May 21, 2012

Don't Trust the B in Apt. 23: "Parent Trap"


Apt. 23’s third episode, “Parent Trap”, is its weakest yet, and it’s difficult not to blame it on the lead characters. June and Chloe are meant to be the show’s centerpiece, the characters that the show revolves around. Their relationship should hold some semblance of reality, even if it is exaggerated, but it “Parent Trap”, there’s nothing close to that.

Chloe wants to be more responsible, which in her warped view means adopting a child from foster care to be her assistant. It turns out that Chloe does work, three days of the year, as a mistress/companion for world leaders visiting the U.N. When June discovers the truth about the kid, she obviously freaks out, but this comes at a bad time for her. She just got an internship, and she’s been given more responsibilities at the coffee shop. Once Chloe quickly bails on being a mother, June has to take that on as well, and things quickly fall apart.

We’re only three episodes in, and Chloe’s already pushed the limits of what a lead character on a network sitcom can do. Not only does she insult her kind, wheelchair-bound mother, but she adopts and throws away kids at leisure, as long as it suits her. At the episode’s close, she’s allowed to have a bit of a heart, but it rings false. There’s no reason her and June should be close, at all, and yet they are. I’m willing to accept that June is able to forgive, but I’m not positive that Chloe is capable of understanding lessons. Of course, next week she’ll be up to her shenanigans again, which is fine. This is a sitcom after all. The issue is that there seems to be no motivation to her character beyond being the B in apartment 23.

Van Der Beek also seems lost, awash in C-stories that aren’t given enough room to breathe, and aren’t clever enough to generate too many laughs. I still can’t tell if he’s supposed to be dumb, a playboy, a washed-up dreamer, or what. Beek is giving a solid performance, but the character isn’t there, still, and I’m not sure the show is willing to give him room to grow. His plot in the episode concerns him obtaining a role in a movie where he switches bodies with his 12-year-old daughter. Kiernan Shipka, Sally Draper from Mad Men, plays herself in the episode, playing Beek’s daughter in the movie within the show. It’s more confusing on paper than on the screen. But it’s a mostly wasted cameo.

Dreama Walker is probably giving the best performance on the show right now (besides Mark. We love Mark), as June. Luckily, as the show goes on, her character is the one gaining the most layers. The idea of a small-town girl growing frustrated by the whirlwind of New York reality isn’t a new one, but Walker’s performance is making it seem fresh. She gets the weakest plot in this episode, though, spending a lot of a time at an internship that fails to produce even a smile. Here’s hoping that the next boss she gets is closer to Mark than the bland woman in charge of the office she worked at tonight.

There’s an energy about the show, that it’s had since the pilot, which gives me hope. That, coupled with Walker’s performance makes me think that this sitcom really could turn into something. The scenes at the coffee shop, featuring June and Mark, are the show’s best. They feel authentic, mixing cartoonish and realism well. Let’s hope the rest of the show is paying attention.

Grade: C+

Miscellaneous:

  • The Van Der Beek/Shipka plot does provide the show with its best tag yet, that shows us why no movie has attempted a father/daughter body-switch movie yet. And hopefully nobody ever will.
  • I’ve noticed that every act break goes out on Chloe admitting something terrible that she’s done. If this trend continues, it could become very tiresome.
  • The other major problem with the internship subplot: It breaks the law of Chekov’s Treadmill: If there is a treadmill on a sitcom, someone must fall off of it in a hilarious fashion.
  • Another great bit from Van Der Beek’s story (maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought): Referring to Shipka as “a small, blonde Daniel Day Lewis.”
  • “Someone allegedly ordered a pumpkin spice, no whip”

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