Keep Your Friends Close, And 'The B----' Closer

Anyone else still mourning last week's season finale of "Happy Endings"? The idea that one of my favorite comedies is no more (until the fall, that is) would normally make me as miserable and bitter as Demi Moore on her sixth anniversary to Ashton Kutcher. The only thing that didn't have me completely spiralling is the replacement for "Happy Endings."

I wasn't wiping tears from my eyes or looking for my remote to rewind because I missed some hilarious exchange after watching "Don't Mess With the B---- in Apartment 23," but I did chuckle quite a few times. And sometimes, particularly for a pilot, some laughter is all that's needed to showcase a series' potential.

Two things are needed for a comedy to work: good writing and a key cast -- and "The B----" boasts both. Viewers want to be introduced to characters they can relate to, or, at the very least, want to hang out with, all of whom can deliver some witty dialogue. Sounds simple enough, but it doesn't always happen.

The title character/anti-heroine is Chloe, played to bitchy perfection by the always-quirky, always-fantastic Krysten Ritter ("Breaking Bad," "Gravity"). Ritter could easily be a one-note bitch who we immediately root against, but the actress fleshes Chloe out, infusing her with a sunniness that conceals the seemingly pure evil within. And the most important part: we don't completely hate her. Chloe is a sociopath who finds new roommates by luring them in with her cheery demeanor and chicken satay, then terrorizes them until they flee, but not before she pockets their security deposit and half the rent. It's actually a pretty good scam if your heart has been replaced by a shrivelled, Grinch-sized lump of coal.

Her newest roomie is June (Dreama Walker, who instantly made me forget her own bitchy character, Becca from "The Good Wife"), a smalltown girl with a Type-A personality whose life goes up in flames -- literally -- on her first day in NYC. As Chloe's latest target she seems like the next roommate to cut and run, but June shows she isn't a pushover and strikes back at a surprised Chloe. By the time the end credits roll, I wouldn't describe them as friends, but there is definitely a respect and understanding between the two women.

If Chloe is capable of having friends, her one ally is James Van Der Beek. Playing an exaggerated version of himself (à la Neil Patrick Harris in the "Harold & Kumar" movies), The Beek is naturally funny and is a good sport about making fun of his perceived image (have you seen him on Funny or Die?), and if there was anyone who would put up with Chloe's crap, it's her "straight gay best friend." The Dawson jokes might get old fast, but for now, I'm OK with them -- and him.

It's not a perfect pilot, but it's definitely better than average. The only quibble I have is its timeslot, which seems an odd fit post-"Modern Family." It shares some similarities with "Suburgatory," making for a bizarre sitcom sandwich, but after closer examination, I think the show's main problem (aside from its title, which is already annoying to say/write) is its network (not that anything can be done about it now). Upon first glance, the brand of humor employed by "The B----" is right in Fox's wheelhouse, and after the first 30 minutes of the show wrap it still seems like it would fit perfectly with "Raising Hope," "New Girl" and "Breaking In."

The network gods have chosen and, alas, it cannot be. So I will have to settle for a "B----" instead of the "Happy Endings" bitches. Perhaps this new, more hardened bunch will be a decent replacement. Until next season, of course.

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