By Kayla Upadhyaya, Senior Arts Editor
Published October 30, 2012
In only seven episodes last spring, “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23” proved its wit and singularity, earning a spot in the regular TV season lineup. It took TV tropes — Dreama Walker’s June is your typical tightly wound blonde, Krysten Ritter’s Chloe is the kooky comedic relief and James Van Der Beek plays himself as the vain douchebag found on just about any sitcom these days — and infused them with a cartoonish hyperbole and wackiness that’s simply irresistible. The show’s oddball voice is like nothing else on television.
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And now, it returns with a funeral. “Dawson’s Creek” ’s funeral, to be exact. Realizing he holds on too tightly to his past, JVDB piles memories of his Dawson days into a rowboat and lights it on fire. The funeral is most likely a wink from the writers signaling less reliance on “Creek”-fueled jokes for easy laughs. There are only so many times Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” can be used as a punchline — just kidding, that musical masterpiece is comedy gold, not to mention timeless.
So of course, the episode goes out with a bang. Literally, with the characters walking away from their past “as it explodes behind them like a John Woo movie.” But also with some of its best meta jokes to date, welcoming guest stars Busy Philipps and Frankie Muniz — hopefully the first of many self-parodying guests this season — into its whimsy.
The specificity of much of “Apartment 23” ’s humor makes it wonderfully bizarre, but can also be isolating. For those of us who are like the teen-drama-loving June, hearing JVDB muse on how Joshua Jackson is in love with him and listening to a pep talk from Mark-Paul Gosselaar (new goal: buy a shih-tzu and name it Dog-Paul Gosselaar) can be a near-religious experience. The rapid-fire references can get even more obscure than those of super-geeky “Community,” demanding expansive knowledge held by only crème de la crème Pop Culturatti. Those unfamiliar with the more obscure references are left feeling like that lame kid who’s on the outside of all the inside jokes.
But fortunately, “Apartment 23” also excels in more pervasive comedy — particularly of the visual nature — with the acid-tongued Chloe usually at the forefront of such antics. It’d be impossible not to melt into a fit of hysterics when Chloe ever so casually takes people out with tranquilizers.
Chloe is sadly underused in the pilot, but still lands the best lines (“You’re at a fame intervention sitting next to a hot-ass ho packing a tranq gun”). And her scarcity in the A-plot is a telltale sign of growth for the series, which can easily slip into the confines of a one-woman show. Much of the first season relied on Ritter’s deft handling of her character’s side-splitting insanity. But June and JVDB are at the forefront of “A Reunion … ”, and neither needs to lean too heavily on Chloe to elicit laugh attacks (though, “rack attacks” on the other hand … ).
It’s still a newborn by TV standards, but “Apartment 23” is growing up fast, and has already crafted some of its own inside jokes: The premiere calls back to the tastemaker trifecta, a gay Asian hipster (“Arigato, heeeeey!”).
But more importantly, “A Reunion ... ” begins to demolish some of the pigeonholes its characters found themselves slipping into in the show’s first few episodes, with June and JVDB essentially vying to become more developed characters. Walker and Van Der Beek are still overshadowed by Ritter’s scene-stealing splendor (or perhaps by Chloe’s “big-ass hat!”), but “Apartment 23” has time to secure its footing, and in the meantime, it’s still making us laugh-cry with its absurdity.