Thoughts on “2 Broke Girls”

So, I’ve finished watching all six seasons of “2 Broke Girls”. This was a series that I had mused about watching for ages and managed to find for a decent price a while ago, mostly because I had seen and liked Kat Dennings in the Thor movies and the premise sounded somewhat interesting. That it featured two attractive women as the stars didn’t hurt either. But in the end it was a disappointing series.

The basic premise of the show is that Caroline Channing, the daughter of a wealthy financier, loses everything because it turns out that her father was pretty much scamming everyone to make his fortune. She meets diner waitress Max Black (played by Dennings) and ends up getting a job at that diner and moving in with Max as her roommate. It turns out that Max is making money selling cupcakes and Caroline then believes that they could turn that into a business, which then is what happens over the next six seasons.

The show is very joke intensive, mostly snarky insults and sexual jokes. The problem with this is that the show spends so much time tossing out jokes that it really doesn’t have time to do anything else. Sure, its rapid-fire jokes mean that you’re probably going to come across something funny relatively quickly, but most of the jokes aren’t that funny and become very predictable, so that you can often seem them coming. Still, again, there were usually one or two at least amusing ones in every, say, five minutes of the show, and some of them were downright funny. It’s just kinda overwhelming at times.

It also means that plots drag on longer than they should. On a few occasions, they spent multiple episodes exploring plots that didn’t have enough content for more than one or two. For example, there’s one sequence where Max is trying to get to her old boyfriend after he blocks her to try to reconcile, and it takes about three episodes for them to get there, but even with the disastrous things that happen to them — plane crash, stolen credit cards, he goes somewhere else — the plot really runs out of steam long before that, and if they hadn’t been so focused on tossing funny scenes and jokes in there they could have wrapped it up in an episode or two at most. This also happens when they go to Hollywood to negotiate about Caroline’s movie, with there being very little happening there that couldn’t have happened with them still in New York. To compare it to a sitcom like “Three’s Company”, they had certain jokes that they wanted to be focused around — misunderstandings, Jack pretending to be gay, his clumsiness, and so on — and seemed to think “What kind of plot do we need to be able to do that?”, whereas in “2 Broke Girls” it seemed to me that most of the time their plot ideas followed the catchphrase of a friend of mine from high school: “Wouldn’t it be funny if?”. A lot of the plots were simply putting together events that sounded funny and then tossing their standard jokes into the mix and hoping to produce something good. But it ended up making their episodes kinda like cupcakes themselves: kinda enjoyable, but devoid of substance so you’d get tired of them if that was all you ate.

The Hollywood plot also suffered from having to foist the creator fan character Sophie into the plot, as she goes there to see some kind of healer about having a baby. The show really wants us to like Sophie, as whenever she arrives in a room there’s whoops like you’d get for someone like the Fonz or Kramer from “Seinfeld”. The problem is that she’s not a very good character and has no real interesting role on the show. You’d think that being of Polish descent myself my big problem with her would be how she’s supposed to be Polish but the stereotypes about her have nothing to do with actual Polish people (for example, you would expect her wedding to be Catholic because that’s pretty big in Poland, but instead it’s some kind of weird semi-Christian type of thing) but that doesn’t bother me since it’s clearly done for laughs and isn’t to be taken seriously. My problem with her is that she’s entirely selfish and self-centered and self-absorbed and prone to snarky insults, especially towards Caroline. This might have worked out — she likes Max and doesn’t like Caroline — except that if we want someone to be snarkily self-interested and make sexual jokes a lot, well, that’s what Max is for. Even her snarking at Caroline doesn’t work because Max already snarks at her more than enough to make those sorts of jokes, so what is she there for? Having her get together with the pervert cook Oleg doesn’t help, as both of them are annoying and inappropriately sexual but Oleg is supposed to be and he gets numerous moments where he helps them out just because they need the help. She doesn’t even get that and it seems that the show expects us to not find Sophie annoying, and there aren’t really any jokes that she brings to the table that the others couldn’t make just as well: Max snarking about Caroline, Oleg making jokes about strange foreign custom, Max and Oleg making jokes about odd sexual practices, and so on.

The humour is also often very mean-spirited. Max and later Caroline constantly insult Han, the owner of the diner, with rapid-fire insults pretty much any time he talks to them. This also continues after, again, Han goes out of his way to help them with their problems. This, then, makes the continued insults seem ungrateful, and most of them are simply insults about his height and looks and not firing back against him being, say, too uptight or trying to boss them around. It gets better when he starts to fire back more often, especially with Max, but it never quite becomes mutual snarking to show that they care about each other and does more seem like general insults. At least they do help Han out later in the series.

There’s also a lot of jokes about Caroline that come across as mean, especially with regards to her body. There are a lot of jokes about her being flat-chested. Now, if this was just about her having much smaller breasts than Max, that would be okay, and there are some jokes where that’s what they’re referring to and it allows Caroline to fire back at her, like at least one case where the joke is mostly over Caroline focusing on attracting men to her legs because her breasts won’t do it for her. But no, a lot of the time the joke claims that Caroline’s breasts are small to non-existent. Now, I’m not going to oppose that on the basis of an opposition to body shaming, but the worst part about those jokes is that they, well, aren’t true. When Caroline wears a tight shirt or sweater we can see that she is definitely not flat-chested. So, again, the jokes come across as being mean rather than as goodnatured teasing.

The show ends up suffering from a lack of sympathetic characters. Earl — the cashier — is fine but has a rather limited role. Han comes across sometimes as long-suffering but also a bit cheap. Oleg is not someone you’re supposed to really like. Sophie is just plain annoying. So that leaves the two main characters. Max is mean and snarky but can generate some sympathy based on the stories about how crappy her life has been … but often being incredibly irresponsible hurts that. Caroline starts off as being sympathetic but at the end has her self-absorption dialed up to 11, making her more annoying. So, at the end, I didn’t really want to watch either of the two main characters or the creator-pet Sophie. What they really should have done — and it did start out that way — was have Caroline be “Spoiled Sweet”, being someone who has always had things work out for her and so assumes that that’s how it will always work out for her and how it should work for everyone else, while keeping Max as the bitter and cynical one because things have never worked out for her ever. Then, as the show progressed, Caroline would keep her optimistic attitude but temper it with some realism, while Max would learn that sometimes things do work out if you try and so that never trying is a bad idea. There are hints of this throughout the show, but this progression really should have been the focus. But, again, the swarm of jokes makes it hard to do this sort of thing in the limited time left over for plot and character development.

By not following this progression, the show also seems to try to reset their condition after every season, finding ways to reduce them to limited money or put them back into similar situations. It’s not quite a reset button because they’ll at times change things — set up their business somewhere else or change to a dessert bar — but for the most part something bad happens to set them back financially, at least. It would have still worked if they had let them get ahead a little but still have a lot to do to accomplish their dreams, because doing that is indeed hard work and takes time. And this tendency to do that to set up for the next season means that they don’t get an ending, as season 6 sets them back financially again and sets up a conflict between their boyfriends that never gets resolved because the show was, presumably, unexpectedly cancelled. I’d find that a problem like I did with “Reboot”, but I found that I didn’t really care that much to be all that bothered that it didn’t get an ending.

So, what did I think of the series, at the end of the day? Well, I didn’t want to watch it again right away after finishing it like I did with “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”. But while I was happy to get to the end of it so that I could watch something else, I didn’t have to struggle through it like I did with “She-Ra”. It’s a show that I could watch again, but now have so many other things to watch that I can’t think of any possible time when I could that I couldn’t find something better to watch. The show is mildly amusing but not particularly entertaining.

The next series was chosen because it has style, it has flair and, well, it’s there. Stayed tuned if that doesn’t mean anything to you.

2 Responses to “Thoughts on “2 Broke Girls””

  1. Thoughts on “The Nanny” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] show, like “2 Broke Girls”, heavily utilized double entendres for its humour. In fact, part of the issues with seasons three […]

  2. What Spawns the Eternal Question? | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] are looks, and are even shallow enough that all they really care about is the breast size of women (see the jokes about Caroline being less attractive than Max from “Two Broke Girls” based…).  And there is some truth to that.  But when we look at these debates, we can see that there is […]

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