Taken Too Soon: Don’t Trust The B In Apartment 23

Some tv shows were cancelled whilst still in their prime, or after only one or two seasons, and here we lament their passing.

1) Don’t Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23

For a network comedy, this is a weird one, as it’s a mix of two very different type of sitcoms. On the one hand we’ve got June, a country girl new to the big bad city who moves in with borderline sociopath Chloe (Krysten Ritter). Predictably both clash like the original odd couple, but with added lunacy, as Chloe’s dodgy scams get them in to crazy situations. Then there’s James Van Der Beek, a friend of Chloe’s, who often hangs out with them, or goes of and has adventures of his own (such as starring on a Dancing Reality Tv Show) which at times feels like a completely different show. But it all melds together to work, and has a refreshingly odd take on life with very few didactic endings. Which is probably why it was cancelled after only 26 episodes.

There’s something perversely delightful about Ritter’s character, and without her the show would be of a lot less interest. Referring to her as a borderline sociopath above may have been slightly harsh, but the majority of the time she acts without a care in the world, and fails to feel guilty for all of the rather dodgy things that she does. It’s a brave move for a network comedy, especially one on a channel like ABC which normally plays it safe and then some, especially as there are rarely any serious repercussions. But it’s what makes the series seem so fresh, and the lack of patronisingly pat endings makes it all the better.

Yet if it featured the main two female leads alone it might not have been noteworthy, as a big part of the joy of the series is James Van Der Beek clearly relishing the opportunity of playing a heightened version of himself.  Self-obsessed, absent-minded but mostly good at heart, a lot of the storylines he gets revolve having his ego kept in tact, but his dialogue often sparkles the most, and as mentioned, the performance is one you can’t help but enjoy.

It’s a show that also seems to enjoy playing with conventions (we hear the thoughts of an extra in one film noir-ish scene), and has carefully developed supporting characters like June’s priest and the friendly if slightly dodgy next door neighbour. I’ve always thought that the best sitcoms are the ones which flesh out the supporting and guest characters, and allow them to be funny instead of it being all about the main cast, and that certainly applies here.

Concerning it’s failure to be successful, even though Van Der Beek interacts with June from time to time, this is a show which has two distinct strands, and I can’t help but wonder if the idea of two sitcoms merged in to one might have harmed it’s chances. Malcolm In The Middle did a vaguely similar thing with Francis either off at the Army Base or the Farm, whilst the rest of the family went on to have other adventures, but it fitted with the feel of the series, whilst some of Van Der Beek’s plot lines don’t always do so. Not that I mind at all, it keeps things interesting, but could plausibly have affected it’s chances of staying on the air.

Before this piece becomes too glowing it should be pointed out that a couple of episodes fall a little flat, Chloe’s character is definitely softened as season 2 continues, which I’m not sure was for the best. Former room mate Robin’s obsession with Chloe is also at times a little annoying, and it wastes the talents of the amazing Eric Andre – whose Adult Swim series, The Eric Andre Show, is must see tv – as he gets little to do. So whilst being no classic, it is a fun little show and one which deserved a longer life.

Alex Finch.

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