Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 with James Van Der Beek: Episode 1 Review

by Matt D

I think the title of a programme is almost as important as its overall quality, as it conjures up certain expectations about what the show’s going to be like. It also has to be easy to say which for me is what hinders Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 as it such a mouthful to both say and type so it does make me wonder why they changed it from the original title of simply Apartment 23. From the title change and the theme song, which both obscure the word bitch in some way, it’s playing up the controversial nature of the show however I don’t really see a need to do this as the first scene has Krysten Ritter’s Chloe seducing her roommate’s fiancée, as they prepare to have sex on top of her birthday cake. The reasons for this seduction, as well as why Dreama Walker’s June is happy about this betrayal, are explained in a backstory that takes us back to a week prior.

At that time June has just moved from Indiana to New York after securing a job with Buchman Mortgages, who have also set her up with a swanky new apartment. Journeying to her new place of work she is dismayed to find that the company has been shut down by the government after they found out that the boss had been embezzling millions of dollars from investors while in addition to this her new apartment has also been repossessed. Forced to find a new place to stay in the city she meets various freaks, including a pole-dancing grandmother and a man who has dozens of cats, before finally finding Chloe who she believes to be her ideal roommate however as we’ve already learnt this girl isn’t as whiter than white as she makes out.

June is then confronted by Robin who lives across the hall, and who as we learn later is obsessed with Chloe, who uses the show’s title to forewarn her about her new roommate. It soon seems that Chloe is trying to antagonise June by using various tactics, such as walking around naked and using the toilet why June is in the bath, to make her new roommate want to leave the flat. Eventually we find out that Chloe is indeed a schemer who over-charges rent to innocent small-town girls who move to the city before acting so inappropriately that they want to move out. We also discover that her only real friend and confident is James Van Der Beek best known on these shores, and everywhere else for that matter, as Dawson from Dawson’s Creek.

Yes apart from the mismatched roommates plot, which we’ll get back to in a minute, the programme’s other big selling point is that Van Der Beek appears regularly as a sleazier version of himself, who uses his most famous character to ensnare vulnerable women who grew up loving the character. Of course Van Der Beek’s role here is almost identical to the one Matt Le Blanc plays in Episodes as both are still cashing in on the character that they’re best known for while struggling to overcome the stigma of being part of such a popular show. In the case of James we first see him on the phone as he has a potential conquest over we hear that he is playing the memorable theme music while she is trying to convince him to wear on of Dawson’s trademark flannel shirts before eventually enticing him to bed by wearing a whipped-cream bikini which is a reference to his role in Varsity Blues. There are also plenty of in-jokes about his floundering career as we see a mocked-up energy drink commercial that he filmed in Vietnam while in addition he mentions filming a straight-to-TV movie with Kevin Sorbo who is best known for playing TV’s Hercules. Thankfully Van Der Beek’s role amounts to more than just self-referential in-jokes as he is there to represent that Chloe isn’t a completely one-dimensional bitch as he often sticks up for her being a good friend if not possessing, in his own words, the morals of a pirate.

Back to the main story and after Chloe reveals that she charged June a lot more rent than she should’ve done June takes revenge by selling all of Chloe’s furniture to Robin. June starts to regret this when Chloe tells her that she has sold an ottoman which is the only piece of furniture she cared about as it reminds her of her deceased grandmother and incidentally it is the only item that June had to sell on as she was allergic to it. After June uses threats to convince the family that Chloe’s instability will be unleashed if they don’t return the ottoman their opinions of each other change and they briefly form a truce despite June learning that the main reason that Chloe wanted the item of furniture returned was that she had been stashing illegal drugs within it. Even though the two have become sort-of-friends June feels that Chloe is lying to her when she discovers that June’s fiancée Steven has been cheating on her with multiple women. In the end the only way Chloe can prove this is to seduce Steven herself, which we’ve already witnessed in the opening scene, before Steven’s mistress reveals the truth. The episode ends with the two sharing drinks at the local bar which of course Chloe doesn’t pay for before the pair run-out their friendship officially cemented.

The sitcom that Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 could most be compared is 2 Broke Girls, which incidentally will be paired up with it on E4 later tonight, as both feature mismatched roommates who form a begrudging respect for one another. After watching the first episode of this show I feel that it has more going for it for one thing it has more of an edge and I feel the two actresses here have a better understanding of comic timing plus they just bounce off each other better. I’m glad that Krysten Ritter finally has a chance to showcase her talents after years of recurring parts in TV shows and ‘best friend’ roles in romantic comedies this programme demonstrates her comic prowess presenting us with a character who on the surface is just a bitch but has hidden depths which come out towards the end of this episode. That’s not taking anything away from Dreama Walker who gives as good as she gets going from wide-eyed country girl to street-smart New York chick in just handful of scenes her diminutive stature is also well-used in order to present a contrast between her and Ritter. As I mentioned earlier Van Der Beek’s role in the programme provides the most laughs however he is also good in the role of Chloe’s only real friend that is until June comes along. The programme though is far from perfect as it tries to cram in way too much plot into this opening episode and some of the supporting characters, such as Robin as well as the perverted Peeping Tom Eli who regularly masturbates over Chloe, are very one-dimensional plus there’s that title which I feel I’ve wittered on about long enough.

Overall there are enough decent jokes in Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 to keep you going as well as the promise of better structured episodes as the series goes on. I feel it’s unfair to judge the show on this opening episode alone as it had a lot of work to do in getting June to Apartment 23 as well as turning her and Chloe from foes into friends. The two actresses both excel in their roles sharing both a great chemistry and bouncing off each other splendidly while Van Der Beek is on hand to provide some of the programme’s funniest lines. While it tries too hard to push the boundaries at times, such as with it’s overlong title, I’m sure given time this programme will be able to iron out its rough edges to become a fairly decent yet edgy American sitcom.

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