Confession time: I was never a regular watcher of "Dawson's Creek." I know, I know, I should serve time in TV jail, and I promise, one day I'll watch more than the two or three episodes I've seen.
I'm happy to report that not being a fan of James Van Der Beek from the "Creek" didn't prevent me from enjoying the actor in the moderately amusing ABC sitcom "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23" (9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, ABC). In fact, some of the show's most reliable humor comedy comes from this presumably fictional version of the Beek, who, in "Apt. 23" anyway, is a pompous, self-absorbed jackass.
The premise of this comedy is that the Beek is best pals with the occasionally amoral Chloe (Krysten Ritter), a New Yorker who cheerfully convinces naive Midwesterner June (Dreama Walker) that they would be perfect roommates, and then, just as cheerfully, does everything she can to get an increasingly frustrated June to move out. Chloe scams her way though life, a role that is a perfect fit for Ritter, who's best known for playing a recurring character on "Breaking Bad."
Creator Nanatchka Khan gets a reasonable amount of comedy out of this sturdy odd-couple setup, though, it must be said, it's hard to know how much mileage there will be in Chloe continually getting June to fall for some ploy or humiliating her in some way. The comedy works best when June is not only in on the joke, but turns the tables on Chloe. The most entertaining examples of that dynamic come in the show's third episode, in which the Beek and one of the roommates attend a wedding together and a lot of well-constructed mayhem ensues. As time goes on, however, if the writing isn't very strong, the dynamic of the chaos-loving Chloe getting the uptight June to back off from her rigid "life plan" could start to get old.
Generally speaking, though, June and Chloe together are enjoyable, and June continues this season's tradition of comedic ladies who enjoy the salty language. (When the "Creek" was just a gleam in some network executive's eye, you could not have gotten away with this show's creative euphemisms for private parts or the line, "I got a lot of frosting in my crack." Television has come so far!) The Beek's willingness to send up his status as fading teen-dream heartthrob is usually amusing, though "Don't Trust" will probably have to make him a little more than a comedic punching bag if the show is to work long-term.
The most problematic parts of the show, however, arise from overly broad supporting players who either don't add to the proceedings or detract from them every so often. Liza Lapira is wasted in an extraneous role as Chloe's creepy stalker, the Beek has a tailor who appears to have been borrowed from a much more stilted show, and the girls also have a creepy male neighbor whom the show clearly wants to serve as a mildly eccentric sidekick. But if "Don't Trust" wanted the guy neighbor to work in that kind of capacity, he shouldn't have been masturbating when he introduced himself to June. Given that introduction, the character is just a little too icky.
Do I trust "the B" to be consistently pleasing? Who knows. She has a shifty look about her, and the show could prove itself to be nothing but a big bag of gimmicks that run out of steam over time. But I'm willing to go along for the ride for a while, because, in the three episodes, the Beek and his lady posse seemed kind of fun.
For more on "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23," read my colleague Jaimie Etkin's interview with James Van Der Beek.
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