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The “B---- in Apartment 23” Is My New Best Frenemy

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We’re not just living in the golden age of television—we’re living in the golden age of the misanthrope. The dial is full of complicated characters—like House’s Dr. Gregory House, Mad Men’s Don Draper, Breaking Bad’s Walter White, most of the cast of Game of Thrones—who are unabashedly horrible people.
 
But they’re compellingly horrible people. They act like despicable jerks and we love them and give them Emmy Awards for it. These characters tend to be men, as if somehow a woman who acted purely out of self-interest could never be relatable or endearing, but now, on Don’t Trust the B—in Apartment 23, we may have found television’s first real female sociopath.
 
And she’s hilarious. And I want her to be my friend. Even though she’ll probably pawn my possessions and get me deported.


 
Apartment 23 is told through the eyes of June (Dreama Walker), a wide-eyed Indiana native who gets transplanted to New York City for the job of a lifetime. But after losing that job and her apartment in quick succession, she ends up living with Chloe, a beautiful, sociopathic, and indignantly narcissistic party girl played by Krysten Ritter.
 
Although boring June is actually a pretty worthy comic foil, this show belongs to the perfectly cast Ritter, whose dark good looks are a mesmerizing blend of seductive and menacing. Chloe has no boundaries, no morals, no rules, and no qualms about pushing people into traffic to get her way—yet she has a siren-like personality that never fails to draw in accomplices. Doesn’t everyone have a friend like that? A friend who makes that sixth shot of tequila sound like such a good idea. A friend who convinces you that she slept with your boyfriend for your sake, not hers. She’s like an adorable, cherubic Chuckie doll, or a spaniel who tells you to bludgeon your neighbors. But with a great wardrobe. If you don’t already have a pal who just might get you arrested, Chloe makes having one look awfully fun.
 
The show’s appeal isn’t just in Ritter’s performance as Public Frenemy #1. It also stars former heartthrob James Van Der Beek as himself—or rather as a deliciously douchebaggy version of himself. Van Der Beek’s former life on Dawson’s Creek is a constant source of meta humor for the show, which milks his formerly milquetoast persona for all its worth. It works. James Van Der Beek on Dancing With the Stars? James Van Der Beek teaching an acting class to a group of starstruck NYU students? James Van Der Beek seducing a bride at her own wedding? Yes. Although the first three episodes are heavy on the jokes and light on character development, the strength of this cast of bizarre-o misfits (including supporting players like the neighborhood pervert and the stalker down the hall) and the rich possibilities for the characters' backgrounds could be enough to sustain it for several seasons, even with such a clumsy title. After all, shows have survived on less.


 
With loads of quick flashbacks, pop culture references, dirty jokes (I give it three weeks before “panty hamster” gains traction), and reaction shots, the fast-paced comedy feels like a savvier How I Met Your Mother, or a bawdier Modern Family, or—dare I say it?—even a less wordy Arrested Development. It’s not often that a show trusts its writers and actors enough to draw comedy from simple reaction shots. Don’t Trust the B—in Apartment 23 does, and it’s weird, outrageous, politically incorrect, sometimes utterly wrong, and completely charming.
 
Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23 premieres tonight at 9:30 on ABC (or you can watch the first two episodes here). Either way, watch it. 


Photo credit: ABC

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