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Why Is TVWW Writing About '2 Broke Girls'? David Hinckley Explains…
November 12, 2015  | By David Hinckley  | 4 comments

CBS’s 2 Broke Girls returns for its fifth season Thursday night at 9:30 [EST], raising again the eternal question of why so many people still watch a sitcom that basically runs on a single gag.

Since I’m one of those people, I mean that in a good way.

You can turn on any episode of 2 Broke Girls, past or present, and within three minutes Max (Kat Dennings) will crack a slightly world-weary joke involving sex, drugs or both. You can set your watch by it. It’s the television equivalent of Greenwich Mean Time.

So why do we keep tuning in?

Or, to make it all about me for another moment or two, why do I tune in, since I’m one of those cranky TV writers who got tired several years ago of sitcoms built entirely on sex jokes. Those shows have been epidemic of late, and almost every one has felt lazy, as if the writers think a random body part reference provides an adequate substitute for an actual joke, or an actual character.

Broadcast networks have seemed to feel that’s the way to attract the next generation of TV viewers, that this is what today’s teens, 20s and 30s want.

Maybe that’s as true as it is depressing. I’d argue something slightly different – that this trend is part of the reason why, with a few welcome exceptions, network sitcoms these days are about as healthy as the Greek economy.

So I’ve given some thought to the question of why, for me at least, 2 Broke Girls has escaped that abyss. And my conclusion, I’m afraid, is no more profound than the show.

Underneath the veneer of sex-and-drugs jokes, it just does the thing good sitcoms have always done, back to I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners. It gives us characters we can like.

The show’s core relationship is between Max, a smart blue-collar woman with self-image issues, and Caroline (Beth Behrs), a smart silver-spoon woman who lost everything except her horse when her father was busted for a Bernie Madoff-style scam. Max and Caroline are now fellow waitresses at a diner, wearing awful mustard-colored uniforms that will one day be featured in books or photo galleries on iconic TV sitcom images.

Beyond that, the show has three other core characters: Han (Matthew Moy), the manager of the diner; Oleg (Jonathan Kite), the cook at the diner; and Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge), Max’s and Caroline’s upstairs neighbor and Oleg’s girlfriend.

As shows like Seinfeld proved, a manageable core cast is good, because it lets us get to know them all. They can all spend some time as cartoons, because they get some time not to be cartoons, too.

In the end, though, the show works because Max and Caroline have become a great female buddy team.

They face constant obstacles, like money. They have moments when they drive each other nuts. But they never quit. Caroline is convinced Max’s skill at baking cupcakes will one day catapult them to fame and fortune, a dream we all get. It’s also just absurd enough to be funny.

The show has also had the good sense to let their relationship develop slowly. We believe they’re besties now because we know they didn’t start out that way. It took time for each of them to unlock something in the other one that needed unlocking.

Okay, for Caroline that sometimes means she too has learned to overshare her sex thoughts, but that brings up another critical point: A lot of the sex talk on 2 Broke Girls isn’t about sex at all.

It’s just the language in which they communicate, the way the characters on Deadwood communicated with profanity or the characters on The Big Bang Theory speak geek. Unlike tedious sex sitcoms, 2 Broke Girls is written to the characters, not written to the joke.

Well, most of the time anyway.

Not that I can always explain that to my wife when she walks through the room, murmurs something about having seen this one before, and leaves.

I’ve seen it, too. But unlike most other sitcoms, 2 Broke Girls doesn’t make me feel like a sentry, walking back and forth over the same patch of turf.

Without suggesting 2 Broke Girls is a modern-day Twelfth Night, without overthinking it way too much, and without ignoring the fact that some episodes work better than others, I guess I just root for Max and Caroline.

It’s fun to watch their relationship grow, fun to start hearing the things they can’t say.

It’s fun to watch the opposite ends of the American class spectrum meet and realize they aren’t altogether different.

Or maybe it’s just fun to see the American Dream framed as a cupcake.

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I've never seen this show, but while reading your review I kept thinking of Laverne and Shirley...
Nov 14, 2015   |  Reply
How dare you not mention Garrett Morris as Earl. That is one fly character. <3 :-D
Nov 13, 2015   |  Reply
It works because as you say it is written to the characters not the jokes. And that they've have and established good chemistry that they and the show knows is pre-eminent to follow and maintain. But you omitted that the 2, especially Ms Demmings, are very good comedians where many of these dull sitcoms have too much weak writing, weak cohesion, and incompetent comedian/actors. It does not hurt that the three female leads are each sexy and each different, and they use it smartly without abusing themselves or us. But it gives it all a subtle edge. Good to see Mr Morris too.
Nov 13, 2015   |  Reply
David Hinckley
Excellent point about the comic ability of the cast, particularly the leads. Kat Dennings is great at comedy with a wink.
Nov 13, 2015
Have not watched in 2-3 years. Did Garret Morris's character (the diner's cashier) get written off?
Nov 12, 2015   |  Reply
David Hinckley
No, he didn't. He just seems to get a lot less airtime than the others. Still, this show has been berry, berry good to him.
Nov 13, 2015
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