As we've touted many times on Hollywood.com, thou shalt not judge a new series solely on its pilot, and in the case of GCB, we didn't. Its cartoonish antics can be a bit much at times, but it had to stretch its legs a bit before we can tell what it was really made of. And now that we've seen 10 episodes of ABC's new saucy drama, GCB, judgement day is upon these Good Christian Bs. And it's a good thing ABC's Desperate Housewives is moving on out, because this town ain't big enough for the two of them.
GCB seems to have ripped about 15 pages from the Desperate Housewives playbook. Unfortunately, they took them from the tamer part of that book. Granted, Desperate Housewives has had seasons to work up to its truly ridiculous plotlines, and perhaps the reason GCB's slow trot into the Housewife-y territory isn't shocking us is because we've already been primed to expect it. We know the signs and we see absolutely everything coming from a mile away.
The first season finale finds Amanda, Carlene, and company taking a little "vacation" in Juarez, where Ripp is insisting that Carlene build her shiny palace of a "Christian Living" community. At the last second, Amanda is dragged into the situation because she visits her boyfriend, Luke, in Austin, only to find out he's actually down in good ol' Juarez. And just like that, the gang's all here and Amanda's primed and ready for some bad behavior. It's the perfect (totally expected) setup for a GCB season finale.
Next on the tour of the little town in Mexico is a stop at Ripp's house, where Amanda has tracked Luke. Instead, she finds Ripp putting his arms around a young Mexican beauty. Like clockwork, Amanda assumes Ripp is having an affair, but we know something's up because Ripp's not kissing the little lady and he's speaking with an alarming lack of detail. Plus, Luke's a super swell guy, so we know there's more to the story.
The ladies head out in a limo to Carlene's building site, where all that's been erected so far is a giant picture of Carlene's face. No one is surprised when the ladies are driven away from the site in their limo to find they're being kidnapped (due in great part to the fact that the episode started with a flash-forward to this moment for some reason). We would have been surprised to see that guest star Sandra Bernhard was the ladies' kidnapper, if we hadn't been prepared with that the entire week leading up to the episode. Sandra, queen of the desert, just wants Carlene to sign the land for the Christian complex over, and thanks to the other ladies outing her for not signing the deed yet, it's quickly relinquished to the captor and the ladies roam free into the desert.
To make matters more madcap, the only sustenance on any of their persons is tequila, which is like television liquid gold for this set. It forces Cricket and Sharon to get their rivalry out in the open, Heather to admit how badly she needs a boyfriend (Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! Ack!), Amanda to fall off her sober wagon and drink that tequila like mother's milk, and finally, it makes it very easy for Amanda and Gigi to spill the beans about Ripp's little side dish. In a move that would make MacGuyver proud, Gigi throws her giant hairspray canister at Carlene's giant cardboard face, shoots with her tiny hand gun, and sets the sign ablaze so that Zack and Pastor John can find them and rescue them in time for Carlene to go marching into Ripp's little hacienda in Juarez.
Of course, as I mentioned, Ripp wasn't caressing or kissing this hot young thing, so the (ooh, shocker) truth that Lucia isn't Ripp's mistress, but his secret daughter comes to us just as we expected. This leaves Amanda time to tell Luke she's had too many untrustworthy men in her life (this is the part where they steal pages from the Susan/Mike Delfino storybook on Desperate Housewives), keep careening offer that wagon by stumbling to the nearest saloon, wave her troubles around the bar like a white flag, and seek comfort in the nearest good man she can find: Pastor John. She plants a wet one on the holy man and boom: That's our cliffhanger. Really? Really.
It's just a little to reminiscent of the story we followed when we first signed on for DH, minus the intrigue of a murder to lend the story a little weight. The reason DH worked so well is that while Susan was being locked out of her house naked and Gabby was having illicit sex with her teenage gardener, there was a darker, more sinister side to all the ballooning, colorful antics. It helped to keep the ridiculousness from flying up to the stratosphere and out of our range of acceptability. In the case of GCB, however, every dark shadow turns out to be a trick of the light, and suddenly everything's just wacky and sexy again. It's all fun and games, but like a well-inflated balloon, it's far to easy to let go of.
Did you watch the season finale? Will you be back next season?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
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Hollywood.com's Guide to Spring 2012 TV Finales
WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) once led a charmed life a high-school cheerleading captain in love with the team quarterback. Then life took a spiral downhill and now after 20 years Rose is a single mom working as a maid. Her sister Norah (Emily Blunt) is a slacker still living at home with their dad (Alan Arkin) a failed salesman who never met a get-rich-quick-scheme he didn’t like. When Rose needs to get her son into a good school she convinces her n’er do-well sister to go into business with her cleaning up after crime scenes. In finding success in doing these dirty jobs Rose and Norah not only turn their professional lives around they discover things about themselves and each other they never dreamed possible.
WHO'S IN IT?
This terrifically quirky and entertaining character comedy is led by two-time Oscar-nominee Adams. Here she etches a very recognizable character -- the small-time girl who achieved greatness in school only to make some bad personal choices and flame out after graduation. Mustering all the self-esteem she can find Adams’ Rose shines brightly despite all the obstacles standing in her way. She and Blunt as Norah are flat-out wonderful together. Blunt plays the lazy sister who recoils at the thought of her sibling’s new money-making plan but becomes fascinated by the things people leave behind after they die. It’s a keenly observed character and Blunt is subtle perfection. As their father Arkin is homespun understanding and endearing. Standouts also include Steve Zahn as Rose’s one-time high school boyfriend and now married lover and Clifton Collins Jr. as his rival for Rose’s affections.
As her first produced screenplay newbie writer Megan Holley gets it all right taking a quirky news item she heard about crime cleaning businesses and turning it into a rich and revealing character study revolving around two siblings with small-town hopes and dreams. Every character no matter how little screen time is beautifully written and acted.
The men in the film are so appealing and offbeat you wish there was more time devoted to them particularly the character played by Collins Jr. whose one arm handicap is never explained.
Using every tip she ever learned from a self-help book Rose stares at herself in the mirror after taking a shower and gives herself a wonderfully optimistic bit of advice.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN …
The opening scene begins and the guy goes into a store to buy a gun. It’s a bit jolting and sets this warm and engaging human drama off on the wrong note. Don’t worry it gets a LOT better from there.
If you have ever been embarrassed by your big loud family then you will certainly relate to Toula (played by Nia Vardalos) the narrator and main character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. After all her suburban home is modeled after the Parthenon and her father (played by Michael Constantine) believes a squirt of Windex can cure anything--including bursitis--and that every word in the English language derives from a Greek root. At 30 Toula is still living at home and kowtowing to her strict father--who believes that every Greek woman's ambition should be to marry a Greek man have Greek children and feed everyone until she dies. Suffice it to say he is less than happy when Toula becomes engaged to Ian (played by John Corbett)--a non-Greek. What ensues is a hilarious tale of what happens when two families--one loud Greek Orthodox the other conservative Episcopalian--must reconcile their differences for the sake of their children's happiness. Vardalos' narration of the events that are occurring--and how she feels about them--helps draw the viewer into Toula's world.
Vardalos is great as Toula and presents her character's traits and peculiarities fittingly well like her low self-esteem and the way she slouches. More importantly Vardalos made Toula's character believable. When Toula begins taking classes at a local college her confidence improves she puts on a little makeup combs her hair and voila! She's transformed into a beautiful person oozing happiness. It's quite charming. Corbett is well cast as the sweet and accepting fiancé but he comes across as a little bland. That really dated haircut certainly doesn't win him any points either. Constantine as Toula's strict father is chauvinistic and thick-headed but he plays his cards just right so you can never really hate the character straight out even though he treats his wife and kids like a Neanderthal would. As Aunt Voula Andrea Martin is by far the most hilarious of the bunch and she delivers each line with zany conviction. For all you 'N Sync fans Joey Fatone has a small role as Toula's cousin and has maybe three lines in the film.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is based on comedy writer Vardalos' one-woman show. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson saw the show and apparently liked it so much they decided to produce it through their Playtone studio. Directed by Joel Zwick the film is not the first to deal with big weddings and what happens when too many family members get involved. Ang Lee did it better with the 1993 romantic comedy The Wedding Banquet about a gay Taiwanese-American man who marries a young Chinese woman to satisfy his parents as did Mira Nair with last year's Monsoon Wedding about an arranged Indian marriage. But Zwick who has directed a slew of TV shows from Happy Days to The Wayans Brothers keeps things fresh and funny despite the tired storyline. Set in Chicago but filmed in Toronto the film feels authentic especially the scenes in the family's diner Dancing Zorbas their house and their neighborhood. But the movie could have done without the cartoonish old-world granny with anti-Turkish sentiment.