Does 2 Broke Girls pass the Brokelyn test?

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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:

KEEPING IT REAL

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?”

UH, WHAT?

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 Monster.com, “place where nobody from the Upper East Side would ever go, ever.” Monster.com? 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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18 COMMENTS

  1. How about them uniforms? Is there any restaurant in Williamsburg with polyester waitress dresses as a dress code?

  2. do they live in williamsburg though? i mean with rent increases and gentrification there’s no way 2 “broke” girls can live in the burg 

  3. I’m quite late to this particular party but I read all of Brokelyn’s recaps backwards to this point wondering if this column would speak on two ridiculous premises (really uber-NYC) that unnerve me through 2BG’s mucky plot points:
    (1) no wealthy 20-something growing up in the post-9/11 (Lost) generation is not gonna know or have ventured through contemporary/trendy W’burg on a weekend (and still act cool), and (2) no subway car has looked like 2BG’s for at least 15 years, if not more. Even the tourists know that subways are spray-paint proof. While this recap has hit the W’burg points regularly, I’m quite stunned that Caroline could have this supposed-biz education and wealth and neither not know about nor already been to the neighborhood. Let alone look for prime real estate for a future cupcake storefront/bakery.

  4. I normally love sitcoms but this is sitcom is not the least bit realistic or funny. In fact it should be named Hannah Montana  the next Generation because they remind me of Hannah  Montana and her bff Lily. (hey ive got little girls who love that show lol) or how about  an urban version of Alice. The uniforms certainly look the same as they did on Alice or Burger King in the seventies.

  5. I like this show! Especially because my father was born in Williamsburg in 1920. Very much different than it is today. We visited the city in 2009. Walked through the streets, found where my dad lived, and to say the least, no one touched us at all. They were actually amazed to see a 81 yr. old, come back to his neighborhood. We had been there in the seventies too. We came out alive, with no trouble at all. Just a bunch of curious faces. :)

    Tell Caroline & Max hello! Love those Boots :)

    Marie Clouser from California

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