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'2 Broke Girls': It had a decent pilot. Is it becoming a good series?

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2 Broke Girls
Sonja Flemming/CBS

Last week, Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings’ sitcom 2 Broke Girls got off to a bumpy but promising start: The chemistry between Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs) was strong, but many of the jokes pertaining to city life missed the mark. The premiere fit nicely into the good-for-a-pilot category, but the important second episode, which doesn’t have the excuse of being the first, had to be better. Was it?

I think so. The arc of the series, for the time being, has been established: Max and Caroline are going in together to save up for a cupcake business, with Max as the creative one (i.e., baker), and Caroline as the taskmaster and brains behind the operation. Both Max and Caroline are emerging as more fleshed-out characters than they were in the pilot — even though the tone is still light and fizzy for now, I wouldn’t be surprised if this show went the way of How I Met Your Mother and introduced some more emotional, character-driven story lines.

Max clearly has some demons — after all, she is a “vampire without all the annoying marketing” — but behind the jokes, there’s vulnerability beneath the prickly surface. Caroline seems to have hit the nail on the head when she says Max is afraid of success, just as she was spot-on when she identified Max’s low self-esteem last week. Some of Max’s one-liners are surprisingly dark for a prime-time sitcom; I was genuinely surprised by the seemingly unnecessary “cutting” joke, although I think it does hint at some of Max’s self-loathing. In a running joke this episode, Caroline appears to have mistaken the sounds of Max masturbating for her crying over Robbie (Noah Mills) — but given Max’s strong need to tell Robbie off in a “breakup scene,” indicating some insecurity, maybe she really had been crying. Also, Caroline has proven to be a much more likable character than you might have expected after the pilot. She’s loyal, surprisingly strong, and clearly, a much nicer person than Max. Plus, she’s pretty funny when she’s drunk. “Good morning, Hangover 3.”

Now, to stop over-thinking the episode, the humor has stayed snappy. The cold open, in which Max mouths off to a group of female douchebags (“I could tell by the hats”), really showed Dennings at her sardonic finest. Garrett Morris was funny in the premiere as Earl, but it seems the writers have mercifully put the brakes on the forced, pseudo-topical puns. I’m happy the show is charging forth with un-P.C. jokes. As an Asian myself, I laughed at Max’s line, “You can’t tell an Asian he made a mistake — he’ll go in the back and throw himself on a sword.”

A few things still aren’t working. The exaggerated rich girl humor feels tired; Peach, and her stupidly named twins Brad and Angelina, should be phased out. Oleg (Jonathan Kite) better start doing something different, and fast, because his cat-calling shtick was old before it started. In general, much like in King’s other show Sex and the City, there seem to be two competing types of humor: one is dark, cutting, and clever; the other is a bit broader, somewhat annoying, and more predictable (Caroline falling in the “mud” with carrots in it — okay, fine, I laughed). The series is still finding its legs, but it’s a needed step up from the pilot.

PopWatchers: What did you think of episode two? Is the show going in a good direction? What were the funniest parts? What fell flat?

Follow Stephan on Twitter.

Read more:

‘2 Broke Girls’: Promising series nailed twentysomething poverty. NYC, not so much.

‘Whitney’ series premiere: The jokes feel not-so-fresh, but is there hope for this show?

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