Looks like the 2011-12 season will go down in TV history as the year of Women Behaving Badly.
After the success of "Bridesmaids" at the box office last summer, who's surprised? Of course, these shows were in development long before "Bridesmaids" became a hit, and "Bridesmaids" was smarter and much funnier than CBS's "2 Broke Girls," the first program in this season's Women Behaving Badly mini-trend.
The latest installment comes this week with ABC's "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23" (9:30 p.m. Wednesday, WTAE), which gets off to a strong comedic start with a quick-witted, fast-paced premiere episode. Some viewers will take offense at the title and the show's ribald humor, but the program holds appeal for fans of comedy that depends on pop-culture knowledge (think: NBC's "Community," ABC's "Happy Endings," which has ended its season already).
June (Dreama Walker, "Gossip Girl") moves to Manhattan when her company transfers her, but the firm immediately implodes, leaving June without work or a place to live. She quickly lands a job at a coffee shop and interviews for roommates, settling on Chloe (Krysten Ritter, "Breaking Bad"), who puts on a good show of normalcy but turns out to be a schemer. One of Chloe's neighbors, Robin (Liza Lapira, "Huff"), speaks the words of the show's title as a warning to June.
"So how's moving?" Chloe asks June after she struggles to get her belongings into the apartment. "I was gonna help you, but then I didn't want to."
Chloe's "gay BFF but straight" turns out to be "the Beek from the 'Creek,'" "Dawson's Creek" star James Van Der Beek, who plays a fictionalized, presumably jerkier version of himself. Chloe calls him "Tiger Beat." He calls her "Whorenado."
Many jokes at the expense of Van Der Beek and his "Dawson's"-era stardom follow, and for fans of a certain age, these are wholly satisfying and often quite funny.
Through the course of the pilot, June shows she can stand up for herself, and she gains the grudging respect of duplicitous Chloe. While Chloe often gets the snappiest dialogue, the show's humor also comes from a roster of supporting characters, including Robin, who turns out to have a complicated relationship with Chloe, and June's coffee shop co-worker, Mark (Eric Andre).
Now, about the title: This is the second prime-time series on ABC in the past two months to implicitly use "bitch" in its title.
First there was "Good Christian Bitches," based on a novel with that title, which was announced as "Good Christian Belles" last May before getting shortened to "GCB." It debuted last month.
Now there's this new comedy, which began as "Don't Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23," then was renamed "Apt. 23." ABC eventually settled on "Don't Trust the B ---- in Apt. 23."
ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee said it was a coincidence that two shows with the same implicit, explicit word in the title ended up ABC.
"Look 'GCB,' which officially stands for 'Good Christian Belles,' a great title, a great show, and reflects some of the irreverence of the show," Mr. Lee said. "It's not a word that we can use in broadcast for our titles. It's sort of by chance that we have two of them, but we're spreading them out for a couple of months. I didn't want to do my trilogy."
As for "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23," Mr. Lee said the title reflects the "irreverence and the outrage of that show," but series creator Nahnatchka Khan was less interested in the b-word than another part of the title.
"The word 'bitch' is neither here nor there, but I liked the warning of [the title]," she said. "When it was shortened all the way to 'Apartment 23,' to me it just lost [something]. The 'Don't Trust the' part is what I really felt strongly about. To me that implies there's something dangerous happening here, something a little bit different and that's really what I think we wanted to maintain with the title."
Ms. Khan is absolutely right about the most important part of the title and what it connotes. And it could be worse. ABC could have called the female characters on their shows "sluts."
When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, ABC.
Starring: Krysten Ritter, center, with James Van Der Beek and Dreama Walker.tvradio
Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.