Tag Archives: Jess

Girls: 2 Broke and One New [Pt. 2] – Humour

This is the second part of a three-part series on CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and Fox’s New Girl, both shows that premiered in the fall of 2011. In yesterday’s post I went into some detail about the cast of both shows, and this time I’m going to address the element of both that, hopefully, helps them put the “com” in sitcom.

HUMOUR

2 Broke Girls was created by Michael Patrick King, the openly gay writer whose claim to fame is HBO’s Sex and the City [he wrote all of the season premieres and finales, and was responsible for its adaptation to the big screen], and Whitney Cummings, comedian and star of her own NBC sitcom, Whitney.

Cummings has, for the most part, been preoccupied with her show, and because of that it’s King who takes the onus for much of the show’s writing. Now I do want to save a lot of potential content for tomorrow and the final part of this series, so what I’m going to share are a few of his words about where the show is coming from:

I think our show is a big, ballsy comedy, but it has a bigger heart than it has balls.

I feel that it is broad and brash and very current.

I consider our jokes really “classy-dirty.” They’re high low-brow. I think they’re fun and sophisticated and naughty and I think everybody likes a good naughty joke.

“Ballsy” is a pretty accurate statement for a show on a broadcast network that has, by my count, averaged nearly two rape jokes per episode. It also describes well the decision to include in this week’s episode, “And The Kosher Cupcakes,” a 13-year-old Jewish boy implying he’d soon be receiving oral sex from one of the show’s female leads.

Edginess aside, do I think it’s funny? As evidenced by the video proceeding this paragraph Kat Dennings has her tone down when it comes to delivering dry, deadpan lines. Beth Behrs’ Caroline has a knack for visual humour [see last week’s: “And The Broken Hearts”] and even Oleg, the lascivious fry cook, has his moments where you can’t help but grin at his audacity. Whether it’s funny throughout, however, is a different story.


Continuity and pacing aside, a lot of the times lines fall flat. “And The Broken Hearts” featured a joke between Jennifer Coolidge’s Sophie and Jonathan Kite’s Oleg where the two riffed on the variations on the word “come,” a scene so horrid that I’m cringing as I rewatch it. The show may not shy away from dealing with topics like masturbation and drug abuse, but “shock and awe” doesn’t always equal “amuse” or even “entertain.”

New Girl was and is created, produced, and written by Elizabeth Meriwether; her largest claim to fame is the 2011 Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher-driven comedy No Strings Attached.

Now I don’t have the public uproar that surrounds 2 Broke Girls available to create articles about New Girl, so I’m going to have to address its humour with largely my own words. Though the show began with the passable premise that a quirky female teacher moving in with three men was going to create conflict, the show has since moved beyond that in leaps and bounds.

Zooey Deschanel was, without question, the reason many tuned in, but I don’t believe it’s why they return. Jake Johnson’s Nick and Max Greenfield’s Schmidt both own their roles, and are arguably even funnier when clashing with each other. Case in point:


Where King’s show relies on a lot of wordplay and snarky jabs, courtesy of Kat Dennings, Meriwether’s is one that puts the “domestic” and the “comedic” in “dom com.” In addition, the characters all bring their own brand of humour to the table, with Schmidt’s douchiness, Nick’s freakouts [see above], or Jess’, well, Zooey-ness.

It’s not even that the show shies away from sex and the like. An entire episode revolved around Jess seeing Nick’s penis [much to Schmidt’s curiosity], and her willingness to have a threesome is strangely adorable. The difference is that it’s not overly-raunchy or in-your-face; for the show sex is another part of life, and one that’s plainly funny as opposed to darkly so.

I realize that there are significantly more clips from New Girl, but the fact is that I think the show is funnier overall, and you can always look for more stuff from 2 Broke Girls on YouTube if you’d like. As the head writer, King has a pretty decent cast of characters [again, see last post] available to him, and if he wants to give them lots of sarcasm and whatnot that’s entirely up to him. It’s fine to be “ballsy” or “classy-dirty” but the intention should be to have your audience laughing, not shaking their heads and saying “I can’t believe they just said that.”

Girls: 2 Broke and One New [Pt. 1] – Cast

This academic year has been the beginning of many new shows for me, with 2 Broke Girls and New Girl topping the list. I say “topping” of course to mean the most recent televisual acquisitions, as opposed to the highest quality among programs that I watch.

To be honest, this post has been a long time in coming due to the fact that a) I can’t resist the fact that the shows have such similar titles, and b) I’ve been comparing them ever since they both premiered last fall. With that in mind, I will be writing a total of three posts, Tuesday to Thursday, with each concentrating on a particular aspect of the two shows.

So, without further ado:

CAST

2 Broke Girls stars Kat Dennings and Beth Behr as Max and Caroline respectively, the former a jaded city girl and the latter a penniless heiress. The two work at a diner, accompanied by owner Han Lee, fry cook Oleg, and cashier Earl. Recently Sophie, the Polish owner of a house cleaning business, has become a recurring cast member.

In spite of the seemingly large main cast, the focus is primarily on the titular characters [if anyone jokes in the comments about a particular character I suppose I could’ve chosen my wording better]. The show mainly revolves around Max and Caroline, regulating everyone else to the sidelines at best.

New Girl stars, of course, the ever-cheery Zooey Deschanel as the titular [there’s that word again] character Jess. Alongside her are her roommates Nick, Schmidt, and Winston. Joining them is her model friend of indeterminate ethnicity Cece. I’m not counting Lizzy Caplan because, well, she’s going to leave the show eventually [a thought which makes me cry].

From left to right: Cece, Winston, Nick, Jess, and Schmidt.

It would be near impossible for the show to solely follow the Jess’ zany antics, and thankfully, it doesn’t try to. Her three roommates have more than once carried their own B and C plots, with Nick even competing for the central storyline in the episode “Jess & Julia.”

At first glance the two casts may appear shockingly similar: two females, three males, a single black man in both groups. As mentioned earlier, however, the difference begins in who the camera focuses on. 2 Broke Girls is very much a show about two girls in New York trying to make a living, and their exploits specifically. New Girl is about four [sorry, Cece, but you’re not always around] people and their lives, regardless of whether or not they’re with each other. A subplot in the latter could be all about Schmidt and his attempts to sleep with his boss, but there are no opportunities in the former for an episode that switches back and forth between Max and Caroline trying to make money and Earl, sitting behind his desk at the diner.

The reasons for this could vary pretty greatly. 2 Broke Girls has a traditional three-camera setup, and as a result is filmed on sets resembling a diner, apartment, et cetera. This gives New Girl an upper hand in featuring its various characters being in different locales given its single camera format. The real reason, however, is the amount of characterization given to each cast member. We know that Max is street smart and snarky and kind of bitter, Caroline is naive yet strong and persistent. The characters on the edges, though, are a lot more two-dimensional. Early is a father figure of sorts. Oleg is a womanizer. Han is . . . Asian. I would go into what the characters of New Girl are all about, but I don’t have room. It’s not to say that they’re immensely deep, multi-faceted character, but compared to much of the cast of 2 Broke Girls, yes. Basically, yes.

Not to deride the acting talents of Kat Dennings or Beth Behrs. The two have great comedic chemistry and, when given the right lines, are very funny. And that’s not to say that Jonathan Kite as Oleg and Garret Morris as Earl don’t have their moments; there have been episodes where I regard the Ukrainian fry cook with something akin to warmth. The fact is that these are talented actors who have been relegated to supporting roles, taking up ten to fifteen percent of screentime per episode.

These three posts weren’t meant to be a competition, but New Girl definitely wins in terms of cast. This also isn’t meant to go into how funny the characters or writing are [that’s for tomorrow], but simply an observation of how a full cast can be well utilized. Come back tomorrow afternoon for Part 2!