Being bad in the big city pays off

Last updated 15:14 01/11/2012

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REVIEW: Don't Trust The B.... In Apartment 23 Tuesdays, 8.30pm, Four

When I saw huge billboards all over Los Angeles promoting the launch of this show in April, I figured it was a sign of desperation in Studio City. If the programmers at ABC, traditionally America's most staid network, were busting out the B-word in the title, could the four horsemen of the apocalypse be far behind?

The attention-grabbing word is not just a stunt, though: Chloe (Krysten Ritter) really is a b...., albeit one with eyes as wide as "manic pixie girl" Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) and a fringe to rival Holly Golightly's in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

She's a brittle, wisecracking New Yorker who has been running a scam where she takes rent and a deposit from new-to-the-big-city flatmates and then proceeds to behave so deplorably that they flee, leaving the money behind.

Enter June Colburn (Dreama Walker), a corn-fed Midwestern blonde, whose dreams of a new life in the big city are dashed when on her first day at a new job on Wall Street, the company is raided by the Feds and shut down for running a giant scam.

Her company apartment gone, June is out on the street surrounded by her possessions, and ripe for Chloe's plucking. It is a cautionary tale for our times, and gets worse: Chloe steals from her, screws her fiance on her birthday cake, and later sets her up with a guy without mentioning that he's her married dad. B.... doesn't even begin to cover it.

But Chloe has a cheerful immorality that is the show's calling card. She has worked out that working hard and doing the decent thing is a sucker's game when everyone else is playing the angles.

Why try to climb the corporate ladder, as June hopes to, when it turns out that the fat cats at the top are cheating scumbags?

New York's entry-level life of unpaid internships and waitressing gigs looks unappealing next to Chloe's world of crashing launch parties for vodka brands with her celebrity pal, Dawson's Creek alumnus James Van Der Beek.

The Beek from the Creek is having huge fun with his mocking self-portrait, and his presence means the show gets to target its considerable satirical firepower at the world of actors and celebrity as well as Wall Street morals. This week's episode was worth its space on the hard drive for a priceless pastiche of a Guy Ritchie movie that Van Der Beek supposedly starred in.

This week (episode four of season one: the series has just begun its second season in the United States) the tables were turned, as June responded all too well to Chloe's coaching in "how to be a bad-ass".

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Soon, June was palling around with Van Der Beek, leaving Chloe behind, and tormenting her former fiance at a friend's wedding.

She even - shock, horror - ignored a phone call from her mother. "And you know what? If she gets upset at me and doesn't send me cookies this week, so be it."

Those lines capture the mash-up of wholesomeness and bad behaviour that the show's creator, Nahnatchka Khan, a former writer and producer on the Seth MacFarlane comedy American Dad, is aiming for.

Perhaps a shiny form of hyper-reality is the best format for capturing these post-meltdown times. You've got to laugh at it, even if it is often a bitter laugh, because that beats the alternative.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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