Believe it or not, we don't like being overly cruel to the entertainment we review.
Sure, we strive to be honest and, of course, cautionary. But we also try to find the kernels of goodness in whatever we watch: "Yes, he's a mad scientist determined to take over the world by use of vampire zombies," we might say, "but he does seem to love his cat."
Alas, some television shows these days force us to talk about their inflammatory content before we're even done reading their titles. CBS' $#*! My Dad Says (now cancelled) implies profanity in its first word. ABC's GCB (which stands for "Good Christian B‑‑ches," and was also, perhaps tellingly, cancelled), turns it into an acronym.
Should we then make a positive note out of the fact that Don't Trust the B‑‑‑‑ in Apt 23 waits nearly a half-sentence before hitting us with vulgarity?
Well … before we start slapping backs and chortling, "Yay, ABC! The first three words in your sitcom title were family friendly!" let us offer this caution: While $#*! My Dad Says was less problematic than its title suggested, Don't Trust the B‑‑‑‑ in Apt 23 is actually far more.
The series centers around two young women living in New York City. June is a naive 26-year-old transplant from Indiana who hopes to take Sinatra's advice and make it in the Big Apple. Chloe is the stereotypically cynical, slimy and slightly psychotic New Yorker who, despite her lack of ethics or morals or human decency, still sometimes means well. Or at least sometimes doesn't mean ill.
And that's about the best we can say of the (ahem) not nice woman in Apt. 23.
Her series, meanwhile, rarely has a problem-free minute of airtime. If Chloe's not walking around the apartment completely naked, then we've got to deal with Eli, who masturbates as he watches the girls from a nearby window. If Eli's not in the picture, chances are Luther—the homosexual fashion guru of Chloe's "straight gay BFF" James Van Der Beek—is reciting some ooky double entendre.
But, really, Chloe would be an issue even if she was the only character behaving badly here. She drinks and sleeps around and lies and sells illicit Chinese sexual energy pills and steals money and absconds with flowers meant for cancer survivors. Obviously viewers aren't supposed to applaud her for any of this bad behavior: She is, of course, the title character. No one is likely to mistake her for a role model.
That's hardly enough to salvage the show, though, centered as it is on one of television's most shallow, carnal, self-absorbed and plain ol' wicked characters.
In this case, the end just doesn't justify the mean.
"Whatever It Takes"
Chloe gets June a job at a prestigious investment firm by sleeping with the firm's owner's mentally impaired (adult) son. But Chloe was drunk at the time, and June worries that if Chloe ever sees the guy while sober, they'll break up and June'll lose the job. So she endeavors to keep Chloe drunk and, when that doesn't work, plies her roomie with a mind-blowing concoction made from pomegranate juice and expired nasal spray.
June's conscience finally gets the better of her, and she quits the job. But not before she practically pours liquor down Chloe's throat and resigns herself to going to hell for her horrid actions. We later learn that Chloe is willing to date the guy anyway (even though he's married and has a son) because he's rich. In the process, the man's disability turns into a huge jokey punching bag.
We see Chloe drunkenly slicing off a guy's belt as they kiss in a nightclub kitchen. Out of control, she punches a stranger's cake. June is shown in bed with and her beau. Characters make extremely crass references to sex and sexual body parts. Chloe tells June that to get a job she'll have to display her breasts more prominently and not wear panties. We see bikini-clad women on a computer monitor. Characters wear revealing dresses.
James wonders whether God hates him. Gags revolve around food addiction and bribes. Oh, and of course Chloe's not the only one who drinks. We hear people say "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑" and "d‑‑n." God's name is misused. Cain tells James that he's flipping him a mental bird.
June begins dating again—wearing, among other things, red underwear to attract a hot new man. But Chloe labels them "granny panties"—and we're supposed to laugh about how unrevealing they are. Chloe sets her up … with her dad. It's a sordid factoid June doesn't discover until she's already started making out with him.
Chloe's dad, it turns out, is still married to her (wheelchair-bound) mom … something June doesn't find out until after she's, in her words, "dry rubbed for hours" with him (while naked under the sheets).
We hear crass references to homosexuality, see Eli's sex doll and hear about how Van Der Beek will try to make the world a happier place by sleeping with "one Russian [woman] at a time." We see June in a shower from the shoulders up. Eli lets loose a crass double entendre involving Winnie the Pooh.
Chloe gargles with liquor (a technique she calls a "hooker's toothbrush"). She pushes her father into an oncoming cyclist and claims her mother's addicted to painkillers. Characters say "b‑‑ch," "d‑‑n" and "h‑‑‑" (once each). They misuse God's name at least a half-dozen times.
June's New York roommate, Chloe, is out to trick her, scam her and send her packing. June retaliates, selling Chloe's furniture. And that small burst of meanness seems to win Chloe over. So the two (sort of) make up ... enough for June to stay, anyway.
We soon learn that Chloe traffics in illicit drugs she says make users "extremely focused and super slutty." Which sets the stage for this: Chloe walks around nude (covered onscreen only by pixelation). She has sex with June's fiancé (to prove he's cheating). We see both Chloe and the fiancé tear off clothes, lick tongues and guzzle champagne. Chloe also invites June to participate in a four-way (and we see a man move suggestively on the top of Chloe). Meanwhile, neighbor No. 1, Eli, leers and masturbates, his hands just below his windowsill. And neighbor No. 2, Robin, is obsessed and infatuated with Chloe. A Van Der Beek groupie is seen wearing only a "bikini" made out of shaving cream. Some of June's other prospective roommates include a pole dancer who shows off her legs and a guy who says that perhaps the two can become lovers.
Chloe gets a 13-year-old boy drunk to make him "talk." (He throws up on the floor.) We hear references to homosexuality, pedophilia, masturbation and a very crass word picture describing sex. The script mocks a Christian camp. Characters drink heavily and say things like "b‑‑ch" and "h‑‑‑" (five or six times each), and "a‑‑" (once). God's name is misused a half-dozen times.