GCB: TV Review

GCB Pilot - H 2012
Bill Matlock/ABC
ABC’s frothy soap is a sprawling drama packed with sex, revenge and Christianity.

Leslie Bibb and Kristin Chenoweth star in the midseason entry from creator Robert Harling about a group of women who haven't changed much from high school.

No matter what ABC may say in public, it couldn’t be happier about all the fuss its latest drama, GCB, is going to generate. Not only because controversy always helps ratings; it really believes this show will be the one to replace Desperate Housewives in that high-gloss caricature way that seems to create hits.
Religious groups already are upset with GCB, which was originally titled Good Christian Bitches, then Good Christian Belles. The series is a comedic soap set in Dallas, revolving around a group of petty, churchgoing women who haven’t changed much since high school. When the “queen bitch” from high school, Amanda (Leslie Bibb), returns in shame and mourning to her mother’s home in Dallas, it’s payback time.

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Amanda matured into a nice, normal adult, living in California with her husband and two kids. But her husband was running a Ponzi scheme that ruined countless lives and, as the opening moments take pleasure in illustrating, was in the process of leaving his family to run off with Amanda’s best friend, who put her face in his lap on the winding ride out of town — just as he drove off the side of the road and was killed. As one of the GCBs notes later, the mistress “bit off more than she could chew.”
Yep, there’s not a whole lot of subtlety in GCB, but there isn’t supposed to be. Created and written by Robert Harling, the show mixes the Texas lifestyle, Christianity, sex, riches, envy, revenge and sass into a sprawling, larger-than-life drama.

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Amanda comes home to her rich, high-maintenance mother, Gigi (Annie Potts, who steals every scene she’s in), against her better judgment, and Gigi immediately starts meddling with Amanda’s kids. Across the street is Carlene “Kitten” Cockburn (Kristin Chenoweth), the new “queen bitch” who seeks revenge on Amanda for all the bad deeds she did in high school. Chenoweth is another scene-stealer who knows how to play heightened reality to the max. Carlene partners with Sharon (Jennifer Aspen), who was the thin gorgeous blonde in high school but now smothers her insecurities with food. Also in the mix are Cricket (Miriam Shor), a powerful businesswoman who had her high school boyfriend stolen by Amanda — who also spread a rumor that Cricket had herpes — and Heather (Marisol Nichols), who is the most sympathetic to Amanda and understands that she has changed. But as a real estate agent, Heather is too connected to Cricket and Carlene to sympathize openly without losing clients.

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Then there are the husbands: Cricket’s is gay, but she doesn’t know it. Sharon’s has always pined for Amanda. And there may be something mysterious about Carlene’s.
Translation: bubbles everywhere. There’s nothing held back. The sex jokes are over the top, the Bible-quoting and church-related issues are prevalent, and every character but Amanda seems like a stereotype — though Harling, who lives in the South, has said the show isn’t supposed to be a spoof or even a mockery of Dallas, its residents, its morals or its politics.
Not that it really matters. For people looking for the next Housewives, GCB could be the perfect replacement. And no doubt the controversy will drive the curious to check it out. Either way, GCB probably will strike it rich.
E-mail: Tim.Goodman@THR.com
Airdate: 10 p.m. Sunday, March 4 (ABC)
Creator: Robert Harling
Cast: Leslie Bibb, Annie Potts, Kristen Chenoweth, Jennifer Aspen, Miriam Shor, Marisol Nichols