When the economy was flush, Michael Patrick King produced a little show called Sex And The City, where women lived in a New York full of champagne brunches, lavish parties and Manolo Blahniks. Last night, CBS aired King's latest show, 2 Broke Girls, where New York gals wait tables, carry tasers and work two jobs. Times, they are a changing.
Of course, there were always non-rich (and non-white!) people in New York, they just weren't considered worth thinking about back in SATC's heyday. On 2 Broke Girls, the kind of women who took center stage on SATC — the rich and the privileged — are mocked.
Kat Dennings plays Max, a bitchy, sarcastic, gum-chewing waitress who hates hipsters and likes to bake cupcakes. Beth Behrs plays Caroline, the daughter of a Bernie Madoff-type tycoon; she was born rich and went to Wharton but her family's assets have been seized and she's, you guessed it, broke. Caroline ends up waiting tables at the same Brooklyn diner where Max works, and worlds collide, etc. Plus, Max's day job is babysitting for a superrich young mom who's too polished and manicured to lift a finger and pick up her infant twins, Brad and Angelina — cue more upper-class mockery.
The end of the pilot episode sees Max and Caroline moving in together and starting a business plan: If they mark up Max's cupcakes, they can save enough cash to rent a storefront and start a bakery business. Since it seems like so many women on sitcoms are wives, girlfriends or moms, it's refreshing to see ladies with relatable issues: career dreams and money issues. (Also, at one point, Max and Caroline are discussing a man's anatomy, specifically the curves that lead from the lower abs to the pubes, and Max says, "I don't know what those are called, but they make smart girls stupid.")
The show tries very hard to show how hip it is, dropping semen, Schwarzenegger, and Arcade Fire jokes, and showing graffiti-scrawled subways (we haven't had spray paint in our trains for a decade or so, by the by). Unfortunately, they didn't get the memo about the "cool" way to do a sitcom now: Kill the laugh track. 2 Broke Girls is taped in front of a studio audience, but the canned laughter feels forced and robs the funny moments of humor. Since many hit shows — 30 Rock, Parks And Recreation, The Office — have figured out the standards of television comedy have changed, especially when it comes to laugh tracks, 2 Broke Girls feels weirdly retro, even as it tries to be so very "now."
But the question remains: Do audiences want to see smart-ass ladies talking dirty on TV, or would they rather watch idiot teen moms, housewives, and pageant kids? Keep an eye on the ratings if you're looking for an answer.