The “B” word is big in TV this season
ABC president Paul Lee knows where his network’s strengths lie. And they’re not with the new — and apparently soon former — cross-dressing comedy, Work It.
“It did better than you thought it would,” he scolded critics, “but not as well as we might have wanted.”
There are higher hopes for the rest of the ABC mid-season line-up, dominated as it is by shows that were once named “Bitch,” to the point where it was starting to look like the “All Bitch Channel.”
Or would, had the titular “Bitches” not since been reduced to less offensive “Bs.”
The briefest of these titles, GCB, was originally called Good Christian Bitches, the title of the Kim Gatlin book on which it is based. Then it briefly became Good Christian Belles. Now it’s just GCB.
The longest “B” title is Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, a terrific new sitcom that’s could be called an edgier, funnier 2 Broke Girls, although it’s actually even better than that.
GCB, Lee enthused, is “a really fun show . . . a love letter to Texas. It’s the return of the prime-time soap to Dallas (which is itself returning) . . . amazing Texan women, big hair and big shoes.”
The use, or non-use, of the “B” word, allowed Lee, was intended to reflect the “irreverent” tone of both shows.
GCB will follow Desperate Housewives, closing out its final season, also on CTV. Apartment 23 will get the coveted post-Modern Family slot starting April 11, both also on Citytv.
Shonda Rhimes’ terrific new sort-of legal drama, Scandal (also on Citytv) will get the benefit of following Rhimes’ own Grey’s Anatomy (contract time there . . . stay tuned), starting April 5.
Scandal, again, is a show built around a strong female character — a brilliant, brittle Washington spin doctor played by Kerry Washington — something ABC has become particularly know for.
Lee begs to differ. “I don’t think that’s true. We do over-deliver (ratings) to upscale women,” he acknowledged. “We also do really well ‘co-viewing’ numbers.
“It’s great to have strong women on the network. But we’ve got some strong men coming up too.”
I’m guessing not the girly-men of Work It.
The creators of Don’t Trust the B—– in Apartment 23 are ambivalent about the after-the-fact title omission, though it is an improvement, they allow, over the interim abbreviation, just plain Apartment 23.
“I was much more concerned about losing the ‘Don’t Trust’ part,” insists creator Nahnatchka Khan. “To me, that implies something dangerous.”
The something dangerous here is a Holly Golightly-gone-bad played by Krysten Ritter, who is clearly having a ball with it. “She’s bold and bad-ass,” she says, invoking two more “Bs” that do not appear in the title. “She’s entirely unapologetic. I love her.”
Also a stand-out of the Apartment 23 cast, is former Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek, playing a somewhat (he says “very”) exaggerated version of himself. “He’s kind, but entirely narcissistic,” he allows.
“You mean he’s an actor,” cracks Khan.
“I had to audition for the role with six other James Van Der Beeks,” laughs the one-time TV teen idol. “Fortunately, four were not actors and two did not speak English.”
GCB had an even more legitimate claim to their originally Bitch-y title. Not only was it named after the novel, but it is, adds writer/producer Bobby Harling, “the phrase that these women of Texas use to refer to themselves.
“Besides, I think that most people would agree that the biggest bitch (on the show) is me.”
Good Christian Belles, a network-suggested compromise, did not work at all with this outrageous cast of scripture-quoting, back-stabbing Texas trophy wives. “Belles is more Mississippi or Georgia,” says Harling.
Tiny powerhouse Kristen Chenoweth, though a native Oklahoman, here plays the b-est of the Bs, a group that was dissed all through high school by Leslie Bibb’s perfect blond headed-cheerleader character, who is forced to move back home when the outrageous circumstances of her husband’s death reveal him to have been an embezzling philanderer.
Her colourfully overbearing mother is played with unmistakable flair by Annie Potts, incorporating elements of her own mother, she says, and of one of her southern sisters from the classic Georgia-set sitcom, Designing Women.
“Once I was on my feet with her,” she sighs, “I felt there was a lot of my beloved Dixie Carter.”
Another of the ABC mid-season’s strong TV women is much further out of her natural environment – The River has Canadian Leslie Hope leading an expedition deep into the perilous and mystery-shrouded Amazon in search of her missing husband, played by fellow Canadian Bruce Greenwood.
(In fact, this is not far afield for Hope at all, in her other, non-acting life as a globe-trotting documentarian. She has also gone viral with GayKeith, a rather twisted comedy short she wrote and directed — check it out if you dare at www.gaykeith.com).
In The River (also airing on CTV), Hope leads a large cast of characters on a journey plagued by constant threats, both natural and un. “No character is going to be safe,” warns exec producer Michael Green, much to his actors’ evident chagrin. “Our Amazon is a very dangerous place.”
Again, nothing new here for Hope. “I was in a show where I was killed off quite unexpectedly,” she says, referring of course to her last-minute murder at the end of the first season of 24. “At least, in my mind, it was quite unexpected.
“I mean, I was the guy’s wife. I was pregnant . . . and I got stabbed in the gut.
“Michael has promised me at least 40 episodes this time before I get killed and stabbed in the gut.”
Sometimes, when you see the end coming, it’s actually a good thing. As ABC embraces its next generation of strong TV women, it bids farewell to some beloved veterans — the Desperate Housewives of Wisteria Lane.
After eight seasons, is there anything their characters haven’t done and still would like to try?
“It’s not too late,” offered series creator Marc Cherry with a Cheshire grin. “We’re still writing.”
“Well, I never thought I’d be running around in a bikini, and that happened,” laughed Felicity Huffman. “Maybe I could ride a horse and shoot a gun?”
“As you can see,” said Cherry, “this is sometimes not the best creative method.”
Cherry knows exactly how the series will end, as he claims to have since the beginning. He of course won’t reveal the details, nor would we want him to, beyond the obvious assertion that “this is the season to pull all the stops out.”
And that apparently will include the cameo appearance that Cherry has been promising for years.
“I will pull a Hitchcock,” Cherry conceded.
“In a bikini!,” Huffman gamely suggested. “On a horse with a gun!”