At this point, every feminist on the internet has weighed in on the new fall TV season. A lot of what needs to be said has already been said. There are a lot of terrible-looking shows about men. There are a lot of promising-looking shows about women. There are racial stereotypes, cultural stereotypes, gender stereotypes. There are laugh tracks. And there’s Ashton Kutcher.
The problems with the lineup have been well-catalogued elsewhere, so I’m going to focus on the positive. I’m excited for this season because of what it reflects in the culture at large. I watched the second episode of “2 Broke Girls” last night, and, like in the pilot, I was struck by how familiar the jokes were. Not because they were tired sitcom jokes– although some of them were (Horse poop! Sad ladies eating cheap snack food!) – but because it’s a show about twenty-something urban hipsters who act like twenty-something urban hipsters, right down to their self-hatred. Hipster darling Kat Dennings’ disdain for the hipsters who come into her diner is a running theme, but she’s totally one herself. Even leaving aside the fact that she’s Kat Dennings: A boyfriend who’s in a band that “practices” by listening to other bands’ music? An filthy apartment in Brooklyn? A cupcake business? Come on. You can make all the kale jokes you want. We all know the rules.
In any case, it’s fun to watch a show where the characters’ lives look like my own. (A TV bizarro-world version of my own, of course, but it’s still TV.) So far they haven’t done a lot with it, but it’s only the second episode. More than the boring jobs, more than the jokes about knit caps and Yelp reviews, I’m particularly excited to see what these girls’ relationships are going to look like, because let’s face it, when has a sitcom ever derived significant dramatic tension from anything else? Admittedly, “2 Broke Girls” hasn’t given me a lot to work with. The two guys so far are Kat Dennings’ loser cheating (now ex-) boyfriend and the gross sleazy cook at the diner where she works. But given the other things that it’s gotten right, I’m hopeful that it will pull through with situations that reflect the new dating reality.
That’s shaping up to be the theme of the other show I’m excited about this fall, “The New Girl” – pegged, somewhat ridiculously, as “a comedy about the sexual politics of men and women.” The first episode sees hipster darling Zooey Deschanel breaking up with her loser cheating (now ex-) boyfriend and moving in with an apartment of brotastic dudes she found on Craigslist – sound familiar? The loser cheating ex-boyfriend is a trope as old as the hills, but it’s interesting that both “The New Girl” and “2 Broke Girls” do away with him in the first twenty minutes. And how often do we see co-habitation as a plot device? Both shows are basically odd-couple roommate setups, with the need to move out of a boyfriend’s apartment the main catalyzing event. That wouldn’t have flown in the era of I Love Lucy. It wouldn’t even really have flown in the era of Friends. I hope this means that TV is finally catching up to reality.
As for “The New Girl,” I’m kind of over Zooey Deschanel’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl schtick, but I do really like the relationship that’s developing between Zooey and her roommates. Sure, the guys are all tropes: the Jock with Emotional Problems, the Stoic with a Gooey Center, the Douchebag who’s Maybe (But Not Definitely) Better Than He Seems. But it’s an effing sitcom, and frankly, I totally went to college with these guys. The show has an opportunity to humanize them and Zooey, in the dehumanizing context of dating in the modern world, and I really hope it capitalizes on that.
It’s too early to really tell where these shows are going, or even whether they’ll go anywhere. So I’m going to end on that optimistic note.