While 2 Broke Girls may share Michael Patrick King with the beloved Sex and the City series, it does not share its ability to represent New York accurately. Then again, SATC took place in Manhattan, not the “dreaded” land across the river: Brooklyn. Still, the new CBS sitcom takes up residence in two of Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhoods: Greenpoint and Williamsburg. It manages to skim a bit of the “hipster” culture from the areas and turn it into a cute, little sitcom that should be right at home in CBS’ Monday night line-up.
I actually enjoyed 2 Broke Girls, but naturally, it’s not perfect. First, it’s a slave to the easy, prescribed sitcom humor we see on every generic sitcom ever. But on the plus side, the series is pretty bold with innuendos and subtle sexual jokes that serve as the nicer, network TV (barely) version of Samantha Jones’ famous potty mouth on SATC.For the time slot though, these quips are pretty bold. These are the risks you can take when you’re a TV superpower like CBS.
On the downside, the depiction of the kitchy, cool Brooklyn neighborhood is more akin to a J.C. Penny ad than an American Apparel catalog at times, and a scene out of The Warriors at others. Trust me, the subway is not that disgusting and you can wear a leather jacket in Williamsburg without getting mugged – in fact, they’re practically required. But that’s something that will only bother picky New Yorkers like myself – not every show can be Bored to Death.
Most people will probably love the constant hipster smackdown Kat Dennings' Max delivers to the trustifarian (Google it) customers who flood into her diner domain from nearby Arcade Fire concerts – come on folks, everyone knows Foster the People is the new hipster band du jour. Of course, Max is a hypocrite because her own boyfriend is a bit of a hack typical of the overly-used hipster definition. Seriously, we need another word to describe these folks, stat. Somehow, despite Max’s prickly demeanor and hypocritical ways, Dennings delivers a likeable Brooklyn native. Let’s just hope she keeps the knitcap/Coldplay references to a minimum.
Her new partner in crime, Beth Behrs’ Caroline, is the daughter of an ambiguously Bernie Madoff-esque tycoon who lost her trust fund when Daddy got caught. She’s forced into the job at Max’s diner, where she quickly finds she has no idea what she’s doing. Max’s demeanor clashes severely with Caroline’s cartoonish character, but what I like about this dynamic is that neither Max nor Caroline is more right – they’re just very different girls who’ve yet to understand each other. This relationship has promise as long as they give Caroline a little less Prada and a little more depth.
One thing the show gets right on are the strange dynamics of waitressing at a schlocky little diner; from the sweet old man Max flirts with, to the Russian cook she fields lewd comments from, to the owner who’ll do anything to bring in more customers, to the customers’ attitudes, the show hits the mark on the downside of waiting tables for a living. Though, I will note that no one in their right mind would wear knee-high leather boots with a heel to wait tables unless they never wanted to use their feet again. Take note, Miss Dennings.
Even with the easy jokes, the obnoxiously unbearable Upper East Side woman Max babysits for, and the gross incongruencies between real Brooklyn and this stereotypical, sterile depiction, the series is cute, easygoing and chuckle-inducing. In my book, 2 Broke Girls fits right in among the Monday night comedies and I see it sticking around for a while.
Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is cursed. Everything he has ever touched in his life has turned bad including a past gambling habit that has made Bernie reluctantly indebted to Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin) an old-school wise guy who paid off Bernie's debts--but not before kneecapping him with a baseball bat. Shelly runs the Shangri-La Hotel and Casino a throwback to '50s Vegas when it was an adult playground full of gamblers and glitzy shows--not the family-oriented fantasyland it is now. Realizing Bernie's contagiously bad luck could be profitable for him Shelly brings Bernie on as the casino's "cooler"--so called because Bernie's able to stop a gambler's winning streak just by standing nearby. But after many years of being indentured to Shelly Bernie's debt is nearly paid and he's looking forward to moving on with his life. Shelly on the other hand doesn't want to lose one of his most valuable assets--especially since upper management wants to upgrade the Shangri-La with three floors of gambling and a roller coaster. Complicating matters even more the shy Bernie becomes smitten with Natalie (Maria Bello) a hard-bitten cocktail waitress at the Shangri-La who after a few awkward dates warms up to Bernie. Suddenly with a genuine Lady Luck by his side Bernie's cooling techniques run cold and his once icy touch turns hot. Has Bernie's luck really changed? Is he really going to break away from his hellish existence and take the girl with him? Not if Shelly has anything to say about it.
In The Cooler Macy gives his gutsiest most lovable most heartbreaking loser performance to date. Bernie is one sorry lump of flesh but because Macy's portrayal is so nuanced you never really feel sorry for Bernie. From the beginning Bernie's good at what he does and commands respect on the casino floor. When he falls in love with Natalie Macy suddenly become the thinking woman's sex symbol radiating his peculiar sensibilities and goofy sex appeal especially in the rather explicit but intensely comical and intimate love scenes. For her part Bello (Auto Focus) does a wonderful job playing the wounded Natalie another working girl with a chip on her shoulder whose whole demeanor is changed by love. Yet the real tour de force performance is Baldwin's. He's finally let go of the idea that he has to play the leading man and has embraced his supporting role with fervor. His Shelly is a desperate desperate man the worst kind of control freak but Baldwin plays the nostalgic casino manager with empathy and dare we say heart even as he breaks people's knee caps and punches pregnant women in the stomach. Supporting player Paul Sorvino also gives a memorable performance as the Shangri-La's aging drug-addicted lounge singer.
Co-writer and first-time director Wayne Kramer understands a thing or two about bad karma. "I'm the kind of guy whose luggage always gets lost by the airline " he has admitted--and he evidently pours all his experience being unlucky into The Cooler. He and co-writer Frank Hannah came up with the concept of a Vegas casino floor "cooler" without any real proof the job exists but whether it's fact or fiction the film comes alive when Bernie's anti-Midas touch is at work cooling the dice so they'll crap out jinxing the slot machines so they'll bust or tapping the dealer so he'll get a blackjack. The pace of the film only hiccups in a few places usually during moments between Bernie and Natalie but overall it brilliantly displays Las Vegas' fading glamour--those "daddio" days when cocktails were cocktails and gamblers gambled. The Cooler could have just as easily been Shelly's story as he tries to hold onto the old Vegas ways and maintain his casino's dignity before it turns into another splashy attraction.
Looney Tunes: Back in Action revisits an age-old Tunes question: Why does the affable Bugs reap all the fame and glory while the egocentric Daffy gets shafted again and again? Our duck friend quite frankly has had it up to his skinny neck playing second fiddle to the carrot muncher. All Daffy wants is a little recognition from the studio but the brothers Warner (actual twin brothers as we come to find out) decide instead to let Daffy out of his contract on the advice of their no-nonsense VP of comedy Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman). Bugs however knows they're making a mistake. Even though Daff bears the brunt of the abuse Looney Tunes would fail without him and Bugs convinces the powers that be they need the nutty mallard. If the plot had only followed this thread--perhaps showing Daffy on the skids--then maybe the film wouldn't have spiraled into Looneyville. Unfortunately Daffy ends up hooking up with the hunky D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) a studio security guard who finds out that his famous movie star father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) is really a secret agent hunting for a mysterious diamond known as the Blue Monkey a supernatural gem that can turn the planet's population into monkeys. The evil head of the Acme Corporation Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) wants the diamond for his own diabolical plans and he's kidnapped D.J.'s dad in an effort to get it. Now the gang has to get the diamond save D.J.'s dad and of course save the world.
It might be a little hard to act subtly around cartoon characters but these aren't your ordinary cutesy Mickey Mouse types. Bugs Daffy Porky Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn are pros at comic timing able to spar with the best of them throw out zingers without a second thought and slay you with a droll glance at the camera. It isn't really necessary for the human actors to match their madcap-ness; just reacting would have sufficed. Fraser comes off the best of the human bunch; since he's had practice (Monkeybone) he easily interacts with his animated co-stars and deftly handles the doubletakes and jabs at pop culture. Elfman on the other hand sputters and goes bug-eyed every time she encounters silliness. She looks uncomfortable doing the green screen thing especially when she's trying to look natural when peeling a distraught duck from around her waist. Martin's highly anticipated turn as Mr. Chairman turns out to be the biggest disappointment. The over-the-top character is reminiscent of Martin's hysterically funny Rupert the Monkeyboy in 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but Martin turns Mr. Chairman--an angry schoolboy with knee socks and matted-down hair who never grew up--into a caricature of ridiculous proportions and unlike Rupert who came in small hilarious doses Mr. Chairman gets very tiresome very quickly.
Back in Action's animation is well done more engaging and ambitious than its 1996 predecessor Space Jam in which the action mostly took place in Looney Tunes land; here animated characters go the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? route and Bugs Daffy and the rest coexist harmoniously with humans in the real world. But despite its aspirations Back in Action leaves out vital elements that made Space Jam appealing. While the earlier film stuck to a simple plot Back in Action guided by director Joe Dante (Small Soldiers The 'Burbs) tries too hard to keep things wild and wacky while incorporating elements of '60s heist pics and action-adventure scenes and in the process loses sight of the most important ingredient in any kids movie: the story. Tykes may have limited attention spans but if the story's good they will watch. Granted some individual bits are laugh-out-loud funny particularly the scene in the Warner Bros. commissary where a stuttering Porky Pig complains about being politically incorrect with Speedy Gonzales while an animated Shaggy and Scooby-Doo berate actor Matthew Lillard for playing Shaggy as such a bonehead in the live-action Scooby-Doo. These scenes prove that if any cartoon characters could pass themselves off as real celebrities in the entertainment industry the gang from Looney Tunes could but moments like these simply can't overcome a contrived plot and juvenile antics.
November 03, 2003 12:02pm EST
Top Story: Debra Messing Expecting First Child
Will & Grace star Debra Messing and her husband of three years, screenwriter Daniel Zelman, are expecting their first child next summer, The Associated Press reports. The network isn't saying whether the hit NBC sitcom will work her pregnancy into the show, or hide her midsection behind props. The Emmy-winning actress, who appeared in last year's Woody Allen comedy Hollywood Ending, will make her leading feature debut in the upcoming romantic comedy Something Borrowed. She also stars opposite Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston in Along Came Polly, which hits theaters early next year.
P. Diddy Runs NYC
Hip-hop mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs completed the 26.2-mile New York marathon Sunday in the official time of four hours, 14 minutes and 54 seconds--despite suffering leg cramps for about half the distance. Combs, who called the endeavor "Diddy Runs the City," said in a diary about the marathon published in the New York Post that he trained for less than two months and had an injured right knee. His goal? To best Oprah Winfrey 's 1994 U.S. Marine Corps marathon time of 4 hours, 29 minutes. Combs said he raised a total of $2 million for New York's public schools, children suffering from HIV and AIDS and his own charity to foster social programs, Reuters reports.
Rappers Into Energy Drinks
Ice-T, Russell Simmons and Nelly, meanwhile, are hoping the energy drink market will translate into dollars. All three hip-hop entrepreneurs launched their own brands of energy drinks this year: Nelly's Pimp Juice, Simmons' Def Con 3 and Ice-T's Liquid Ice. Ice-T is also launching Royal Ice malt liquor in what he hopes will be a resurgence of the beverage back to the mainstream. Malt liquor, also known by the endearing pseudonym "liquid crack," has twice the alcohol content of beer with concentrated sweeteners to accelerate the intoxication process.
Laura Innes Honored by Gay Rights Group
Actress Laura Innes, who plays the gay character Dr. Kerry Weaver on the NBC's hit medical drama ER, received this year's Artistry Award from the gay rights organization Power Up, which promotes the visibility and integration of gay women in entertainment, the AP reports. The organization also honored the Bravo Network for its commitment to diversity and two-time Emmy winner Judith Light. She has been a strong supporter of gay issues since she portrayed the mother of Ryan White, the child who was rejected from school and friends when they learned of his contracting the HIV virus, in the 1989 ABC movie The Ryan White Story.
Phil Spector's Bail Extended
Phil Spector's $1 million bail was extended a second time to Jan. 9 while the district attorney's office considers whether to charge him in the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson, the AP reports. Spector, 62, was arrested Feb. 3 after the body of Clarkson, 40, was found in the foyer of his Alhambra, Calif., home. Record producer Spector has denied killing Clarkson and suggested in an Esquire magazine interview that she may have shot herself. But in a report submitted Sept. 16, sheriff's detectives concluded Spector shot Clarkson.
Bernie Mac Shelved for November Sweeps
If you tuned in to catch the season premiere of The Bernie Mac Show Sunday night on Fox, you probably wondered what happened. That's because the network pushed the show's third season premiere to Nov. 30. Bernie Mac, which was moved from its Wednesday 9 p.m. slot to the coveted post-Simpsons Sunday 8:30 p.m. period, was scheduled to launch yesterday but Fox opted to run repeats of The Simpsons for the four weeks of sweeps instead. Networks often air reruns of their strongest shows to boost ratings during sweeps periods, which are used by local stations to set ad rates.
Sinead O'Connor Retires ... Really
Sinead O'Connor, who just released a two-CD set titled She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty, said she is retiring from music in order to concentrate on her theological studies and pastoral healing. This is not O'Connor's first attempt at retirement: She first tried to sabotage her music career in 1992 by ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live and has since announced her retirement from the music industry twice.
Role Call: Brother Bear Creative Team Pacts With Disney
Disney has signed an exclusive deal with Brother Bear directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker and producer Chuck Williams, to assure that their next yet to be determined project will roll out under the Disney banner. The animated feature, which took in about $18.5 million at the box office in its first two days since opening nationwide Saturday, marks the directorial debut for Blaise and Walker and the producing bow for Williams.