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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Don’t miss the ‘B—- in Apartment 23’

Published: April 5, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

It is very difficult for sitcoms to grab an audience from the first episode. Often a new comedy show needs a few episodes to create the inside jokes that an audience craves. This was not the case for ABC’s new sitcom “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.”
“Apartment 23” grabbed me during its pilot in which trusting, small-town June (Dreama Walker) moves to New York for a Wall Street job only to find that her dream job is gone, her dream apartment is gone and her dreamed future is gone. Struggling to find a place to live, she moves in with Chloe (Krysten Ritter) thinking that she has found the coolest and sweetest person in the city. As she leaves to get her things, however, her new neighbor (Liza Lapira) conspiratorially calls her over and warns her: “Don’t trust the bitch in apartment 23.”
The character of June is kind of dull. So many shows have given us the small-town girl swept up in the big, bad city and it is cliche to the point of tedious. This is not to say that Walker does not do a good job; she manages to open her already obscenely large eyes even wider and give this trapped and scared look. That look and her Midwest charm are not enough to carry “Apartment 23” though; this is where Ritter’s character, Chloe, comes in and saves the show.
Chloe certainly lives up to her titular name. She originally only takes June in as her roommate so that she can be the worst roommate ever and steal all of June’s money. June realizes fairly quickly that Chloe is terrible. Snapping out of the naive mold she seemed set to spend the rest of the show in, she fights fire with fire.
Krysten Ritter plays Chloe perfectly; she is a bitch and she not only knows it but owns it. She lies, she steals and she is entirely uncaring. At the end of the pilot, she showed some humanity—in accordance with June’s claim that Chloe has very tenuous ties to it. She did not, however, transform into a wonderful, caring person—thankfully. In the second episode she is back to her usual ways, complaining that her wheelchair-bound mother never took her ice skating. It is also nice to see Ritter in a starring role after seeing her nail some minor roles in “Gilmore Girls” and “Veronica Mars.”
As strong as Ritter is in “Apartment 23,” this show would not hold up without the weird and nuanced supporting cast. Liza Lapira (Ivy on Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse”) plays the crazy neighbor, Robin, a former roommate of Chloe’s, who is absolutely obsessed with the bitch. We see her tailoring her outfits to look like Chloe and talking to a mannequin with a picture of Chloe attached to it. While this seems formulaic, Lapira infuses the character with such vitality that it is a pleasure to watch. There is also the crazy neighbor Eli (Michael Blaiklock), who only communicates with the girls through a window while masturbating. Despite his unabashed creepiness, however, Eli is a genuinely nice guy.
The best part of the show, however, is James Van Der Beek. Comfortingly, he is not playing a character anything like Dawson—he’s playing himself. I love when actors play themselves on television and just make themselves look like crazy jerks. I loved Carl Weathers on “Arrested Development” with his odd obsession with stew—“Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home; throw it in a pot; add some broth, a potato. Baby, you’ve got a stew going”—and I adored George Takei on “Psych,” complaining that the main characters got him the wrong blueberries—“The blueberries are still wrong. I requested North Carolina blueberries but they sent me Michigan blueberries. People say I’m crazy but I can taste the difference.”
James Van Der Beek plays Chloe’s best friend James Van Der Beek. Possibly the best James Van Der Beek moment—and yes, it is necessary to use his entire name on every reference—was at the end of the pilot episode when we see a commercial filmed in Japan. It was just so ridiculous and over-the-top with that hint of self-loathing that most over-the-hill actors have for themselves.
I found this show refreshing because, while Chloe and James Van Der Beek can be good people and show that capacity in both the pilot and the second episode, they choose not to be. James Van Der Beek and Chloe choose to be self-involved. Often shows will set up a character as a bitch but then show their softer side and basically destroy the character. Sometimes characters need to remain somewhat evil; hopefully Chloe and James Van Der Beek will remain this way.
So, if you are like me and could not stand Fox’s “New Girl” because of its saccharine-sweet temperament, “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” is perfect for you. “Apartment 23” is unashamedly cruel; the oddities of the characters are not written off as quirky and cutesy acts but as deep character flaws. This does not make the characters any less lovable though; it just makes them less trustworthy.
Don’t miss the premiere of “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” on Wednesday, April 11, at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.