As a show, “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” is practically an infant — since it started in the spring instead of the fall, its first season was only composed of seven episodes. That’s hardly enough time for a show to get settled into its own skin and discover its direction, which is perhaps why fans eagerly awaited the premiere of season two on Oct. 23. And if this episode, entitled “A Reunion…” is any indication, there are great things to come from ABC’s resident “B—-.”
The show itself focuses on June, played by Dreama Walker, a wide-eyed girl from the Midwest who moves to New York City for her dream job. On her very first day, however, the company shuts down, her company apartment is taken away and she finds out her fiancé is a cheater.
The one upside is that she moves in with Chloe, played by Krysten Ritter, a party girl, manipulative con woman and the legendary bitch of the show’s title. The girls, along with Chloe’s best friend, James Van Der Beek (playing a fictionalized version of himself), of “Dawson’s Creek” fame, and James’ assistant Luther, played by Ray Ford, get into implausible comical situations, living the craziest life possible in New York City.
In the season two premiere, however, the show places its focus on James. Though his wealth and iconic role as Dawson Leery are often a punch line on the show (and the theme song has been played too many times to count), no storyline has really focused entirely on him. In one way, it was an excellent strategic move — Chloe as a character, though delightful in her manipulation and irresponsibility, can be overwhelming as a character, and sometimes read as cruel for first time viewers. James, on the other hand, is simply silly and oddly charming, despite his ridiculous vanity.
The episode begins when James receives an invitation to do a “Dawson’s Creek” reunion, which he apparently receives every year and always rejects, as a reassertion of his power. As he says in the episode, “It wasn’t Pacey, Jen and Joey’s creek!” However, after June, a huge “Creek” fan, convinces him to attend the reunion, he finds out that all the letters have been coming from Chloe, as both a manipulation to benefit from his good mood and a way to make him feel better, and that the cast of “Dawson’s Creek” all hate James. He then becomes desperate to make the reunion in any way possible, going so far as to ambush Frankie Munez in a grocery store and plead with him to make a “Malcolm in the Middle”/“Dawson’s Creek” reunion.
Van Der Beek plays his role flawlessly in this episode. The perfect mix of cocky star and desperate has-been wanting to reclaim an ounce of fame, he manages to maintain his normal character while making the transition from “used to be Dawson Leery” to “actual human being.” In fact, being able to see past his bravado in “A Reunion…” makes him appear as the most well-rounded he’s been thus far in the series — while he normally just plays Chloe’s famous sidekick, good for a laugh or two, here he is shown as an actual person, and is all the better for it.
Van Der Beek wasn’t the only one who shined in this episode. June having a panic attack about the fact that her high school friends are all more successful than her and declaring that “the sadness has made her a full cup size smaller” was a particularly hilarious moment that balanced out June’s eternal peppiness with the reality of her situation. Ritter was stunning, as usual, in her portrayal of Chloe — she manages to walk the line of actual bitch the audience won’t care about and negligent and selfish party girl who truly cares about her friends.
There’s also something incredibly satisfying about watching Ritter rip June apart for her fashion choices and berating both June and James for complaining, saying things like, “Oh my god, are we in a blues bar in Chicago? Are we watching an old lady run for the bus? Are we listening to a cab driver talk about how he was a dentist back in Pakistan? Because you people are depressing the hell out of me!” And watching Chloe shoot just about every one of her friends with a tranquilizer gun didn’t hurt her charm either.
This episode proved that “Apartment 23” has staying power. It’s not just a cute show with funny characters: It’s genuinely witty and well-written, with clever references and likeable characters rounding it out to make a show that’s on its way to being a hit. Perhaps it just needs a little more time to finish growing into itself. With the progress the show has made in only eight episodes, it seems inevitable that it will only continue to get better and better.
Howard is a member of the class of 2013.