Luke Graham reviews the pilot episode of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23…
Last week, E4’s latest imported comedy, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, debuted as part of its Thursday night line-up. In America, the show was fairly well received by both critics and audiences after premiering in April, with viewing figures that wavered between 5 and 6 million, so presumably E4 is hoping the show will do as well on our side of the pond.
Don’t Trust the B—-in Apartment 23 has a fairly standard set up, with a naive blond and a streetwise brunette, who move in together and try to make it in New York. Hang on… isn’t that the exact same set up as E4’s other imported American comedy, 2 Broke Girls?
Well, obvious similarities aside, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 is… No, I’ve got to come up with something shorter, I’m going to run out of internet if I have to keep typing out that long, unwieldy title. How about… DTBA23? No, that doesn’t make any sense. Ooh, Don’t Trust. That works, it has a kind of ring to it!
Okay, so the main thing about Don’t Trust is that one of the main characters is thoroughly unlikeable. American comedy has a long tradition of making engaging comedies about unlikeable people: for example Seinfield, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia all have lead or central characters that are essentially horrible people. My Name is Earl has elements of this as well, with its flash backs to Earl’s criminal past and the character of Joy. The humour in these shows come from seeing what horrible, ridiculous things these people do or from the sense of schadenfreude as they get their comeuppance.
The titular bitch of Don’t Trust is Chloe (played by the gorgeous Krysten Ritter, from Breaking Bad). She’s a manipulator, a deceiver, a thief, a con artist, the kind of person who believes their justifications for doing terrible things are legitimate: a bitch, in other words. In the opening minute of Don’t Trust, we see Chloe seduce a man who is revealed to be her flatmate’s fiancée. A voice over from said flatmate,June, tells us this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her. Our interest piqued, the credits roll and the show begins.
Flashback to a week earlier and we meet June (played by the equally gorgeous Dreama Walker, Gossip Girl) a naive but optimistic 26 year old from Indiana about to start her dream job in New York. However, on her very first day of the job, the company collapses as the CEO is arrested for embezzlement. June walks into a scene of anarchy, as the staff loot and set fire to the office, while having an amiable chat with her would-have-been manager, Mark (Eric Andre).
This scene clearly indicates the kind of humour Don’t Trust is going for: ridiculous situations and non-sequiturs played dead straight, and it works. I laughed a lot during the whole episode. The first few minutes also play around with the narrative,using flashbacks, cutaways and video calls to tell its story. I found June to be a very engaging character: she’s cute and positive, and, as a fellow graduate, I can relate to her twin desires of wanting to find a job and not disappoint her family.
Needing to find a place to stay, she meets Chloe, the seemingly perfect flatmate, and moves in with her; despite Chloe’s neighbour Robin (Liza Lapiri) warning her to, you guessed it, not to trust the bitch in apartment 23. Chloe soon reveals her true intentions: having asked for a large security deposit, she hopes to make life so awkward for June that she will move out, allowing her to claim the deposit. To do so, she walks around the flat naked, gives June no privacy, and invites June to foursomes with strange men.However, the two bond when June grows a backbone and retaliates by selling all of Chloe’s stuff. Impressed, Chloe, whom we are told has no female friends,tries to help June out. This includes trying to sleep with June’s fiancée to prove he is a cheating rat… she’s not very experienced at this whole “friend”thing.
The interplay between Chloe and June is great and rewarding to watch: Chloe’s “bad-girl” attitude gets deflated and ridiculed by June, while June’s world view is challenged and expanded by Chloe. The two just seem to act really well and give good comedic performances.But the bigger surprise is James Van Der Beek (Dawson from Dawson’s Creek) playing a fictionalised version of himself, much like Matt le Blanc on Episodes or Duncan “Duncan from Blue” James from the underrated Plus One. James is Chloe’s close companion and provides another layer to the show, poking fun at his own life and the impact Dawson’s Creek had on it, while also satirising the celebrity lifestyle. Time will tell whether this particular joke has much mileage, but considering how well it works in Episodes, my fingers are crossed that it will get better and better.
As far as pilots go, Don’t Trust is very good. I like the style of humour, it is shot and edited in an interesting way, and it introduced a range of characters with plenty of comedy and story potential, and succeeded in making me want to watch the next episode. I do wonder where the story will go: at the end of the first episode, Chloe and June are getting along, so if Chloe is going to start acting nicer to June, where will the tension and conflict come from? I’m also interested in seeing where these characters will end up at the end of the season: as Chloe becomes softened by June, June may have to become harder, meaner and bitchier to survive living with Chloe and being in New York. We have already seen signs of a harder edge to June: for instance, when she sold all of Chloe’s things, as well as happily getting someone fired in order to get a job at the local coffee shop. Which begs the question: who will be the bitch in apartment 23?
Check back next week for Luke’s review of Episode 2, Daddy’s Girl.
You can follow Luke on Twitter: @LukeWGraham