So I had a Monday free from work this week and, in the absence of anything pressing on the writing front, I elected to spend the day flaked out in front of the Teev in a blatant attempt to recover from the worst of the GenreCon hangover. My televised tipple of choice – the first season of 2 Broke Girls, newly acquired on DVD by virtue of the fact that my local DVD store didn’t have season 2 of Castle on the shelves.
I wasn’t really expecting much from 2 Broke Girls – it’s been routinely panned by pretty much everyone I’ve seen discussing it – but after mainlining all twenty-two episodes of Seasons One I think I’ve come to adore the show, just a little.
Lets be clear – my adoration has nothing to do with the quality of the humour. There are sit-coms that I actually find consistently funny and worth-while (Community, Rosanne seasons two through four), sit-coms that are occasionally brilliant but often problematic (glares daggers at Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother), and there a sit-coms that I regard as a guilty pleasure for reasons I don’t particularly care to examine (early seasons of The Nanny).
2 Broke girls fits into neither category. Instead, the quality of the jokes in 2 Broke Girls is pitched at the level I’d associate with, say, Everybody Loves Raymond or Two and a Half Men, where everything is largely based on the clash between stereotypes that range from the clichéd to the outright insulting. Not really my thing, or the thing of most TV critics, but you cannot deny the smashing numbers those shows do in terms of drawing an audience.
If this is all the show did, I would have turned it off after the second episode. Instead, I kept watching for two reasons.
One: Kat Dennings
For a long time I kept stumbling over films that Dennings had been in and, almost universally, they were both better and more interesting than I’d expected. Not always brilliant, mind, but they pulled off the mix of entertaining and surprising that usually endears me to a creative work.
Thus, somewhere along the way, she became one of those performers whose presence in a film or TV show was usually enough to spark my interest. The fact that she’d become a regular in a sit-com meant I was at least a *little* interested, especially once I learned that the series also featured Jennifer Coolidge (who has been increasingly typecast in recent years, but is still awesome).
I have a friend who, when we discuss my (many) problems with The Big Bang Theory, will point out that the main reason for watching the show is the cast performances. Good performers can make even average things watchable, even if you spend the entire time wishing they were given something with a little more substance (or, in the case of BBT, less ass-hattery) to work with.
Two: The Meta-Plot
The first episode of 2 Broke Girls features a disgraced rich girl and a snarky waitress meeting and becoming friends, deciding that they’re going to start a business selling cup-cakes. It’s your classic odd-couple pairing, and I quickly expected the business to quickly disappear into the background – a conceit to keep the character’s together while they went off and had whacky sit-com-esque adventures that would inevitably, feature a string of disposable boys and dating and romantic entanglement.
And sure, that happens, but…less than you’d think. Maybe one third of the series is about that, kinda, and even then it’s only really a concentrated theme in a handful of episodes.
Throughout it all, the dream to start a business remains front-and-centre and is actually charted by the recurring motif at the end of every show, where the last thing you see before the show goes off the air is a running total on how their attempts to gather seed money has fluctuated as a result of the episode’s events.
And that…that charms me. I mean, yes, there are many things that are horrible about the show and plenty of reasons to find it classist, racist, sexist, etc. Even the methods with which the girls attempt to make money are kinda farce-like and forced, especially since one of the character’s knowledge of business seems…well, haphazard and utterly at the service of the plot.
On the other hand, 2 Broke Girls is a sit-com aimed at a wide-spread audience that features two young women who are actively trying to build a business. Where the genre teaches you to expect the characters to be defined by their relationship to the men in their lives, they’re increasingly defined by their relationship with each other and the friends/mentors/co-workers that surround them.
It’s a show with two female leads who passes the Beschedel test and shows characters whose lives don’t revolve around romance.
And seriously, that’s kinda awesome, even if there are other parts of the show that are problematic. Much as I’d like the world to make a wholesale change and embrace a future where misogyny is gone, I’m also a fan of small battles getting fought on contested ground. After years in which sit-coms have kinda relegated female characters to some fairly reprehensible character roles, there’s a part of me that’s pleased to see this small battle being fought.
There are times when I find myself hoping this is much like the first season of Roseanne, another series with a rocky start that blossomed when they ejected the original show-runner and gave it over to Roseanne Barr. It’d be really fucking nice to see something awesome stomp the hell out of the various shows run by
Chuck Lorre the devil on our airwaves.