form of a bawdy Polish-American cleaning business proprietress who shares a place in the girls’ apartment building, done with a detached hilarity by Jennifer Coolidge.

“And the Not Regular Down There” — Max is both puzzled and curious when the new guy she is dating expresses hesitations about intimacy because he is “not regular down there.” Also, Sophie and Oleg struggle to get pregnant, when 2 BROKE GIRLS moves to its new day and time, Wednesday, Jan. 6 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. From left, Caroline Channing (Beth Behrs), Max Black (Kat Dennings) and Han Lee (Matthew Moy), shown. Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Dennings’ character, Max, is the smart-mouthed, tough-living young woman who takes under her wing the down-and-out ex-heiress Caroline (Behrs) who lost everything when her father was caught swindling billions of dollars from investors. They become roommates, then co-workers and then partners in a struggling cupcake business. It might all sound familiar, but the writers and directors pump so much heart and soul into the characters and situations they make me actually care whether Martha Stewart loves their cupcakes (which, in the hysterical first-season finale, she did). It is to the writers’ credit that they have Max and Caroline become more than shallow stereotypes, while Dennings and Behrs make the women they play believable as best friends, despite their differing backgrounds.

My spouse and I were so taken with this show that we made the drive from Phoenix to Burbank to attend a taping (for what became the 20th episode, And the Drug Money). We had previously attended tapings of two other shows, so we knew what to expect. What we did not expect was the tremendous amount of work put into episodes of the first season to make them funny. With The Big Bang Theory (another of the shows we saw being taped), they did a scene and moved on, with the occasional second take to change a line. On the Girls set, nearly every scene was taken again and again, changing lines of dialogue or delivery to wring out the last possible laugh. It was a fascinating experience seeing how differently a scene played with a slight inflection here or a different word there. All that hard work comes out in the episodes on these DVDs (some of the scenes cut from the final episode versions are included as welcomed extras).

Creating a hit show is tough enough without being saddled with all the expectations that come with high ratings. Here’s hoping the tremendously talented staff stay with their “A” game for the second season.

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