If television has taught us anything about female friendships, it's that they're often sweet on the outside and tart on the inside (“Real Housewives” anyone?). ABC's new comedy, the oddly titled “GCB,” plays off this idea with an added dose of religion and Texas swagger.
If television has taught us anything about female friendships, it's that they're often sweet on the outside and tart on the inside (“Real Housewives” anyone?). ABC's new comedy, the oddly titled “GCB,” plays off this idea with an added dose of religion and Texas swagger. Based on the book “Good Christian Bitches,” by Kim Gatlin, the ladies in this crowd of fictional Dallas housewives get the chance for some payback when the woman who bullied them in high school is forced by a set of unfortunate circumstances to move with her two teenage children back to her hometown. Broke and desperate, Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb) returns to live with her mother, a wealthy Dallas socialite, and quickly discovers that you can go home again, but not everyone may be happy to see you.
Kristin Chenoweth plays Carlene Cockburn, the leader of the group of women who were bullied by Amanda in high school. Carlene, now an influential member of society and her church, uses her pious reputation to mask her schemes to get back at Amanda. But Amanda, despite being remorseful about her past and determined to start over on good terms with the women, is no pushover. For every slight humiliation that Carlene and the other women engineer, Amanda returns the favor. This back-and-forth plotting would quickly grow tiresome if the characters weren't equal parts likeable and unlikeable. When Carlene and her partners in crime, Cricket (Miriam Shor) and Heather (Marisol Nichols), tell stories about Amanda's cruelty toward them as teenagers, you don't feel so bad when they plan something to embarrass her. At the same time, the ladies' insecurity, pettiness and refusal to forgive and forget means that you don't feel so bad when Amanda beats them at their own game.
The other aspect of Amanda's life that makes her sympathetic is that her mother drives her a little crazy. Played by the charming Annie Potts, Gigi is a Dallas society matron and sees her daughter's return as a chance to reintroduce Amanda to the privileged life she rejected. Amanda, on the other hand, sees her mother's mostly funny attempts to help her as an unwelcome reminder of the controlling nature she tried to escape.
The comedy of “GCB,” Miriam Shor in particular, has some great moments delivering caustic one-liners with subtle but hilarious facial expressions, is balanced with some solid dramatic moments. In one scene, Amanda's daughter Laura, upset that her mother is interfering with her attempts to be accepted by the popular girls at school, tells her that she's just trying to survive the system she created. It's a sobering moment for Amanda and one that grounds the comedy in a small dose of reality.
At times, the series relies on stereotypes of Texans but it makes the point that hypocrisy is unattractive even when those hypocrites happen to look like the good Christian women that Carlene and her friends work so hard to appear to be. In less skillful hands, this message might seem heavy handed for a comedy, but for the most part, these “GCB's” make it work.
Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.