The letters GCB could stand for Greek Continental Basketball. Or Garish Curtain Buttons. Or Gigantic Cans of Botox.
But when we're talking about ABC's GCB, they unfortunately form an acronym for Good Christian B—, um, we can't write the word, actually. Not here. And that is, perhaps, as good a place as any to begin our Gently Churlish Broadside.
When the series was first announced, it didn't have letters for a title. It spelled out the whole insult. As time went by and the inevitable controversy bloomed, its Mouse House network turned the b-word into Belles, then just B. (Commercials still sneak in a reference to "Good Christian …," censoring the last word with the gong of a church bell.) Outspoken Christian Kristin Chenoweth fills the role of one of the show's leads. And producer Robert Harling went on the record, to Entertainment Weekly, saying that he had no intention of mocking Christianity:
"The church is the center. Church is sacred. There are rules. You have to be respectful of those rules and the joy of it watching these people try to function within these rules. The goal is to watch these people try to be good. What we emphasize is that we will never ever look at this in any other way than the most respectful as possible. We will never ever be disrespectful."
Does GCB live up to his promise? Read on.
A quick plot summary: Amanda Vaughn and her two teenage kids return to her mother's home in Dallas (from Los Angeles) after Amanda's hubby dies in a crime- and scandal-ridden car crash. It's an uncomfortable homecoming. Amanda's mom's got more money than sense or discretion. "God often speaks to me through Christian Dior," she purrs. And Amanda herself was queen-bee mean girl back in high school, prompting a bevy of her former "friends"—led by Chenoweth's Carlene Cockburn—to look for a little payback. Never mind that Amanda's "changed" (or, at least, she tells us she's changed), Carlene's biblical focus remains more serpent than dove, more smiting than forgiving.
"If memory serves, even Jesus hung out with whores and thieves," Amanda tells Carlene.
"Not in my neighborhood He didn't," Carlene snaps back.
GCB's knowledge of Christianity seems to be rather, um, loose. But its grasp of the ugliness of hypocrisy is as tight as Carlene's surgically enhanced face. Carlene and her cohorts are miserable ninnies who talk about serving God but are shown time and time again to be little more than slaves of their own small minds. But GCB is itself bound by hypocrisy. Examples: 1) Amanda, the supposed bad-girl-turned-good, still seems like a bad girl much of the time. Both she and Carlene fling veiled barbs while "praying" in church, though the show's writers seem to want the audience to "tsk-tsk" Carlene and give a rousing "atta girl" for Amanda. 2) Amanda is horrified when her mother, Gigi, pushes Laura (Amanda's teenage daughter) into a cleavage-baring getup. But then Amanda takes a job at a Hooter's-like establishment called Boobylicious and wears a short-and-flimsy lingerie-dress to a social event, she slams Carlene for judging her.
The series is clearly more concerned with backstabbing and bling than anything resembling message or consistency. Is it trying to demean your faith too? Or just the "faith" of its characters? Does this onscreen gaggle show up at church on Sunday to worship? Or just to flaunt their fancy dresses? And how much does it even matter when there are so many other reasons not to give much weight to what it thinks?
In GCB's Dallas, cleavage is the new black: Everyone who has it bares it. Frequent sexual jokes and double entendres are unabashedly horrible—both in terms of their explicit ickiness and their painfully obvious setups. Alcohol flows fast and furious, with Gigi even teaching Will (Amanda's young teen son) how to mix drinks. Husbands and wives cheat with regularity, and one hubby carries on a homosexual relationship with his ranch foreman. Profanities dot episodes like stars in the Texas sky.
If this show's initials stood for Gleefully Crisp Brie and it never uttered a cross word about Christianity, we'd still think a better meaning for GCB would be Grab that Clicker, Boy!
(Or Get a Cinder Block.)
Gigi begins tutoring grandson Will in how to mix drinks and pushes granddaughter Laura into a sultry makeover—marveling at the girl's breasts: "Hers are real!" she says. "That's going to save you some money, missy." She and almost everyone else drink frequently while justifying their indulgences with Bible verses. Amanda, apparently the only "unsaved" girl in the group, has been sober for 18 months. And she protests Gigi taking her kids to church. "I encouraged them to find their own spirituality," she says. Before the episode wraps, a whole slew of Bible verses are quoted and misquoted.
A married man makes an aggressive pass at Amanda, forcibly kissing her. Another married man is having a homosexual relationship. Carlene and her husband gear up to have sex on his desk. Amanda's husband runs away with her best friend and millions of his investors' dollars. Then, when his mistress gives him oral sex during the getaway (we see her head disappear below the doorframe), he crashes the car in spectacular fashion.
Raunchy sexual jokes intersect with the prayers, referencing oral sex and evoking the f-word (without actually using it). "B‑‑ch" is used demeaningly at least four times, "a‑‑" once, "h‑‑‑" twice and "d‑‑n" once. God's name is inappropriately interjected several times. Girls wear revealing dresses, Hooters-style outfits and (in a yearbook photo) a bikini. They lie, spy, cheat, mislead, backstab and manipulate.