TV Review: ABC’s ‘GCB’ Wants to Be Your Sunday Guilty Pleasure

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CHICAGOABC attempts to pass the sequined, bedazzled baton from one glittery soap comedy to another as “GCB” (based on the book “Good Christian Bitches” by Kim Gatlin) premieres tonight as a clear successor to the soon-to-end “Desperate Housewives.” Even more over-the-top than the girls of “DH” were to start (even Marc Cherry would have said an opening scene involving road head leading to a fatal car crash was a bit much), “GCB” feels like later seasons of the ABC hit when it went from critical darling to guilty pleasure. You’re going to feel REAL guilty watching this one. TV Rating: 2.5/5.0
TV Rating: 2.5/5.0

The lovely Leslie Bibb stars as Amanda Vaughn, the former Dallas mean girl returned to town after her criminal husband tried to leave her with a car full of cash but couldn’t stay on the road during orgasm. Amanda comes home slightly disgraced but also nothing like the back-stabbing diva she used to be. She’s changed even if the girls she tormented in high school are stuck in the southern belle rut.

Photo credit: ABC

Said girls include the Queen of her faux-religious clique, Carlene Cockburn (a great Kristin Chenoweth), who was Vaughn’s target number one when she was younger and now seeks nothing but social revenge on the prodigal daughter. Cockburn may have it all but she doesn’t want Vaughn to have anything. Following Cockburn like the girls followed Rachel McAdams in “Mean Girls” are Cricket Caruth-Reilly (Miriam Shor) and Sharon Peacham (Jennifer Aspen). Cricket is a bit self-conscious and understandably furious as Amanda stole her man many years ago and Sharon is a former beauty queen who Amanda ruined by starting a vicious rumor about. Finally, there’s Heather Cruz (Marisol Nichols), the outsider who is the first to see that Amanda has changed and Amanda’s mother Gigi (Annie Potts). Much like “Desperate Housewives,” there’s a supporting cast of studly men but the show belongs to the women.

Photo credit: ABC

People often forget by virtue of what it became that “Desperate Housewives” was pretty damn smart when it started. It kind devolved into just another soap but it started as more of a satire of suburban life. The performances were nominated for awards and the actresses were turned into stars. The fact that it couldn’t maintain such a level of creative writing for seven seasons is not surprising but it retained a loyal following till the end.

GCB” can’t maintain a high level of creative writing through its premiere. Material like this is MUCH harder to pull off intelligently than people might think. It’s easy to put goofy outfits, fancy drinks, and little dogs on the bodies of beautiful southern belles and call it creative. To be honest, southern belles are about as easy a comedy target as one could conceive in the world of television. And the writing on “GCB” too often takes the easy route. A former beauty queen who’s always seen stuffing her face, sequined binoculars to spy on the neighbors, more jewelry and high heels than an episode of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” — none of this is clever, none of this is creative.

And the problem with “GCB” is that it so often takes these easy routes to humor that it gets boring. The storytelling is too thin to provide characters to care about, even if Chenoweth and Bibb’s performances are far-and-away the best reason to watch the show, and so all that’s left is the easy humor. Catty doesn’t always equal funny and it may not be as easy to pass this baton as ABC executives assumed.

GCB” stars Leslie Bibb, Kristin Chenoweth, Miriam Shor, Jennifer Aspen, Marisol Nichols, Annie Potts, Mark Deklin, David James Elliott, and Brad Beyer. It premieres on ABC on Sunday, March 4th, 2012 at 9pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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