Four years ago, I fell in love with the 2 Broke Girls, Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs). Max was a sassy New Yorker struggling to make ends meet day-to-day by working as a waitress in a run down diner in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn. Caroline found herself on the skids after her father was sent to prison for a Bernie Madoff type of embezzlement scheme and all of her family’s assets were seized. Needing a job, Caroline found one at the same diner, befriended Max (who had a dream to become a baker), and the two decided to fulfill Max’s dream of opening a cupcake shop.
For an early Monday night time slot, the show was surprisingly edgy with its less-than-subtle sexual overtones making many wonder whatever happened to the “Family Hour.” Over the course of the first three seasons, Max and Caroline opened a cupcake shop in the subway (and closed it after a few episodes), Max went to pastry school (and Caroline briefly fell in love with the married instructor), and they opened another cupcake shop (actually a window) out of the storage room of the diner. By the end of the third season, the shop was teetering on the verge of closing.
The fourth season, now on DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, presents the season’s 22 episodes and not much has changed. With the show’s success, the fourth season has seen more big name guest stars than in the past. The first episode revolved around the girls’ hope that the production of an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and Kim tweeting about their cupcakes, would bring them great success. The episode was never filmed, but Kim K did show up for a cameo.
The second episode of the season featured Jesse Metcalfe as Max’s no-name booty call whom Caroline felt should be properly introduced. Learning his name is Sebastian, and formally introducing him to Max, he then invited Max to see him DJ but the locale of his gig was not quite what Max or Caroline expected. Valerie Harper shows up in the 13th episode as a diner patron with a secret life, and Sandra Bernhard guests in five episodes, beginning with episode 16, as the owner of a high-end bake shop, The High. Max gets a job as a pastry chef and Caroline goes from waitress to hostess in the first episode, and by the sixth episode (the season’s 21st), they’re helping launch a new location at the airport (with guest stars Caroline Rea and Laura Kightlinger as sassy flight attendants). And while all of this is going on, the wacky Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge) is preparing to marry diner “chef” Oleg in the season finale. The future of Max and Caroline’s cupcake shop hangs in the balance as the two jet off to Paris for a little break, using up most of the $3,000+ they had saved.
The show’s gimmick was that each episode ended with a running total of the money earned or spent, but sometimes the totals seemed a bit random and without explanation. One episode ends with the total going up by $1000 but there was nothing in the episode that supported that amount.
I always laughed out loud at the show many times an episode, and for me, it got even funnier when they introduced Sophie midway through season one and made Jennifer Coolidge a regular in season two. The dynamic between Dennings and Behr has always been great (though I favor Dennings’ comic timing and snarky dialog more), but Coolidge steals the show any time she’s on screen. By season four, however, Sophie seems to be stealing the spotlight (especially with the marriage storyline).
Watching several episodes in one pop also reveals a basic formula the writers have fallen into for each episode. An episode will usually open with a short scene at the diner, then the opening titles, and back to the diner where Sophie will then enter after a minute or two to a wildly whooping and clapping studio audience. Every. Time. Whether it’s the first episode of the season, the fifteenth or the twenty-second. It was noticeable on a weekly basis, but even more in your face while binge watching. Is it in Coolidge’s contract that the audience must cheer her entrance? Sometimes it seems like the studio warm-up guy is forcing the audience to applaud. Of course, the girls then get themselves into a typical I Love Lucy/Laverne & Shirley type of situation — but with more sexual repartee — and all is (mostly) well by the end of the 20 or so minutes of the episode (does anyone remember when a 30 minute episode was actually closer to 30 minutes?)
None of this is to say 2 Broke Girls has gotten less funny. I still laughed many times at each episode I watched. But the show has gotten way, way too formulaic … but TV audiences embrace those characters who become part of their families on a weekly basis. It’s jarring for a character to suddenly undergo a personality change, so everything has to stay the same, but after four seasons it’s becoming a little too “by the numbers.” Hopefully with Sophie and Oleg married, and the end of the cupcake craze that was in full force when the show started now impacting the basic premise, the writers will find a way to break the template they now follow so closely. One thing I hope does not change is the obvious fun the cast is having which makes the show, still, a joy to watch — in small doses.
The new DVD release supports that notion of the cast having fun as it also contains a bonus Gag Reel showing their many flubs (although it could have been much longer), and also includes a few unaired scenes. Unfortunately, after the first season’s Blu-ray and DVD release, sales were not good enough for Warner Bros. to continue with the Blu-ray releases, so the show has only been available on DVD since then. The presentation is fine, but looks nowhere near as sharp as the HD broadcast version does. For the fan, the DVD and the bonus material is adequate, but it would be nice if they could include some commentary on the episodes as well. For someone who has never seen the show before, even starting with the fourth season won’t make you feel lost. 2 Broke Girls is still good for a few good laughs.