Sneak Peek – Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23

Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 continues the weird recent trend of TV shows that have cuss words in the title, but then choose not to actually use the words when referring to the show (see $#*! My Dad Says and GCB). I’m not sure who they think they are fooling with all this cutsey nonsense. I guess they get to feel edgy while still playing it safe.

It is notoriously difficult to judge a 30 minute comedy by its pilot. There is a lot to unpack in a short amount of time – introduce the characters and set the premise – and that sometimes doesn’t leave a lot of room for laughs.  Many great comedies also rely on character and the interactions of the ensemble and that takes times to develop. Watching the Seinfeld pilot, there are glimpse of the show that it will become, but only in retrospect. The first few episodes of Parks and Recreation were so terrible that I had to be convinced to come back for the second season. Thankfully they figures out their issues and it is now one of the most consistently funny shows on TV. Occasionally a comedy pilot will just knock it out of the park – Arrested Development came out of the gate firing on all cylinders – but it is usually the best that you can hope for is that a show has potential.

Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 is far from perfect. But in the first two episodes I watched, I did see some possibility.

The plot is your classic odd couple scenario: June (Dreama Walker) is a sweet girl from the Midwest who moves to New York for a job. Things do not exactly go as planned and she is suddenly in need of a place to live. Enter the titular B in apartment 23, Chloe (Krysten Ritter), who is in need of a roommate. Chloe is a bit of a con artist – her go-to plan is to get someone to move in with her and pay the rent and security deposit and then be as terrible as possible to drive the person out of the apartment and make a nice profit. Of course, it would be a pretty short lived show if Chloe was able to drive June out immediately, so the two of them come to an uneasy détente.

Ritter definitely has the more fun of the roles and she seems to take to sociopathic alter ego with relish. She shows just the right hint of emotion when needed, but she does a good job of totally committing to some of the more outrageous stuff that is required. I’m not 100% sold on Walker, but I am not sure if it is the actress of just the nature of the role. It’s harder to be the straight woman while the “B” is doing her thing and her character, by design, is just a lot less interesting. I thought that they made June a little more interested in the second episode, though as long as she is the more grounded of the two leads she is probably always going to pale in comparison to Ritter. Crazy/bitchy/evil is just always more entertaining.

The show also has two quirky neighbors that I don’t think they have quite figured out to do with yet. Of the two, I think they have a better handle on the perverted neighbor across the alley way than Chloe’s former roommate who was scammed by her, yet seems to be obsessed with Chloe and still lives in the building. The latter’s presence in most scenes seems forced and doesn’t add much to the stories so far. Same goes for June’s boss, who they have shoehorned into to some scenes. One supporting character that they DO know how to use, and who honestly steals the show, is James Van Der Beek (played by James Van Der Beek).

That’s right – the Beek from the Creek is back on television and has taken a page out of the Neil Patrick Harris playbook by appearing as an exaggerated version of himself (see NPH’s hilarious turn in the Harold and Kumar movies). He plays Chloe’s former boyfriend turned best friend and the results are super funny, though I think you have to be familiar with his work on Dawson’s Creek to get some of the jokes.

The fact that I enjoy Van Der Beek so much on the show is ironic because I HATED him on Dawson’s Creek. Now, to be fair, I didn’t watch the Creek when it was actually on, but was forced to watch it this past summer (believe it or not, that was a guy’s idea). Maybe if I had been younger when I watched it, I would have been charmed by Dawson’s sensitivity and optimism. Instead I found him whiny, annoying and judgmental and lamented the fact that the show wasn’t called Pacey’s Creek (long live Joshua Jackson!) so it would focus a little less on Dawson and Joey (who was actually a fine character, but I cannot watch Katie Holmes in anything without thinking about her weird personal life) and a lot more on Pacey, Jack, Jen and Audrey — and of course Grams.

However, my dislike of VDB softened recently when I saw that he had a sense of humor.  The actor participated in a number of shorts on the website Funny or Die that poked fun of his image and the role that he is most famous for (the Vandermemes short is my personal favorite). Then he turned up in a Ke$ha’s video for the song “Blow,” again playing a rogue. I liked this new and improved Van Der Beek persona, which was light years from that drip Dawson. The “James Van Der Beek” character on Don’t Trust the B is a continuation of this transformation.

I don’t know if Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 will make it. Like I said, it isn’t a perfect show and it may not catch on with audiences, which would not be the tragedy that Arrested Development was. Tonally, I’m not sure that it will match well with its lead-in Modern Family, though that does increase the likelihood that people will at least see the show. There was a definite improvement between the pilot and the other episode I saw (I assume it was episode 2, but networks have been known to air stuff out of order), which is a good sign. Krysten Ritter is fun to watch. Don’t Trust the B won’t revolutionize the sitcom. But it may be a fun midseason show, especially if you have fond memories of Dawson Leery.

Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 debuts tonight (Wednesday April 11) at 9:30 pm EST.

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