A staple of many TV shows is the "series bible," a book or document of some sort containing everything an incoming writer needs to know about the characters or history of the project in order to jump right in. When I envision the "series bible" for "2 Broke Girls," I picture a lonely Google Docs file, last updated in 2010, with a few measly bullet-points: "jokes about Kat Dennings' boobs," "sassy comebacks," "double-entendres," "single-entendres." I realize I shouldn't be surprised: this monument to TV comedy mediocrity was co-created by Michael Patrick King ("Sex and the City") and Whitney Cummings ("Whitney"), and airs on CBS, the same channel that gave us both "Two and a Half Men" and "The Big Bang Theory."
Dennings plays Max Black, a sassy waitress at a Brooklyn diner. Her life unexpectedly changes when she's teamed up with Caroline Channing (Beth Behrs), a former wealthy socialite who ended up on the street when her father was imprisoned for swindling almost every investor in the city out of billions of dollars. Despite having lived the better-than-good life since she was born, Caroline is ready and rearing to pull herself up by her own bootstraps. She starts the day as Max's new co-worker, leverages that into becoming her roommate, and eventually convinces Max to make her a partner in a dream business selling Max's homemade cupcakes.
Theoretically, a TV show is meant to be seen on television, once a week. Watching all 24 episodes in a row will make even the cleverest comedy seem monotonous, but "2 Broke Girls" picks a joke structure and sticks with it: describe something, then describe it again using a pop culture reference (preferably as a diss). It is painfully ironic that "2 Broke Girls" positions itself as the most anti-hipster enterprise on television, because almost every single joke in the entire show is about how much cooler the characters are than whatever it is they're looking down on. It's not smug, per se, just hypocritical, and probably embarrassing, too, because most of these are just modern riffs on ancient standbys. Many of these jokes attempt to spike the punch by making the punchlines slightly racist (represented by the character of Asian diner owner Han Lee, played by Matthew Moy, or the diner's greeter Earl, played by Garrett Morris) or wildly sexual (represented by the cook character Oleg, played by Jonathan Kite, and later by Jennifer Coolidge as the girls' upstairs neighbor Sophie Kochinsky), but all that adds is a hint of desperation.
The series is weighed down further by completely uninteresting sitcom plotting. Max and Caroline go to a thrift store, which makes Caroline sad, because she was rich. Max and Caroline have to deliver buttercream cupcakes across town before the buttercream collapses. The girls have to file their taxes. Longer-running arcs include a will-he-or-won't-he romance between Max and "street artist" Johnny (Nick Zano, who does not look like a street artist), and what to do with Caroline's horse Chestnut, who occupies the girls' tiny backyard for several episodes. Most of these conflcits are literally resolved in the last minute of the show, which highlights how cursory they are: we don't need to see anyone changing, just that everything is back to status quo. The season finale revolves around Max and Caroline's attempt to get Martha Stewart to taste their cupcake at a social gathering, but the show never sets up any payoff. She may be Martha Stewart, but that doesn't actually tell you what the stakes are if she tastes the cupcake or not. The one (surprising) relief the writers allow the viewer is that Caroline is almost never stuck-up about her past, or unprepared for being poor. It makes her more neurotic than obnoxious, which is a nice twist even if they do just give all of Caroline's theoretical rich-girl jokes to Peach (Brooke Lyons), a nice but brainless socialite who Max babysits for.
There is one saving grace to the show, the one that caught my interest in the first place, which is of course Kat Dennings. Although the show does her no favors by giving her at least one rape joke per episode and making every other joke about her rack, she still uses her comedic chops to turn a couple of lines per episode into something actually worth laughing at. Although the writers are busy thinking up all of those wordy, in-joke retorts, Dennings is best with simple but absurd one-liners that crackle with a spontaneousness that so much of "2 Broke Girls" bends over backward to crush with its multi-cam setup and roaring studio audience. She's so good she makes Morris' character better; the friendship between Max and Earl is actually kind of nice. I have a mild suspicion that half of the amusement she gets out of the show is actually from how stupid it is (oops, another point for hipsters), but in a sea of such unfortunate decisions, I'll take what I can get.
Warner packages "2 Broke Girls" in art that emphasizes simple, clean design and the same color palette as the characters' uniforms. A 2-disc standard Blu-Ray case slides into a slipcover with identical artwork, and inside the case there is a booklet with short episode summaries and a sheet with an UltraViolet digital copy code.
The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 AVC 1080p, "2 Broke Girls" looks as good as I could expect it to look. Colors are bold and vivid, fine detail is impeccable, contrast is perfect, and I didn't see any sort of artifacting, posterization, edge enhancement, digital noise reduction, or other compression anomalies. A nice, appealing sheen of fine grain lays over the image, which has enough depth and dimension to make each of the show's brightly-lit sets look like a brightly-lit set. A reference-quality television transfer.
The accompanying 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is not quite as exemplary, because a traditional sitcom offers almost no chances for the sound to shine, but it is equally flawless. Dialogue is bright and bold, right through the center channels, with the audience and music off to the sides. I wish I had more to say about the sound, but it's a comedy TV show: what more is there to hear than the jokes being cracked and the studio audience roaring at every joke? A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also included, along with English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and French and Spanish subtitles.
"2 Girls Going 4 Broke" (14:06) is a featurette that offers soundbites like "Brooklyn is the new New York," "the gritty side we don't normally see on television," and "one has book smarts and the other one has street smarts" to describe all of the show's many layers.
A short reel of deleted scenes (6:14) are the only other extra. Two minutes of this footage is Johnny yelling at Max's breasts. The one scene of mild legitimate interest is an alternate ending to the season finale.
"2 Broke Girls" is a pretty weak excuse for TV comedy when shows like "Community" struggle to find an audience. The show practically prides itself on its old-fashioned style and cast of caricatures, rubbing its inadequacies in the audience's face. Mega-fans of Dennings might find a little to like here, but if they're going to watch it, they really ought to watch it for free. Skip it.
Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.