Ah, midseason. That not-quite-magical time in a TV network’s year when shows passed over in the fall get jammed and squeezed into the schedule like so many square pegs. As is often the case, The Simpsons — itself a midseason replacement due to production issues — said it best:
Announcer: The start of television’s second most exciting season – midseason – is just two hundred exciting seconds away!
Lisa: Isn’t midseason just a dumping ground for second-rate shows that weren’t good enough for the fall schedule?
Homer: You’re thinking of all the other years.
This month, NBC and ABC will debut two sitcoms that continue TV’s Year of the Woman: Best Friends Forever and the regrettably redacted Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. While the two shows have different comedic voices, they also have drastically different views on the concept of female friendship.
Best Friends Forever is the brainchild of real-life BFF’s Lennon Parham
and Jessica St. Clair, who along with writing the show, play fictional versions of themselves. The show’s inciting incident occurs as Jessica unexpectedly receives divorce papers. Distraught and unable to deal, she decides to move back to New York to live with her old roommate, Lennon. Complicating matters is Lennon’s live-in boyfriend, Joe (Luka Jones), who while generally supportive, isn’t looking forward to having a squatter in their apartment.
Jessica, meanwhile, is immature and miserable to be around in a way usually reserved for guys in sitcoms (does that count as breaking a gender barrier?). For most of the episode, Jessica is a self-centered pain in the ass, a grenade thrown into Lennon and Joe’s relationship – which seemed to be working pretty well. Plans are broken, tears are shed, but fear not – everyone ends up in a group hug. The needy co-dependence on display is like a more unhealthy version of the threesome on Up All Night.
While the characters in Best Friends Forever start that way, the title of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 portends differently. Wide-eyed and right off the bus, June (Dreama Walker) can’t wait to start her new job and live in her company-owned apartment with a view. Unfortunately, her firm implodes on her first day, leaving her both jobless and homeless. Her roommate search yields Chloe (Krysten Ritter), who is literally too good to be true. The titular bitch, Chloe cons new New Yorkers into first, last and deposit before her antics (rudeness, public nudity, fourways in the living room, theft, etc.) drive them from the apartment.
June’s Indiana farm girl personality belies the fact that she’s an equally smooth operator. When she figures out Chloe’s MO, she turns the table on her, earning her respect and a détente. But it’s only after Chloe exposes June’s fiance as a cheater does a friendship actually take root.
An earlier conversation between Chloe and best friend James Van Der Beek (hysterically playing himself) revealed some humanity beneath the horror, even if the show plays the moment ironically:
James: Do you think maybe this is why you don’t have any female friends?
Chloe: Whatever, I don’t want any, girls are too mean.
By the end of the pilot, June is a barista (with a slightly-sociopathic roommate and without a fiance), Chloe has a female friend, and they both seem fine. Created by American Dad writer Nahnatchka Khan, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 is not only funnier and sharper than Best Friends Forever, but it also presents a healthier, more relatable portrait of friendship. Trust me.
It’s interesting that the show created by real life friends has no semblance of a real female friendship. I wonder if that’s their actual relationship or if there was too much network interference.