Does 2 Broke Girls pass the Brokelyn test?

Broke girls Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs at the Williamsburg Diner. Photos: Monty Brinton/CBS.

You’ve known about the concept of being broke in Brooklyn for years. But with this fall’s CBS show 2 Broke Girlsthe lifestyle is getting Carrie Bradshaw-ed. The show, co-created by Sex and the City’s executive producer, focuses on two cash-strapped waitresses, Max and Caroline (played by Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs), at the Williamsburg Diner, a dive that recently changed ownership from the Russian mob. Max has been poor her whole life while Caroline suddenly finds herself without money after her dad gets busted in a Bernie Madoff-type scandal.

So how does the show’s portrayal of broke-in-Brooklyn life compare to the real thing? Brokelyn got a screener of the pilot before it debuts Sept. 19 to investigate. Here are some of the most accurate, and most confounding, representations of outer borough brokedom:


On the streets of "Williamsburg."

Subway indifference: When Max gets accidentally tasered on the subway by a sleeping Caroline, she collapses to the ground while the other train riders completely ignore her. When she gets up, she shouts, “I’m good. Thanks for the help, New York.” Sounds about right: The activities that subway passengers will not take out their earbuds for are boundless.

Cupcake wealth: A cornerstone of the series is the marketability of Max’s homemade cupcakes, which the girls try to sell at a high mark-up to make enough money to improve their situation. It’s true that the people of Brooklyn aren’t afraid to drop money on delicious treats. If only Max found a way to start showing up in bookstores, her Brooklyn customers would really flip out.

Hipster inception: The show does a sloppy job trying to establish the diner’s hardcore staff and privileged young patrons as coming from opposite ends of the hipster spectrum. For instance, Max explains to a rude customer: “I wear knit hats when it’s cold out, you wear knit hats ‘cause of Coldplay.”

All the characters sort of talk like sassy Junos (see: previous sentence), wear clothes that could have been bought at Urban Outfitters (including the waitress and kitchen staff uniforms), and some of the relationships are founded in being ironic (Max tells everyone that she and the 75-year-old cashier are in love). While this is a weakness, it has the accidental benefit of replicating that feeling of uncertainty that can pop up when you suddenly look at a passerby and wonder, “is that a hipster? Are you a hipster? Am I?”


Backyard bitching: When Caroline says that Max’s backyard “looks like a really nice place to relax and do crack,” Max kind of shrugs her off and quips, “It is!” But in Brooklyn we love our backyards, and the world loves us for having them! It’s the one thing that any fancypants Manhattan-dweller will almost always understand the value of, and will harbor appropriate jealousy.

The job hunt: Caroline finds her job at the Williamsburg Diner by typing into, “place where nobody from the Upper East Side would ever go, ever.” Who finds waitress (or any) jobs there these days? Try looking really cool and being friends with other cool waitresses.

The broke girls enter Max's apartment.

Jacket police: When leaving the Diner after a late shift, Max tells Caroline that it’s too dangerous wear a nice leather jacket while walking outside. But the diner has been filled with obnoxiously-dressed hipsters the whole episode, and is supposedly right across from an Arcade Fire concert.

Are there really parts of Williamsburg where it’s not safe to wear a fashionable jacket? This reminded me less of real life and more of an old episode of Family Matters where a girl gets shot at the high school for wearing fancy sneakers. Remember that? It was very intense. But I don’t know…be safe out there!

LOL: The show uses a pretty hearty laugh track that’s sometimes jarring, like when the diner owner mentions that a former meth addict waitress’ teeth fell out. Ha? Maybe a silent awkward eye contact track would be more Williamsburg.

In conclusion, while it would be silly to watch a new show from the SATC executive producer/showrunner Michael Patrick King and comedian Whitney Cummings and expect (or want) an extremely accurate depiction of New York life, 2 Broke Girls is disappointingly less nuanced, specific and silly than the former show. In fact, it might be less nuanced, specific, and silly than Brian Williams’ famous video rant.

There’s a thrill to seeing Brooklyn life in primetime, but maybe Hollywood should leave being broke to the professionals.

2 Broke Girls premieres Sept. 19 at 9:30pm on CBS. 

Follow Ariel: @arielkarlin.

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