GCB: Good Campy Bitches

GCB S01E01: "Pilot"

The road to national television has not run smooth for GCB, ABC's latest female-friendly goofball drama which premiered last night. The original title Good Christian Bitches once alienated a chunk of their audience and the new acronym GCB puzzles everyone. Christian groups, already leery of the show, probably aren't won over by the irreverent promos. I'm sure many viewers sat down last night poised to turn the the channel if things got either too preachy or too sacrilegious.

For all the theological fervor, the show itself is very light hearted and firmly tongue-in-cheek, soapy comedy, and the practiced hand of the producer (Sex in the City tastemaker Darren Star) and writer/producer Robert Harling (of unimpeachable Steel Magnolias fame) is told in both the tight script and very directed actors. Not a word or hair or high heel is out of place, and from its high-energy opening of Amanda Vaughn's husband sailing off a cliff while getting some Southern comfort to fist-pumping dance music, GCB moved cheerfully along, hitting its marks with the practiced poise and pasted-on smile of a pageant contestant.

The slightly macabre beginning was a good way to set the tone: don't take anything too seriously. Protagonist Amanda, dragged unwillingly back to her hometown with her now-fatherless children, could barely tell them they were about to rebuild their lives without a doberman pinscher providing the first hard laugh of the evening. Amanda, played by Leslie Bibb, did the beautiful, open minded and humbled California girl bit perfectly, and yet had enough edge to make the audience believe she could have been a mean girl in high school. Annie Potts, playing Gigi, the mother Amanda returns home to, simply lights up the screen. Not only does she look incredible, she was the only actor last night who made her punchy dialogue sound natural and off the top of her head, more commendable because they gave her a series of zingers.

Kristin Chenowith's acting is much more stylized. The actress knows comedy, and her physicality and her deadpans are hysterical, but overall her Carlene was, ironically, a bit too large. It would make sense that an actress who started on Broadway would play to the balcony, but she and her coven of rich, bitchy Dallas friends are weirdly cartoonish against the more subdued Amanda and Gigi. I'm sure that's in no small part because the two groups are kept pretty insulated from each other in the pilot, but I wish when we had first met them the ladies had seemed confident, forgiving, and more human. Their buzz of insecurity at Amanda's arrival, and upon first meeting her at church, had about as much subtlety as the Tex Avery wolf. Between that and the fact all their husbands surrounded Amanda her first Sunday back at church, its kind of like she's already "won." Though they spent the episode blocking her efforts to get a job and literally spying on her (with a giant telescope) They could have progressed to the heightened level by the final confrontation at the Longhorn Ball, and we would have gotten a sense that Amanda's return had shaken up their world. Instead, these are unstable, cartoonish shrews who are looking for anything to freak out about. That doesn't make them very worthwhile opponents for a protagonist I like as much as Amanda.

After returning home, Amanda gets a series of lavish gifts from a secret admirer, devastating the already insecure frenemies who scramble to figure out who the admirer is (and if he is in fact one of their husbands.) Meanwhile, Amanda looks fruitlessly for a job so she can leave her mother's palatial estate and raise her kids without her mom's interference. The flamboyant Gigi is Auntie Maming those kids up, teaching one how to do cocktails and one how to cocktease. (JK, couldn't resist the word play, don't really believe in cockteasing as a concept.)

Of course, the once-bullied Carlene & Co. have used their influence to ensure Amanda will not be able to find a job or a decent place to move. Amanda, desperate, decides to take waitressing work down at a Hooters-type bar. I'm sorry, Leslie Bibb is supposed to be a mother of two with those hips? More power to her. At the Longhorn ball later that evening, Carlene and company confront her about her racy new job, telling her it runs counter to the moral fiber of their community.

Amanda, in a stunning speech, reeled off some facts about Dallas having the most churches per capita AND the most strip clubs! A good comment both on the appeal of something when its forbidden and the dichotomy of the setting. She then scored even more points when she got up in church and revealed that the boob-centric bar she works at is owned by Carlene. CARTOON FACE OF DISPLEASURE BY CARLENE!

This conclusion neatly skewered Carlene's hypocrisy, but does the combination of Church-to-strip club factoids and Carlene's character kind of infer that Christians are inevitably hypocrites? The Bible-quoting Carlene is by far the most devious character and the most outwardly devout. Are we supposed to chuckle at her hypocrisy or take her as a stand-in for every cross-wearing Bible Belter? While American Christians can hardly demand the same protections as minority religions, if there is no positive example of a devotee, the show risks shifting tone from bubbly and naughty to targeted aggression.

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely right-wing Christian-themed groups that need targeting, badly, and who viciously target others with no apologies (hello people protesting military funerals! Still evil? Just checking!). But there's also a majority who not only live and let live but honestly try to be a force for good in the world. I'd be really sad if this show made a point of putting Christian in its title and then excised all the positive aspects of faith, like believers that feel passionately about contributing to the well-being of others and social progression. Of course, it would also be a turn off if they got up there and preached. This is why houses of worship in general are so rarely seen on TV, they're an intrusion into the secular contract we make with television. Good entertainment makes us think without telling us how to think, and the business of religion is to structure our thoughts and convince us to believe.

Okay, I'll quit preaching and get back to the show itself. Amanda finds out Gigi was the secret admirer all along, and they love each other, and they're going to make it through this together. So Annie Potts is not only the comic heart of the show, she's the emotional heart as well. If the long term arc is an estranged mother and daughter coming back together, I'm on board, but if it weren't for Potts' natural warmth the connection would have felt seriously underdeveloped, given Amanda's apparent hatred and distrust of her mother. The more soapy elements–the philandering husbands (straight and gay), the business drama that never seems to take place in an office, the two women struggling for social domination–these are tropes right out of Dynasty, and if the show can keep them fresh, they're tried and true foundations on which to build an escapist world of scandal.

Altogether, the show was frothy and had funny moments and amazing clothes, and has plenty of potential, but I can't give it a full-hearted endorsement yet. The four-episode test will definitely be required for GCB. Hopefully the actors will get on the same page about tone, maybe tamp down the clownish female stereotypes a bit, and ramp up the Texan charm. It's entirely possible this glossy and fun show will inherit the Desperate Housewives audience it so clearly seeks, but a lot will depend on keeping a beating heart under all that campy spangled Western wear.

GCQUESTIONS

…Do you think mean girls in high school ever really change?

…Did you think Carlene and her circle were fun and saucy, or shrewish and stereotypical?

Leslie Bibb: seriously hot stuff, yes?

…Is television and religion always a weird mix or did Touched By An Angel change your life?

…What did you think of the GCB pilot?

Comments (30)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Mar 13, 2012
I'm a Christian and I did not find the show offensive. it was not great but was quite entertaining.
Reply
Flag
Mar 11, 2012
I'm a Christian and a television viewer. I turned the show off after about 20 minutes. I didn't find it hypocritical or offensive, just boring and WAY over the top. The only performance that didn't seem forced and superficial was Annie Potts. If I'm trapped in the house with no books to read or DVDs to watch and no computer access, I might consider watching another episode, but for now, I have better uses for my time.
Reply
Flag
Mar 09, 2012
Don't know yet. I love Annie Potts and Kristen Chenoweth so I'll probably watch another episode to see. I loved Pan Am though and disappointed that this seems to be its replacement. Why would they ax Pan Am? Such a nice show. I'm disappointed that they may not be renewing it.
Reply
Flag
Mar 08, 2012
Breakout Kings was recorded after AXMen, no room on dvr for GCB at 9. I love Hulu and GCB however! lol
Reply
Flag
Mar 08, 2012
I loved GCB except to for it Sunday and 9pm Central time slot against ComicMen . I know every type of personality from GCB and it is right on same attitude as Carlton from this season's Survivor! Sadly he is serious, these ladies were actresses. lol I love seeing Annie back on TV . yay
Reply
Flag
Mar 08, 2012
Do you think mean girls in high school ever really change? I don't think so.



Did you think Carlene and her circle were fun and saucy, or shrewish and stereotypical? I think they were all of the above and I love it.



Leslie Bibb: seriously hot stuff, yes? Hell yeah. And for some reason, I realized she was really tall. I never noticed that before.



Is television and religion always a weird mix or did Touched By An Angel change your life? It's a weird mix only if they go across a line.



What did you think of the GCB pilot?
Reply
Flag
Mar 08, 2012
I watched it with some reluctance. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it and wished it was two hours long.



Keep it coming>
Reply
Flag
Mar 08, 2012
We LOVED IT!!! I didn't know this show was to be "all about religion" I thought it was about entertainment!! Ya all take things to dang seriously. Just enjoy it for what it's worth folk!

Just my thoughts.
Reply
Flag
Mar 08, 2012
I really like this show. I did not expect to and almost did not watch it. However I found it to be hilarious and the funniest show this season. I have personally known several groups such as Carlene's and honestly it is life like. At least from the lack of subtlety and the antics. My entire house is watching next episode.
Reply
Flag
Mar 07, 2012
Haven't gotten a chance to watch the pilot yet. I am a bit apprehensive though, because like you said, religion in TV is a hard one to get right. I find it either comes off really preachy or it really hates on the religion in question. Like Glee tries to find that balance of questioning religion but it mostly just ends up preaching it.
Reply
Flag
Mar 08, 2012
One of the actresses was guest on Glee before. lol I could not even dvr GCB but had to wait to Hulu it next day.
Reply
Flag
Mar 07, 2012
My hat is off to the puppeteers that controlled the Carlene Muppet.



Far and away the most realistic Muppet I've ever seen. A triumph of puppetry and animatronics. Kudos!



As for the rest of the show? What a waste of an hour.
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
Too much caricature not enough character for me.

Sort of a mix of Desperate Housewives and Soap. Without most of the laughs.

Not for me, but I look forward to the reviews.
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
I enjoyed it. Loved Kristen Chenowith, Annie Potts and Leslie Bibb in this. We'll see where it goes, though....
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
"..had about as much subtlety as the Tex Avery wolf." - HA!



Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
1. I'm sure it's possible, although people's personalities can't really change (in my opinion) their treatment of others and presentation of themselves certainly can.

2. They were alright. I think that Carlene and the realtor (Heather?) were fine, but Sharon and the other one were definitely portrayed as very cartoonish.

3. As a straight female, I can confidently say "Damn!". She is supposed to be the mother of 2 teenagers?! Well done Amanda!

4. I don't mind it, though it can go overboard. I liked 7th Heaven and Touched by an Angel, they were cute shows. But I agree, if this show gets too preachy or too religious I am out. To be fair, the whole "How dare you call me a bitch!" "how dare you call yourself a Christian" lines show me that while this show may critique some aspects of Christianity it prob won't be offensive to people who aren't giant hypocrites.

5. I liked it :) I will def. tune in for episode 2.
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
I don't understand women. It's her lack of hips I'd consider her biggest flaw. If she'd actually had a kid or two she'd probably look better. Isn't the slender model fad kind of over? Did we learn nothing from the honorable Sir Mix-a-lot?
Reply
Flag
Staff
Mar 07, 2012
I'm printing this comment out and putting it on a t-shirt.
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
I actually really enjoyed it, but I gotta say GCB is the worst title ever. Good Christian Bitches or Good Christian Belles would of been so much better.
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
I could not agree more stick with the original is Good Christian Bitches
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
first of Touched by an Angel was an awesome show,I miss Tess, Monica and Andrew(John Dye R I P ) I thought the pilot was awesome, Leslie Bibb hot yes, but Annie Potts stole the show she was awesome , as for mean girls changing I can't answer one its an obvious reason, two I wasn't an target Carlene circle all the above, but mostly IMO Carlene is enjoying being Queen B the Adult version
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
Leslie Bibb, Seriously hot, YES!
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
1. Probably. They're only mean because they are on top and can get away with it. What are the chances they will stay on top for the rest of their lives?



2. Shrewish and stereotypical, which I'm having trouble buying from Kristin Chenoweth.



3. Too hot. She's 5.5 years younger than Kristin Chenoweth and looks younger still. Having trouble buying that they were in school together.



4. Touched By An Angel and Highway To Heaven changed my channel. 7th Heaven was occasionally tolerable pablum, though.



5. Not wildly impressed. I'll give it another episode to see what it is like post-pilot.
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
I thought it was good, had funny stuff. it's better than other things on TV, even other things on ABC.. I'll keep watching for now



I think the title drew too much negative press just because of putting the two words together when it didn't really deserve it. all it did was creat controversy and probably had more people interested. From what I understood, the title was supposed to be people who just use Church as a social event to gossip instead of for religion and worship but still call themselves Christians even when they don't act like it. Honestly, I personally know some people who the title could decribe.. and those are probably the ones who are mostly offended by the title.



but yeah the title definitely should have been changed, GCB just honestly makes me think GHB so that's no good.. Those Righteous Bitches maybe? lol
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
I didn't mind it. It was much better than I thought it might be. I knew the GCB's would be sterotypes so I wasn't surprised or dismayed. To be frank I didn't care. I think there were some missed chances for comedy. I found the show schizophrenic in that it didn't seem to be able to make up it's mind between dramedy or straight comedy. I will say I am hoping it makes it just in the hopes that I might see Delta Burke in a guest starring position and on screen with Annie Potts again. Hmm that's not very good is it? Anywho, I agree that the 4 eps test is what's needed to give a full thumbs either way.



To answer the rest of your questions:

- Yes, we all change. Do they grow? No, not really unless they're forced to.

- I'll go with (c) fun and stereotypical.

- Leslie Bibb needs to eat something.

- I thought Touched By an Angel was preachy and heavy handed. And why is it always Christianity? I don't see Touched By Budda on the listings page.
Reply
Flag
Staff
Mar 06, 2012
Just have to say, really love the black adder avatar. Now THAT is a comedy!
1
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
As a Catholic, I'm kinda stuck when it comes to all the touchy Christian stuff. Orthodox Catholics take a lot of flak for stuff other Christians do, that we find just as ridiculous as non-Christians (and OTHER other Christians). And of course we get flak for stuff we totally do ourselves, and are going to keep doing. Christianity is indeed a big tent, and not everyone has their eyes on the Big Show (God, not the wrestler), nor on the rules of the game, such as it is.



So with that in mind, I just wanted to say thanks for your thoughtful review, both of the show's potential for religious commentary and for its quality as a show regardless of messaging (or lack thereof). It's looking so far like a competent "Desperate Housewives" joint that doesn't add anything but lame, non-shocking shock value to the formula.



Either way it's not a show I would really continue watching; As a guy, I'm pretty sure I'm not this show's demographic. I'm also not a big Chenoweth fan. Nice to see Annie Potts doing something again though.
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
I actually liked it.
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
Two points that annoyed me the most with the pilot:



Firstly, how far can you take the joke about rich Bible thumpers being hypocrites? Yeah, yeah, we know: They say one thing and do something completely different. Nothing knew with that. It might be funny a while, but I must say that listening to random cherry-picked Bible quotes to justify all kinds of behaviour for more than a few episodes will get tedious. Bible quotes being either punchlines for funny quips or the reason for various plot lines will become tiresome pretty fast.



Secondly, the name GCB. If they couldn't go with the full Good Christian Bitches, why not pick another full name? An acronym is just stupid as a name, even though we all know what it stands for. And it's even worse if you don't know what it means. GCB, what the heck is that? Going with for example OUAT would be equally stupid even though we know that it stands for Once Upon a Time. An acronym is fine only when it's already commonly used such as with MASH, CSI or ER.



P.S. The performance I most enjoyed was the one of Marisol Nichols as Heather. Her character seemed to be the only one with a little bit of depth. And as an answer to your third question: Yes, Leslie Bibb is most definitely hot stuff.
More+
Reply
Flag
Mar 06, 2012
I liked it and you did a really good review I must say, hit on many interesting points about how the show needs to go to succed. I thought it was funny and will come back
Reply
Flag

Like TV.com on Facebook