As a pop culture junkie, I thought I may as well get some articles out of this crippling addiction. In Q’s Queue, we’ll be having a look at some of the hits, hidden gems and horrors found on my Streaming list, all through a feminist lens. Today’s venture: Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23.
Apartment 23 recently dropped on UK Netflix and I could not be more stoked. I’ve long been a fan of Kyrsten Ritter, from her days as tragic junkie Jane on Breaking Bad, to her starring vehicle on Jessica Jones (both shows just happen to be available on Netflix. Catch up gang). Both shows highlight her dramatic chops, but in Apartment 23 she is straight up hilarious. Created by Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off The Boat, American Dad,) Apartment 23 tells the tale of June (Dreama Walker), a naïve Midwestern girl who moves to New York in the pursuit of a job opportunity. The job ends up being a bust, and she’s left homeless and penniless. Enter Chloe (Krysten Ritter) with a spare room and some seriously questionable morals. Along with BFF James Van Der Beek (James Van Der Beek in his best role), shenanigans ensue and gender stereotypes are broken. The show originally aired on ABC in 2012-2013, and for some reason, it never managed to find a devoted audience. After constant time-slot changes and episodes airing out of order, the show was mercilessly cancelled; now with Ritter’s increasing popularity, and the wonders of streaming, hopefully, it can find the audience it deserves.
Krysten Ritter is having the time of her life playing Chloe. She shines in every single scene, and it’s not hard to see why; this type of role is alien for women. She drinks, she does drugs, she steals, she has casual sex and she’s completely unapologetic. The show doesn’t vilify her or try to make her change; in fact, it wholeheartedly embraces her wild lifestyle. If anything, sheltered and uptight June is the one who needs to loosen up. I was about to call her a Hot Mess, but honestly, she’s not really that messy. Save for a few episodes, she’s always portrayed to be very put together, sharp and intelligent; she just happens to live a wild lifestyle. An inspiration for aspiring party girls everywhere. She’s not even the typical “party girl with a heart of gold,” character; true to the title, she’s a bitch bordering on sociopathic. Vain, amoral and ruthless, Chloe wouldn’t hesitate to swindle you out of money or give you a smackwich. Like other women on sitcoms who take no shit and don’t apologise for it (Selina on Veep, April on Parks and Recreation, Gretchen on You’re The Worst), Chloe doesn’t suffer fools lightly and doesn’t succumb to the pressure of women having to be likeable. The difference, however, between Chloe and the aforementioned women is that you’d believe that Chloe would straight up kill someone. If she were on another show, she’d be the villain or at least the antihero, but luckily, Apartment 23 embraces Chloe and her vagabond ways.
As the show became more confident, it finally figured out what to do with its other leading lady June. While Dreama Walker did a perfectly fine job as wide-eyed and moral, she excelled when she was dialled up to eleven; neurotic, hard working, and eager to please. When June’s well-intentioned pursuits inevitably failed and Chloe’s behaviour started to rub off on her, Walker unleashed the crazy eyes, became fully high strung and let it aaaallll out. Highlights include her trying to deal with work colleagues, trying to raise a child, and trying to figure out what she did on Monday. Bless her she does try. She tries very, very hard. June is an example of a TV woman “trying to have it all,” but unlike similar women (Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation, Liz Lemon, 30 Rock) June eventually realises that the idea of “it all,” can change with circumstances, and that’s fine! Also, if you do want to have it all, you’ll have to tap into your dark side. And it helps if you’ve got a certified psycho as your roommate.
It’s a little bit heart-breaking that Apartment 23 got cancelled so quickly; it was the rare sitcom that put women at the front without victimising or demonising them. Its early cancellation did allow for more wonderful pieces of media to happen, like the aforementioned Jessica Jones, Fresh Off The Boat, and the wonderfully weird The Eric Andre Show. Look past the terrible title and the overly saccharine theme song, and be sure to check out this twisted, hilarious, surprisingly progressive show. Gone too soon, but certainly not forgotten.
Odds & Ends
- Feminist Buzzkill (Cause not everything’s perfect): It pains me to say this, but there are a few unsavoury rape jokes. Also, there’s a whole episode concerned with sex while black-out drunk, and she show doesn’t really seem to realise the weight of the topic.
- Does it pass the Bechdel test? Of course (in most episodes anyway).?
- Apartment 23 even manages to hit that sweet spot of nostalgia that everyone is aching for right now, and it does it via James Van Der Beek. Van Der Beek plays a fictionalised version of himself and the Dawsons Creek jokes do not disappoint. Van Der Beek is similar to the titular anthropometric titular horse in Bojack Horseman; a vain, shallow man who is haunted by his past success and manages to be a fantastic portrayal of the showbiz machine.
- As with every network TV show, there is a will-they-won’t-they plot which ends on an uncharacteristically satisfying note. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s good. Also, we
get to see Eric Andre! While he’s less weird here than in his more recent endeavours, it’s still a joy.
- The show got dicked around by the network a bit and ended up airing the show out of order. This incorrect order has spread to Netflix, and even though it’s a bit more inconvenient, I’d really suggest watching it in the intended order. You’ll thank me later.
- I’ve not emphasised it that much in the main text, but this show is really funny. Laugh out loud funny. Just-choked-on-an-m&m-cause-I-was-laughing funny
- Honestly, if I were to write any more on this show, it would go past analysis / review and move on to gushing. Watch the show! It’s on Netflix!
- Just to clarify, B stands for bitch.