Facing a pretty quiet Tuesday night of television (what is it with Tuesday nights?) last night, we decided to go ahead and watch the first episode of ABC's upcoming comedy Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, which premieres on April 11th but is available online right now. Expecting to hate it — that title! that "frosting in my crack" joke in all the ads! James Van Der Beek! — we were actually rather surprised to find that we maybe should have had a little more faith in the bitch. (yes, we said it).
The title character is played by Krysten Ritter, the actress perhaps best known for Veronica Mars who has appeared in things as varied as 'Til Death and a particularly tragic run on Breaking Bad. No one seems quite sure how to use her to maximum effect, but, surprisingly, Apartment 23 proves a pretty decent showcase for her talents. Sure she's playing one of those annoying sociopath characters whose litany of bad deeds are redeemed by one good act in completely unconvincing fashion, but whatever. It's still a mysteriously appealing performance.
But yes, she plays a cartoony sociopath on the show, which is about a wide-eyed girl from Indiana (former Gossip Girl lackey Dreama Walker) who moves to New York and, after a series of calamities, winds up living with Ritter's scheming, amoral con artist. The setup is pretty lo-fi, but show creator Nahnatchka Khan, who has written for Fox's garishly likable American Dad (yes, likable. Sue me), infuses the proceedings with enough quirk and personality that the show kinda sells itself. Is Walker's fiance, who does psych tests on a strange 13-year-old boy, a blatant rip-off of Bill Murray in The Royal Tenenbaums? Sure, absolutely. And does James Van Der Beek, playing a self-deprecating version of himself, perhaps deprecate a little too much, flagellating himself to an at-times uncomfortable degree? Yes. But somehow, oddly, the whole package works.
Though the trouble is that the premise — new roommate is crazy, but crazy like a fox and will actually help out a friend when it's required — could grow pretty stale pretty quickly. Like, OK, now Walker's character knows that Ritter isn't a total monster all the time, so how soon until they're besties and the initial shock of Ritter's nasty antics has worn off completely? Will Walker herself become an apartment 23-dwelling bitch? (Yes, we said it again.) Will Ritter's character soften with age? This is one of those shows that seems like it would work great as a movie, and works well enough for a pilot, but its long-term prospects seem dimmer. But, who knows, maybe they have some grand master plan that will, like this pilot, surprise us.
We still wish Ritter would find something really great to do. This is isn't it, but, oh well, this is actually good enough for now. The rest of the cast, yes even Dawson, is winningly game, and the sharp one-liners and absurdist flights of fancy peppering the script earn somewhat begrudging guffaws. Sure the ad for apartment 23 wasn't terribly enticing, but now that we've taken a look around, it's not such a bad place after all. Who knew?