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With the major exception of The Good Wife (CBS), there’s really not much that piques my interest on network television these days. Indeed, it increasingly seems as if everything and everyone with any originality or daring has migrated to cable. But, that being said, there is one new network show that, I must confess, has me a little excited: Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 (ABC, trailer), which debuts tonight at 9:30, right after Modern Family.
Why? In part because of the unusual title; in part because it has been endlessly promoted on ABC, its affiliated channels (ESPN, etc.), and in movie theater promos; and in part because it is attempting the tongue-in-cheek feat of having James Van Der Beek, the forgotten Dawson’s Creek (WB) alum (as in not Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, or Joshua Jackson), portray — you guessed it — James Van Der Beek.
But the show’s biggest draw for me, far and away, is the fact that it stars Krysten Ritter, the 30-year-old actress who I first noticed during season two of Breaking Bad (AMC), on which she portrayed Jane, the moody, drug-addicted, and — spoiler alert — ill-fated girlfriend of Jesse (Aaron Paul). In Apt. 23, as the show is destined to be called in PG-13 America, Ritter plays a city girl who repeatedly cons and crosses her naive new roommate (Dreama Walker, who played Becca, Alan Cumming‘s young nemesis, on The Good Wife). Ritter has described her character as “Holly Golightly and the devil combined.”
What impressed me most about Ritter on Breaking Bad, and in the lengthy promos that I’ve seen for Apt. 23, is her unmistakable, unflappable sense of self. Like Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel, she’s not a conventional beauty, but she’s much sexier than most who are because — I believe — of the striking contrast between her childlike, almost cartoonishly-cute appearance (pouting, big eyes, bangs, flowery dresses) and the very adult things that she says and does (and the comfort and confidence with which she does them).
Moreover, in the great tradition of Louise Brooks and Barbara Stanwyck, she has no problem doing whatever she wants and/or has to do to get by — such as turning on her inner daddy’s girl to avoid being sent to rehab in Breaking Bad and blatantly lying to and stealing from her roomie on Apt. 23 — and couldn’t really give a shit what you or anyone else thinks about it. In fact, the only thing that impresses her are people who prove that they have the gumption to navigate this crazy world as effectively and ruthlessly as she does.
In short, she is one of the first truly 21st century chicks on TV.
That, I appreciate, does not necessarily mean that Apt. 23 will turn out to be any good or survive very long. THR’s TV critic Tim Goodman called the show “fresh and funny, with fast-paced jokes and witty?cynicism in abundance,” but others have been less kind; one gossip columnist recently tweeted that it is “atrocious beyond belief” and urged people who might be thinking about watching it to instead “go outside, learn cupcake making,” or do anything but spend a half-hour each week watching the show.
If the latter opinion is proven right; it wouldn’t be the first time that the restrictive confines of network TV and/or just plain shitty writing have suffocated the talents of someone like Ritter. But make no mistake about it: one way or another, Ritter is here to stay for as long as she damn well pleases, just like the young women she plays.
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