Dreama Walker and Krysten Ritter star in "Don't Trust the B--… (Adam Larkey, ABC )
Despite its rather tiresome and typographically unwieldy title,ABC's "Don't Trust the B— in Apartment 23" is among the least raunchy of this year's super-sized batch of female-centric comedies. It is also one of the funniest, which should make a point about the tantalizing though too often abusive relationship between shock and humor, and also the comedic value of the word "vagina," which will never be as high as the various slang terms for the word "penis." (It may just be a syllable thing.)
Not that "Apartment 23" is by any means G-rated; created by Nahnatchka Khan, it follows the adventures of two single and wildly different young women sharing an apartment in New York. So, this being television and all, plots are devoted to sex way more than they are to, say, political activism or even the establishment of careers. Conveniently, neither of these young women have careers because, presumably, that might interfere with odd-couple bonding and their sex lives.
In fact, the very idea of a career is treated with something like disdain. After a brief, voice-over-enhanced sex scene setting up the show's twist, we meet June (Dreama Walker), a Midwestern MBA with Big Dreams and a life plan that includes a high-powered job on Wall Street. Which is quickly derailed by the financial crisis, dumping her on the sidewalk, as aimless and friendless as any young wannabe actress who ever took a bus in from the sticks. Searching for a roommate, she falls under the spell of Chloe (Krysten Ritter), a hard-as-nails party girl-con woman who sees June as the latest of a string of callow girls whom Chloe will strip of first, last and security deposit and send back home.
Ah, but June has more spine than one would expect, and Chloe more heart, and soon they are just two gals with super-big eyes engaged in the push-me/pull-you dynamics that have fueled so many successful roommate comedies. Ritter's Chloe is the big draw here, unapologetic in her dismissal of those who can't put up or shut up. She is a modern-day, eye-rolling, punch-line-nailing Holly Golightly, down to the bangs and the admiring male friend. That he is James Van Der Beek, played by the real James Van Der Beek, who adds an unexpectedly delicious crunch to the classic good girl/bad girl swirl.
Following in the footsteps of Matt LeBlanc in Showtime's "Episodes," Van Der Beek plays a semi-reprehensible version of himself, fully prepared to don flannel and hum his former theme song if the girl is hot enough, while still attempting to escape his "Dawson's Creek" fame. Even for those inexplicably unaware of the spell cast over millions of young women by the Beek, he is a fabulous addition to the cast, providing odd moments of insight along with a nicely layered running joke.
The rest of the supporting cast is just as fine. Liza Lapira (who will, at some point, need to get her own show) plays Robin, the former roommate turned neighbor who still stalks Chloe; Eric Andre is Mark, June's new barista boss and fellow victim of the crash; and Michael Blaiklock is Eli, the voyeuristic neighbor who shows up for an early and unfortunate masturbation joke and, fortunately, stays to become a rather clever Greek chorus. The show mines the long-standing tension between those who believe in fate and those who believe in control while holding all strains of outrageous behavior up for both mockery and scrutiny. Let the madcap urban scrapes begin!