GCB: (Please) Grow (Some) Comedy Balls

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.


QUESTIONS:

– 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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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"?

and

2. Does Gigi's hair get bigger each episode?
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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.
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Was the attempt at sex supposed to be titillating? I thought it was supposed to be funny.
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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...
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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.
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If u don't like don't watch. 'Nuff said
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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.
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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.
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Ive been getting into this show the past few episodes. I was pleasantly surprised two aired last night. I thought it was entertaining...
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- 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.

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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.
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ugh, what's with the annoying trend of people defending tv.com commentors because people dislike their reviews and say something about it?
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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.
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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.
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Maybe they just couldn't find a TV reviewer who likes this show...just sayin'
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I think they'd be hard pressed to find anyone on staff who would react more positively to this show than I...just saying.
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"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.
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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.
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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
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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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Missed the first episode last night, but tuned into the second. There was one moment where I thought I had maybe missed an episode, but chalked it up to the fact that I am always distracted while watching this show. I am tuning in for the actresses, but damn, I want this show over. Or better. Either way. (PS, you knew it was going to be awful when they didn't take the stand to say, "No, our title is Good Christian B**ches. Deal with it.)
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Thanks for putting all the right words in the right places, or put differently; for writing a great review. Though I do think that you were too generous when calling the characters two-dimensional. To me they seem very much one-dimensional. But you are right saying that their problems are imaginary. It's like someone hired a cast and a crew, built a set and secured funding, forgetting that a show also needs scripts. And now they are desperately trying to scrape together some stupid stories just to fill 40 minutes of screen time. The feud between Amanda and the rest of the women is so ridiculously unreal. There is no real friction between them. It's just a little high school schism which somehow is the whole premise of the show. I haven't watched Desperate Housewives, but I've understood that it at least has some real problems between the characters. GCB has a group of mature women behaving like 5-year-olds. The relationships don't develop at all. No matter how much the characters seem to get closer to each other in one episode, the next one again starts of a blank slate with the mean girls' clique going after Amanda.



This show will no doubt be cancelled. And when it does, I hope the producers take a good hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really thought a show like this would make it. Can anyone see a show like this going on for, let's say, six seasons? No? Didn't think so.
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Hot Dogs and cherry pie are excellent together! And you never mentioned Amanda at all in your review...which imo is the most enjoyable (and funniest) part of the show. It could be funnier overall....but it's still relatively enjoyable television. I wasn't as critical of the 2 episodes last night I guess.
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Wow Lily,

I thought I'd check in to see how the show was going......got my answer!!

Sorry, I know you were hoping for more from this.

Example of satire?? How about you acting as Hannibal Lector and GCB writers acting as Krendler in the scene where H.L. feeds Krendler his own brain ?? Would that qualify??
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I love Kristin but I'm tired of seeing Carlene scream and fall down. I think Amanda is actually pretty good. Sharon would actually have to be smarter to be a Stepford wife. And as mannish as Cricket is, Blake should sprout wood whenever she enters the room.



You're right, Lily. This show is all over the map, and "cartoonish" and "two-dimensional" covers most of it. Very disappointing.



And where (in Texas especially) are you going to find someone who works as a church secretary during the day, and a Hooters-style restaurant at night? That scenario only works in porn.
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I got the impression that maybe Cricket's husband is a bit bi. His reaction to that movie line about enjoying both snails and oysters seemed to suggest it. I'm also fairly certain that it is not uncommon for gay men to have had sex with a woman or women at some point in their lives, especially before coming out (I have several friends and acquaintances for whom this is the case.) Also, Cricket and her husband share a deep emotional bond. I find most of this show pretty ridiculous, but I genuinely enjoy Cricket and Blake and pretty much everything they do.
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Crickets husband is full on gay. there were 3 different conversations about it with at least 3 different charachters
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Yeah, the only reason I've kept watching is that I loved Chenowith in Pushing Daisies and the best characters are Cricket and Blake, they seem to have good chemistry. As far as them not shelling out for in vitro, I think it's understandable for two people who have a kid and are clearly good friends to consider the "old-fashioned way" as an option. That said, I really didn't care for how the writers handled it by trying to make it funny... up till the end with the movie, which was kind of sweet.
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I've been to Texas. I can't believe that this show takes place in Texas but is so full of white people! I get that it's an elite society and the Realtor i think is mexican but like really? I do find some of the topics funny, like when Charlene had the anti sex thing. I went to a private christian school and they completely ignored sex. They only time we talked about it was when they were warning us about what will happen if we have sex. I'd already had sex by then so the conversation was pointless.I completely agree with you on the fact that ABC apparently thinks that we should sympathize with characters who are complete bigots. masturbation is not bad, the kids need an outlet and will find somewhere else to get the satisfaction if they don't. yea the first thing that popped into my head when they were talking about a baby was that invitro would be a lot quicker. or a turkey baster. or she could have sex with someone else. it's not like anyone would know. and it's not like the husband would have a reason to be jealous. and the ridiculous line that they were drunk? really? i've never asked a gay person but i don't think they would turn heterosexual even if they were drunk.
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