The Bottom Line
- Stars Kat Dennings, Beth Behrs, Jonathan Kite, Garrett Morris, Matthew Moy
- Created by Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings
- Premiere airs September 19, 2011, at 9:30 p.m. EST; subsequent episodes air Mondays at 8:30
The set-up of 2 Broke Girls is pretty sitcom-standard: You’ve got a pair of polar-opposite characters who are thrust together by circumstances and find themselves teaming up despite their differences. The odd couple here is the girls of the title, one a cynical, underachieving Brooklyn waitress, the other a stuck-up disgraced heiress who’s never worked a day in her life. The acerbic Max Black (Kat Dennings) lives in a grungy Brooklyn apartment and works as a babysitter for a clueless Manhattan socialite in addition to her duties at a run-down local diner. The diner is where she meets perky Caroline Channing (Beth Behrs), who no longer has access to her trust fund now that her financial-adviser father has been indicted for defrauding his clients.
Caroline has to take a job for the first time in her life, while Max has been working hard for years. They trade pointed barbs upon first meeting, but it’s not hard to tell where the relationship is headed: By the end of the pilot, the two of them have become roommates, business partners (in a potential cupcake bakery) and tentative friends. It’s all very predictable, but Dennings and Behrs play their parts perfectly, and they have a wonderful comic chemistry that makes both their antagonism and their rapport seem genuine. They’re also each funny on their own, and while Max is clearly the more level-headed of the two, Caroline isn’t written as just some empty-headed bimbo to be a target for punchlines. She’s smarter and wiser than Max in key ways (she immediately sees right through Max’s lazy, cheating boyfriend, for example), so that the characters can be complementary equals.
The rest of the cast isn’t nearly as well-developed at this point, though. Each of the three supporting characters in the restaurant gets just a handful of lines and a single personality trait in the opener: Diner owner Han Lee (Matthew Moy) is an overly earnest immigrant who is eager to embrace the American dream; cook Oleg (Jonathan Kite) is a lecherous Eastern European; and cashier Earl (Saturday Night Live veteran Garrett Morris) is a smooth operator. Each one shows up briefly either to move the plot along or to make a humorous remark before quickly departing, and the show will need to add a lot of depth to these people before it feels like a truly well-rounded ensemble.
Dennings and Behrs make up for the thin characterization elsewhere, though, and they’re really the ones who need to grab the audience’s attention. The show isn’t afraid to embrace traditional sitcom mushiness, but it also refuses to dilute Max’s nasty streak, and there are a number of jokes that are extremely raunchy for a CBS comedy. That mix of edge and heart can be a little awkward at times, but once again Dennings and Behrs are the glue that holds things together. The most important thing is that Girls is funny, whether the jokes are dirty or heartfelt, and that carries a comedy a long way. The lead characters carry it far, too, and if the balance of humor can work itself out and the supporting cast can get fleshed out a bit, 2 Broke Girls could be not only one of the funniest new shows of 2011, but also one of the best.