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:
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].
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!