GCB: (Please) Grow (Some) Comedy Balls

By Lily Sparks

Apr 09, 2012

GCB S01E06 and S01E07: "Turn the Other Cheek" and "Sex Is Divine"

I'm not gonna lie: I got real mad at GCB last night. It was really fingernails on a chalkboard by the end there. I had kind of been looking forward to the double-feature, but I went to bed, like, angry after finishing both episodes.

GCB is a fantastic comedy for people with no sense of humor. If you're not sure when or why you are supposed to laugh, if you find yourself baffled by shows like Curb your Enthusiasm or the British Office, GCB is your show. It will take your hand and lead you from joke to joke, shouting "LAUGH" in your face or directing the elfin Kristin Chenoweth to frantically mug so you know exactly when the writing is supposed to be funny.

It took seeing two episodes in a row for me to really get a handle on GCB. For a while I was trying to review it as objectively as possible, realizing it wasn't exactly my cup of tea but respecting the performers and glossy production and the often clever writing. There are good actors, there is good television structure, and there are bouts of clever dialogue, but the sum of the show is less than its parts. The characters, now a month in, are still two-dimensional, hateful cartoons and their imaginary problems have no stakes. A story about characters whose happiness hinges on their Gone With the Wind-themed vow-renewal ceremony does not resonate emotionally or rationally. And the fact they found out their license hadn't been filed and they weren't technically married? Sigh. Not only was this a plot on like, The Jetsons, but it had NO stakes. If I want to see mean, frivolous women argue over dumb, expensive parties, I'd turn to Real Housewives, because at least those ladies are funny.

So after weeks of Sharon's marriage almost dissolving, she was totally invested in being the Matron of Honor for a vow renewal ceremony? And heartbroken when the role went to Amanda? Like, shouldn't she be grateful to have the extra time to invest in her own tenuous relationship? It turned out she really wanted to carry a parasol, I guess, which is a great goal for a grown woman to have. Definitely worth a huge fight with your best friend, though I'm glad she and Carlene patched things up, I mean, THANK GOODNESS. I was so invested in these two self-centered, two-dimensional Punch and Judy dolls, I'm glad they'll continue being hateful frenemies. You know who else I worry about? That big floppy balloon guy outside my car wash. He stands there and waves at people while flapping back and forth in the wind and no one ever waves back at him! Things that are supposed to represent people—even in loose, theoretical ways—should be invested with emotions and truth by the audience, that's the audience's job, not the writers', right? Ugh.

I also think it was horrible that Amanda was driven to fulfill this role of Matron of Honor and go on expensive hunting trips and organize bridal showers to impress Carlene's brother. Because men: They love a party planner. Um, remember when Amanda used to have kids and was just trying to scrape together a life for her son and daughter? Are their lifeless bodies in a heap on the floor of Gigi's gun closet by now?

When the ladies went deer hunting, it occurred to me that this show could, with an entirely different filming style, be 300 percent funnier. Like, imagine if the scene had been filmed Friday Night Lights-style and instead of wearing weird camouflage cosplay costumes, the ladies just wore actual hunter's clothes and treated the expedition really seriously? Like a bunch of fancy ladies putting their frippery aside and having an honest hunting trip would have been kind of hilarious. Instead Amanda accidentally shot Carlene in the ass (paging Parks and Recreation! We found your hunting retreat plot, beat for beat, Parks and Recreation!) and Carlene was like, "NO not my PRECIOUS ASS! MUG FOR CAMERA MUG FOR CAMERA."

Carlene entered a room on crutches in a silk robe looking like she was doing her best Mink Stole impression and vamped around awkwardly and it was like, "You are not on a stage, Kristin Chenoweth, we are all 12 inches away from our TV sets." I love Chenoweth but they might as well just slap some paint and a red nose on her and let her shoot people with seltzer water. Are laughs the healing magic that is keeping her face so eerily wrinkle-free? Is that why she craves them so desperately? A very wise screenwriter once told me, your main character in a comedy should never try to be funny or think their problems are funny. They take everything that happens to them seriously, and that is what makes the humor work.

And this advice is even more relevant for GCB, which is trying to be a comedy-cum-soap, so it throws on an emotional hat once in a while and asks us to treat these hateful caricatures as real people. To have a character vamp like a clown while you fill her mouth with hypocritical, ignorant blather ("Carmelita! Take that trash to the poor people!") and then flip a switch and ask us to care about her relationships is unfair. The writers think they're entitled to us caring about these characters when they crank on the "touching" music, but emotional resonance has to be earned, not applied. So poo on this vow renewal. Also, remember how Gone With the Wind had a part of the book (AND movie) that represented the Klu Klux Klan as a dashing and important group of young heroes, and one of the main characters almost got killed "cleaning up" a shanty town of African Americans? Oh well, nevermind, let's just enjoy the pretty dresses!

Here I was with the best of all sorrow cures, a supply of Cadbury eggs, and I could not crack a smile throughout the second hour/episode. GCB is just such a hateful show, but I don't want to drench this site in negativity so I will whittle down the pages of rants that I scribbled during commercial breaks to two important points:

1. Having a gay man and his wife attempt to have sex is only titillating to people with zero sense of empathy. I would expect a gay guy to be about as interested in having sex with a woman as I would be interested in having sex with a cat (no disrespect, cats, but I am NOT INTERESTED). It was ludicrous that two people considering a surrogate, who have a JET that is decorated like a house, would not lay down the $10,000 or so for in vitro fertilization or the $2 for a turkey baster to sidestep having to bump uglies. Their clownish attempts to sex each other up were truly awkward and completely unnecessary.

2. This show wants so badly to be a satire but it does not have the brains or the courage necessary to satirize anything. It's afraid of alienating its Christian viewers, so it swings between depicting Christians as bigoted exclusionists (Carlene trying to create a condo complex that will only rent to Christians) and portraying them as unrealistically progressive (the pastor giving a sermon challenging all couples, married or not, to have sex every day for a week). In place of saying anything meaningful about the politics or religion of Texas, it just sticks in an Obama reference or a jab about Christianity into a conversation apropos of nothing.

You can almost see the writing room laughing with glee at the "chances" they're taking in seeding this candy-colored "soap" with nasty gibes. Characters we're supposed to like routinely drop provocative statements that the show quickly passes by without addressing or fleshing out, and it comes across as the dirty thumbprints of creators who want to be edgy, but not if it costs them a paycheck. Writing a toothless episode about unrealistic, inhuman reactions to themes as universal as sex and babies and then weaving in a few statements about how Christians don't believe in science is not satire, it's cowardice. Either have the integrity to let your "we think Christians are crazy" flag fly, or find another subject, because trying to grab the ratings of a Christian majority while spitting in their faces makes this show look incredibly mean-spirited and also muddles the basic storytelling.

Anyway, Carlene started a purity group to counteract the "have sex for a week" edict of her pastor and even put together a "heck house" to scare the young'uns, because back in her day she was a MAJOR SLUT and she's afraid her son is going to have sex with Amanda's daughter (Amanda's daughter is alive! No word on the brother, though). Amanda started working for the pastor. We learned the Eater has regular sex with her husband, who seems to hate sex about as much as he hates her, but luckily it was only his flagging business causing the marital ennui, and they turned it around when they decided to start selling her baskets of Biblically inspired diet food as a diet program called "Losing It with Jesus." Happy Easter y'all!

GCB needs to figure out what it wants to be and effing focus. If it wants to be a comedy, it needs to start being funny. If it wants to be an escapist,soapy delight, like the amazing Revenge, it needs to stop mugging for the audience and focus on drama and building an interconnected web of personal relationships. If it wants to be a satire of politics and religion in Texas, it needs to do some damn homework and then grow some balls and make those statements. But right now it's a puzzling mix of half-baked elements that together are awful, like a hot dog and cherry pie. It took all of last night's two new episodes to make me realize some of my displeasure with this show, but like a kid who was forced to smoke a whole box of cigarettes, there's a terrible taste left in my mouth.


– Did you enjoy the GCB marathon and do you think I am just sooo stupid because I don't get how amaaaazing this show is?

– Have you ever been to Texas?

– Define "satire" and give two good examples.

– What are the differences and similarities between GCB and Dallas?

– Is GCB just "wealth porn"?

– Does GCB assume Christians are too stupid to pick up on the contempt the show has for them?

  • Comments (29)
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  • michenorris Apr 10, 2012

    I have to agree with some of this, but I didn't watch the episodes back to back... so I didn't find it overwhelmingly terrible. The two things I found myself wondering were:

    1. Amanda was a "Teen Mom" but her kids seem to be the same age as everyone else's kids.. were they all "Teen Moms"?


    2. Does Gigi's hair get bigger each episode?

  • LilyRoRoSparks Apr 10, 2012

    HA! Her beehive definitely morphs with her mood and yes, its getting extended further and further back at a weird angle. I love Annie Potts so much...I hope this gets her another show to be in Also you're right...the kids are roughly the same age. But the other women aren't discussing being teen moms...similar issue: Kristen Chenoweth and Leslie Bibb the same age? hmmm.

  • safibwana Apr 10, 2012

    Was the attempt at sex supposed to be titillating? I thought it was supposed to be funny.

  • LilyRoRoSparks Apr 10, 2012

    I don't know but the Chinese drugs reaction scene...they might as well have been hitting themselves on the heads with rubber hammers a la Three Stooges redux...

  • thesinginghero Apr 10, 2012

    GCB has its moments, but it's true that it can be really over the top sometimes. However, in my opinion, the good outweighs the bad (so far). After watching the first episode, I was almost sure that Cricket and Blake would try to get her pregnant another way than the old-fashioned. I mean, my dad is gay and while he was married to my mother (pretending to be straight) he had me and my brother, so yes, it is possible for a gay man to have sex with a woman. It just seems weird to me that Cricket and Blake would do that when they're BOTH aware of his sexual orientation. I mean, why torture yourself? There are plenty of modern day solutions that could make Blake the father, without him and Cricket actually having to sleep together.

  • danbuffyfan Apr 10, 2012

    If u don't like don't watch. 'Nuff said

  • LilyRoRoSparks Apr 10, 2012

    If you purged all the negative reviews off the internet, I don't know what you'd have left...certainly we'd be less a lot of my favorite things I've ever read.

  • PennyJordan1 Apr 10, 2012

    First, Who hurt you?? Seriously so negative, maybe someone else should review this show?.... Just saying....

    GCB is a piece of fluff with a real heart (Cricket). Personally I agree that Amanda is insipid and her "struggle" very quickly devolved into shenanigans. However, I'm Irish so I take it as an American satire and maybe the whole Americans are hypocritical, pompous and ridiculous thing doesn't play well on home turf.

  • mishagirl Apr 10, 2012

    Ive been getting into this show the past few episodes. I was pleasantly surprised two aired last night. I thought it was entertaining...

  • GeraldC7 Apr 10, 2012

    - Ugh, what's with the annoying trend that TV.com has of making people review shows that they clearly don't like?

    - As for the show, I'm really enjoying it and I enjoyed the marathon. I'm happy it's finding an audience and there's been some good word of mouth (look at how it was trending on Twitter yesterday)

    - I really think they show has been hitting its stride with the right amount of comedy and "drama".

    - It seems real clear to me what the show is and you should take for what it is. It's over the top, quirky and hilarious comedy with some dramatic elements ( much like to some extent Desperate Housewives) I think its pretty clear what is: an enjoyable and fun comedy. You're just taking it too seriously. I think it's a dark comedy and a ridiculously funny, cleverly written portrait of some truly zany character.

    - As for the characters, they have managed to slowly turn the characters into real individuals with heart. Carlene and Sharon are bit cartoonish, but Amanda, Cricket, Blake and Gigi are very much grounded.

    - The best part of the show continues to be the dynamic between Cricket and Blake and Annie Pott's character.

    - I do have a sense of humor and I think the show is hilarious, particularly Gigi and the one liners.

    - In a sense, this show reminds me of Suburgatory. The show is really funny and you seem to really like it, even though (excluding Tessa and George) the situations and characters are quite cartoonish.

  • stanking Apr 10, 2012

    Ugh, what's with the annoying trend of commenters b**ching because reviews aren't glowing puff pieces?

    It's not an unpaid commercial for the show; it's a review.

  • withoutcanseco Apr 10, 2012

    ugh, what's with the annoying trend of people defending tv.com commentors because people dislike their reviews and say something about it?

  • stanking Apr 10, 2012

    Just so we're clear, I'm defending TV.COM's policy, and the review, not Lily in particular. I hated last week's redneck-styled review, but I think the tendency to attack a critical reviewer -- and not the review itself -- because you like the show is short-sided and self-centered.

    Disagreeing with the review is absolutely legitimate; the leap to say that only those who like a show -- in effect, those who have the same predisposition for it that you do -- should produce reviews is abysmally stupid. If a show has serious flaws, the reviewer should be able to comment on that without having to wrap it in a candy shell.

    In essence, when a review doesn't agree with your impression, it isn't an attack on you. It's not personal, and the response shouldn't be personal either. If you disagree with the review, say so. But requiring the reviewer to agree with you means you're really not interested in anyone else's opinion, just a confirmation of your own, and TV.COM was never meant to be a form of mental masturbation.

  • LilyRoRoSparks Apr 10, 2012

    Two thumbs up on this comment, you're making this point far better than I could so thank you. Its important to be able to speak freely about a show.

  • skyermay00 Apr 10, 2012

    Maybe they just couldn't find a TV reviewer who likes this show...just sayin'

  • LilyRoRoSparks Apr 10, 2012

    I think they'd be hard pressed to find anyone on staff who would react more positively to this show than I...just saying.

  • evafan2005 Apr 10, 2012

    "Did you enjoy the GCB marathon and do you think I am just sooo stupid because I don't get how amaaaazing this show is?"

    No offense, but I found that line to be rather condescending to people who enjoy the show. I WAS a fan of your reviews but your last couple of entries have turned me off.

  • LilyRoRoSparks Apr 10, 2012

    It was not my intention to sound condescending, I would never condescend to anyone who does me the courtesy of reading one of my reviews, so I'm genuinely sorry if that came across...however, I do think there's a tendency for people to take it *very pesonally* when their opinion of a show doesn't match with a reviewers. Full transparency: as I said one review, the majority of my extended family is Texan, with some in the Dallas area, and they are a far, far cry from the often bigoted/small minded/science-denying folks portrayed in this show. The show is in fact quite condescending to them.

  • bkyle2429 Apr 10, 2012

    GCB was awesome both hours, GCB is a great period, never been to Texas

    A text or performance that uses irony, derision, or wit to expose or attack human vice, foolishness, or stupidity. examples

    songs of wierd AL and the movies of Austin Powers

    THE ONLY THING THAT GCB AND DALLAS HAVE IS TEXAS and the other 2 ?'s just have no barring

  • AmericanInfidel Apr 10, 2012

    There's really not that much of an audience for vicious anti Christian bigots. It's a small but very vocal group.

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