Don't Trust the B-- in Apartment 23

Strong ensemble, wit and James Van Der Beek as BFF make this one to watch.

A perception persists -- dwindling but still lingering in a 52-week television season -- that a broadcast series launched by a network in late March or especially April is being burned off. Not so with ABC's surprisingly strong new sitcom Don't Trust the B-- in Apartment 23. Yes, like ABC's GCB, that "b" word was originally bitch. The name may be clunky (what's with ABC's bad titles?), but the show from creator Nahnatchka Khan is fresh and funny, with fast-paced jokes and witty cynicism.

The b-- is the apparently evil Chloe (wonderfully portrayed by Krysten Ritter, so good in Breaking Bad), a New Yorker with uncontained confidence and an impressive ability to wreak havoc (emotional and sometimes even physical). Her new roommate is June (Dreama Walker), just arrived from Indiana for the perfect job only to have the company go down in a Madoff-like scandal. Chloe's best friend is James Van Der Beek (playing himself), who is pretty damn awesome in this role, spoofing himself as well as the craft of acting. (If you've never seen Dawson's Creek, a lot of jokes will go over your head.)

Of course, one mean girl toughening up a city newbie isn't enough to sustain a sitcom. That's why Don't Trust the B--'s supporting cast is essential. Chloe's world -- which June finds "weird"-- revolves around a coffee joint. June's would-be boss is barista Mark (Eric Andre). Eli (Michael Blaiklock) first appears as Chloe's pervy neighbor, and by episode four -- yes, you should get there -- he becomes a favorite character with a full-on cult of personality. Slowly being developed are Liza Lapira as Chloe's stalker-devoted ex-roommate who lives down the hall and Ray Ford as Van Der Beek's dedicated assistant.

Khan's writing is strong and the tone is loose but confident, though some lines come preciously close to 2 Broke Girls (shudder). It helps that Ritter is magnetic, "JVDB" gets it and Walker's innocence cuts down on the snark.

Don't Trust the B-- in Apartment 23 will no doubt surprise people put off by the title and others who are just looking for an excellent comedy. Let's  hope that ABC is smart enough to keep this one around.

Airdate: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 (ABC)