The TV Series
Manic workplace sitcom 2 Broke Girls broke out of the 2011-12 season as a ratings hit, but it also drew lots of criticism for its crass humor. In defiant response, show creator Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City) decided to double down on the raunchiness for season two, now out on DVD. Did all that effort make it any funnier? Mmm, no, but the tight cast and snappy repartee still make this one a worthwhile watch. The "two chicks just trying to get by in stylized, harshly lit sitcom-land" thing is the icing on the cupcake.
When we last saw lead besties Max Black and Caroline Channing, they were over the moon about their unorthodox meeting with style maven Martha Stewart - who not only sampled one of their premium cupcakes (the Beer-Batter Maple-Bacon Spring-Break cupcake), but also said she liked it and admired them. What more sustenance would two struggling waitresses-turned-entrepreneurs need? A lot, it turns out, as season two of 2 Broke Girls gives us a taste of success, failure, a grown man hawking candy, blood-stained walls, and two cute Amish boys.
Whereas season one of the hit CBS show was all about meeting cute, sharing dreams, and attempting to live down the fact that one of the fathers bilked investors out of millions of dollars, the second season is more about character and relationships: Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs) step closer and closer to their ever-elusive dream of a cupcake store; while diner-cook Oleg (Jonathan Kite) and entrepreneur Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge) begin sharing more than just sex. It is, like life, filled with ups and downs, steps forward and many more steps backward, never once letting the characters lose sight of their final destination.
Because season two is more settled (all the crazy characters have been introduced, so let's settle them down a bit) it's also not quite as funny. It's always funnier when two characters first interact, when the other characters (and we) explore their quirks and learn about them; but, once that seam has been mined, it's time to move into deeper territory, stop the silliness and focus on the dream.
King has always maintained that the show was about the two girls. They are the "couple" of the story - not Max and her boyfriend(s) (although we certainly miss Nick Zano as hunky street artist Johnny), or Caroline and her boyfriend(s). Their's is the central "love" story: two people from vastly differing origins finding a common ground to both exist and grow: Max is overjoyed when they find the perfect space to open their cupcake store, insisting that it has a certain cache seeing how it was the site of a mass murder (complete with blood still on the walls). Where one sees disaster, Max sees opportunity: "If we go with red, it's half painted." This devil-may-care attitude balances nicely with Caroline's Wharton-School pedigree of sense and sensibility, preventing either from going too far off the deep end. They establish such a mutual ground, in fact, that they both willingly don giant cupcake suits in an attempt to drum up business (who cares if the cupcake-suit gag was recycled from one of King's previous series, the woefully underrated The Comeback).
Elsewhere in Williamsburg (the New York City borough were it takes place), the relationship between Oleg and Sophie begins to deepen. Where it was once an excuse for crude comments about orgasms, it has developed into a touching, dare I say almost "normal" pairing between two oddballs who are perfectly matched. (And there are still crude comments about orgasms.) Sophie, the owner of a house-cleaning service who has a heart of gold, continues in her role of fairy godmother to the two girls. In season one, she made sure they had killer outfits to wear to the gala event where they hoped to meet Ms. Stewart. Here, she gives them the seed money to rent their prime space, stock up and begin selling cupcakes. She is a silent partner; but one who eats a lot of the profits - literally.
Although much of the season takes place in settings outside the Williamsburg Diner, there is still plenty going on there. Put-upon diner-owner Han (Matthew Moy) has become a little more feisty, giving to the girls as good as he gets from them - and standing up to a robber who mistakenly thinks there are quick profits to be made. Stalwart Garrett Morris, as cashier Earl, continues to be the brightest star in the Williamsburg firmament, delivering caustic barbs and witty asides like the seasoned pro he is.
Season two is filled with lots of characters who stop by for an episode or three, including Steven Weber as the notorious swindler who is father to Caroline, Ryan Hansen as the boyish proprietor of the candy shop across from the cupcake store who starts to fall for a certain Wharton graduate, and rapper 2 Chains appearing as himself in a surprisingly appealing episode.
There's a lot to love in season two, but there are also some problems. Realizing that Behrs is adept at physical comedy, the writers seem to have begun to rely on that to develop Caroline's character. While it's not bad (Behrs is a physical comedian on par with Lucille Ball), much of it comes across as an easy, lazy way out. Scenes involving a leaking water bed and a stripper rope were unnecessary to their stories, and seemed like pointless excuses to have her do something physical. And, now that we know Max has a heart of gold, the writing appears to be diluting the very caustic quality that made her a stunning addition to the sit-com pantheon and the perfect foil for straight-laced Caroline. In addition, some of the episodes seem like excuses to set up the girls for a fall - specifically, the Cupcake Wars episode - and remind us all that the road to success is not always paved with buttercream icing.
The end of the second season provided the perfect set up for season three: while cleaning out the diner, they stumble onto a secret back room that has (surprise!) a set of doors that open onto the sidewalk. Can they create a walk-up cupcake business and make a success of it? We'll have to wait until the next season to find out.
Warner Home Video's DVD edition of 2 Broke Girls: The Complete Second Season consists of the following episodes, spread over three discs:
Typical of current multi-camera sitcoms, the 16x9 digitally shot image on 2 Broke Girls' second season arrives on disc with harsh lighting and super-saturated colors intact. Considering how many episodes are packed on each disc, the mastering is surprisingly good. Warner Bros. decided to not release this season on Blu-ray (TV series seasons are a harder sell on Blu), but the rich transfer used on the DVD is a decent compromise.
Like the previous season set, this volume sports a nice 5.1 Dolby Digital mix which uses surround effects subtly (if at all). Dialogue and sound effects are pristine, and the few instances involving music have it seamlessly integrated in the mix. Optional subtitles are supplied in English SDH, French, and Spanish (sorry, Chinese and Portuguese customers, you're out of luck this time).
Warner Bros. has supplied this season with a good amount of bonus material, an improvement over the First Season set. The most welcome addition is 2 Broke Girls at Paleyfest 2013, a 28-minute discussion with Michael Patrick King and the cast in a casual setting gabbing about how great the show is. Featurettes Max's Homemade Cupcakes: Go Big or Go Broke! (22:21) and 2 Broke Girrrllss! with Sophie Kachinsky (6:38) supply some background on where the show is heading and the origins of Jennifer Coolidge's hilarious Sophie. Unaired Scenes are included on six episodes, accessible separately from the shows they were cut from (one cut scene is placed next to the wrong episode, however). A brief Gag Reel rounds out the extras.
Now they're cooking with gas (the big question - what kind?). Envelope-pushing sitcom hit 2 Broke Girls breezed into its second season with potty mouths intact as Max and Caroline continue pursuing their dream of running a successful cupcake-making business. The pair's shenanigans in and out of the diner are as hilarious as ever, although there is some fatigue creeping into this season (memo to the writers: raunchier isn't necessarily better). Warner Home Video's DVD edition presents the show nicely, supplying a few more extras than the previous season's set. Recommended.