If Bernie Madoff was a WASP (aka ‘2 Broke Girls’)


It’s been a few years since Bernie Madoff made headlines for defrauding his investors in the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Though he has mostly dropped from view (prison will do that to you), this season his crime has fueled the plotline of one of the new entrants to the primetime television marketplace: the CBS multi-camera sitcom “2 Broke Girls.” 

“2 Broke Girls,” which premiered last night, is the brainchild of Michael Patrick King, the creator of “Sex and the City”, and the comedian du jour who was born with a porn name, Whitney Cummings. It’s a female buddy comedy featuring the two titular broke lasses: Max (Kat Dennings), a tart tongued waitress working in a Williamsburg diner and Caroline (Beth Behrs), a spoiled Upper East socialite who is forced to slum it in Brooklyn after her father swindles the city, an obvious nod to the crimes of Madoff.

Caroline, on her first day of work at a Williamsburg diner, explains herself to her fellow server. “We lost all of our money. My trust fund was taken for legal fees,” she tells Max.

“What, are you Martin Channing’s daughter? Martin Channing, the guy who ripped off the city is your father?” she asks, incredulously. Later it is revealed that this fraud took place in the form of a Ponzi scheme. Sound familiar? 

Yet Caroline, unlike Madoff, is not remotely Jewish seeming. In fact, she could not be WASPier if she tried. Behr’s character is a blowout blonde, a pearls and sweater set kind of girl who attended Wharton business school. (Okay, that last part is pretty Jewish.) [[READMORE]]

If Caroline is Upper East WASP royalty fallen on hard times then her foil, Max, is the working class waitress with sass to spare, a different sort of pop culture Jewess than the much maligned JAP. Everything from her dark curly hair to large bust and even larger attitude screams a hipper, savvier Fran Drescher for the millennials.

If only the show had lived up to my expectations of it and had actually been hipper and savvier. I initially had high hopes for “2 Broke Girls” because I have an enormous girl crush on Dennings (she’s Jewish so don’t worry mom!) after watching her in “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.”

And though the premiere episode hasn’t at all diminished my ardor for Dennings, it certainly has me questioning the comedic sensibilities of the show’s writers and creators as well as their New York knowledge. Most of the humor was broad, belonging in the “Hey-O!” genre of jokes.

And Michael Patrick King, who for several years took viewers on tour of the trendiest neighborhoods, bars and clubs in Manhattan, seems to have forgotten what the city is actually like. Is it possible he hasn’t come back since that program went off the air in 2004? 

For instance, let’s take the Brooklyn portrayed in this show. First there is the graffiti covered subway car Max takes into Manhattan. Graffiti on the subway was a common sight during heyday of the Koch administration but certainly not anymore. But it’s the sort of “authenticity” and “grittiness” that newcomers to the city are nostalgic for. (In the words David Rakoff in New York Magazine – “Nostalgia is a sucker’s game.)

And Max’s warning to Caroline not to wear a fancy leather jacket outside in Williamsburg? Really? You mean that place with all of the monosyllabic shops and new condos? This isn’t the crack den neighborhood of 20 year ago. You’re more likely to get run over by a cyclist than to get jumped in a dark alley.

The Brooklyn portrayed in the show is what many in Middle America who haven’t visited the city in the past 15 years believe the borough (and the city for that matter) is like. Perhaps they are the target demographic for the program. That’s the only plausible excuse I can imagine for such misrepresentations. 

The episode ended with the two waitresses (and roommates) hatching a plan to open a cupcake shop to sell Max’s baked goods. (No that’s not a euphemism.)

Really Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings? A cupcake shop? I mean, even the Kardashians have a cupcake shop in Los Angeles.

It’s safe to say that this dessert trend has officially been taken out back and shot in the face. 

Does this mean I’ll stop watching? Probably not because wherever Kat Dennings leads, I shall follow. What can I say? I’m a sucker for smart-mouthed Jewish women.

Recommended from JTA