The TV Series
CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls has several elements not in its favor - it's old fashioned, vulgar, full of stereotypical characters and stars the single most annoying thing about that CGI-choked turd of a superhero flick, Thor. And yet, and yet - it works!
Whether it's the zeitgeist-tapping theme of finding humor in just getting by, the (usually) excellent scripts or the fantastic chemistry between the lead actresses, 2 Broke Girls counts as one of those rare shows that started out strong (the pilot was supposedly the strongest-tested pilot of any series in television history) and stayed consistently funny and fresh throughout its debut season. The arrival on DVD and Blu-Ray of The Complete First Season allows one the opportunity to see whether the show is all hype and no substance, or a real keeper.
Sitcom-wise, the 2 Broke Girls formula follows the tried-and-true multi-camera, filmed in front of a live studio audience format. Although the humor is more edgy than what can be found in stuff like Two and a Half Men (never funny and never will be) and The Big Bang Theory (once hilarious, now somewhat soft around the middle), there's something comforting about a show whose basic concept would have worked just as well in 1962 as in 2012. The show might be unattractive for those who enjoy the contrived, suffocatingly smug humor found in most staged single-camera sitcoms; my personal preference is with this format and I find the show a complete blast.
For a reason I cannot understand, Girls has taken a lot of heat because of its easy-to-peg characters and frequent use of non-P.C. language (count the number of times "vagina" is spoken in each episode) but throwing about all the other words with a hearty disdain. The thing others criticize in this show is the very thing I like about it: it offends everyone at one time or another. It makes fun of blacks, Asians, gays, hipsters, the homeless, even companion animals. The characters all dish the jabs, but take them, too.
The titular characters in 2 Broke Girls are played by Kat Dennings and newcomer Beth Behrs (a genuine find), who portray waitresses in a down-and-dumpy diner in Williamsburg, a suburb of New York. Their boss is an obsequious, pint-sized Korean immigrant (Matthew Moy), the cook an over-sexed sleazeball (Jonathan Kite), the cashier a wise and hep older black dude (Garrett Morris). Although the "Alice for the Twitter Generation" setup provides the bulk of the show's humor, there are a few sub-plots early on involving the Dennings character baby sitting for a ditsy socialite (the dryly hilarious Brooke Lyons) and carrying on a hot-and-cold relationship with a hunky street artist (Nick Zano). Halfway through the season, another regular is introduced in the form of a bawdy Polish-American cleaning business proprietress who shares a place in the girls' apartment building, done with a detached hilarity by Jennifer Coolidge.
Dennings' character, Max, is the smart-mouthed, tough-living young woman who takes under her wing the down-and-out ex-heiress Caroline (Behrs) who lost everything when her father was caught swindling billions of dollars from investors. They become roommates, then co-workers and then partners in a struggling cupcake business. It might all sound familiar, but the writers and directors pump so much heart and soul into the characters and situations they make me actually care whether Martha Stewart loves their cupcakes (which, in the hysterical first-season finale, she did). It is to the writers' credit that they have Max and Caroline become more than shallow stereotypes, while Dennings and Behrs make the women they play believable as best friends, despite their differing backgrounds.
My spouse and I were so taken with this show that we made the drive from Phoenix to Burbank to attend a taping (for what became the 20th episode, And the Drug Money). We had previously attended tapings of two other shows, so we knew what to expect. What we did not expect was the tremendous amount of work put into episodes of the first season to make them funny. With The Big Bang Theory (another of the shows we saw being taped), they did a scene and moved on, with the occasional second take to change a line. On the Girls set, nearly every scene was taken again and again, changing lines of dialogue or delivery to wring out the last possible laugh. It was a fascinating experience seeing how differently a scene played with a slight inflection here or a different word there. All that hard work comes out in the episodes on these DVDs (some of the scenes cut from the final episode versions are included as welcomed extras).
Creating a hit show is tough enough without being saddled with all the expectations that come with high ratings. Here's hoping the tremendously talented staff stay with their "A" game for the second season.
The DVD edition of 2 Broke Girls: The Complete First Season consists of the following episodes, spread over three discs:
1-01 ____ 19/Sep/11 ____ Pilot
1-02 ____ 26/Sep/11 ____ And the Break-up Scene
1-03 ____ 03/Oct/11 ____ And Strokes of Goodwill
1-04 ____ 10/Oct/11 ____ And the Rich People Problems
1-05 ____ 17/Oct/11 ____ And the '90s Horse Party
1-06 ____ 24/Oct/11 ____ And the Disappearing Bed
1-07 ____ 31/Oct/11 ____ And the Petty Problem
1-08 ____ 07/Nov/11 ____ And Hoarder Culture
1-09 ____ 14/Nov/11 ____ And the Really Petty Cash
1-10 ____ 21/Nov/11 ____ And the Very Christmas Thanksgiving
1-11 ____ 05/Dec/11 ____ And the Reality Check
1-12 ____ 12/Dec/11 ____ And the Pop-Up Sale
1-13 ____ 02/Jan/12 ____ And the Secret Ingredient
1-14 ____ 16/Jan/12 ____ And the Upstairs Neighbor
1-15 ____ 06/Feb/12 ____ And the Blind Spot
1-16 ____ 20/Feb/12 ____ And the Broken Hearts
1-17 ____ 20/Feb/12 ____ And the Kosher Cupcakes
1-18 ____ 27/Feb/12 ____ And the One-Night Stands
1-19 ____ 19/Mar/12 ____ And the Spring Break
1-20 ____ 09/Apr/12 ____ And the Drug Money
1-21 ____ 16/Apr/12 ____ And the Messy Purse Smackdown
1-22 ____ 30/Apr/12 ____ And the Big Buttercream Breakthrough
1-23 ____ 07/May/12 ____ And Martha Stewart Have a Ball, Part One
1-24 ____ 07/May/12 ____ And Martha Stewart Have a Ball, Part Two
Warner Home Video's DVD edition of 2 Broke Girls: The Complete First Season comes in a standard-sized Amaray case with a cardboard slipcover and fold-out booklet containing episode listings and cast photos (Caroline's horse, Chestnut, is even included). It's a nice package overall, although the three discs' shockingly generic looking submenus (below) seem to indicate that Warners is taking cost-cutting measures here and there.
The digitally shot, 16x9 picture on 2 Broke Girls runs similar to what you'd find in most current network shows, with unnaturally bright lighting accenting a color-saturated image. The picture is a little bit soft-edged, but beautifully mastered and balanced on disc.
Sweeter than one of Max's cupcakes, the stereo soundtrack on all these episodes does its job with a pristine, not very showy mix. The audio is also available in a Portuguese dub, with optional subtitles in English for the hearing impaired, Chinese, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
The set includes just two bonus featurettes, both on the third disc: 2 Broke Girls Going 4 Broke (14:01) interestingly delves into the show's genesis and production with creators Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings, several writers and the principal actors. There are also six minutes worth of Alternate Jokes and deleted scenes that are pretty funny. An additional blooper reel would have been nice, but perhaps they're being saved up for a future season set (or perhaps Chestnut ate 'em?).
The first season of 2 Broke Girls is a snarky delight that crackles with hilarious situations and proudly non-p.c. characters. Fun as it is on a purely jokey level, though, much of the show's winning formula comes thanks to Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs' amazing chemistry and the real, relatable characters they play. Although the DVD edition is a straightforward TV-on-disc affair, the show's fans will definitely enjoy this set. Highly Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and dilettante-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's seen are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.