Despite a diversionary opening salvo of post-feminist raunch and unfortunate racial stereotyping, “2 Broke Girls” is a solid, old-fashioned sitcom about two mismatched girls taking on the big city and makin’ their dreams come true. It’s so old-fashioned, in fact, that they’re waitresses. In a Brooklyn diner. Where Max (Kat Dennings), the dark-haired, wise-crackin’ downtown girl, rules the roost and Caroline (Beth Behrs), the blond trust fund princess, is the new hire so clueless she doesn’t know how to “marry” the ketchup bottles.
That’s because Caroline is the daughter of a fictionalized version of Bernie Madoff (who has thus far fueled story lines for “Damages” as well as the upcoming “Revenge” and “GCB”), which means her trust fund is frozen and she is out on the streets. Although she looks like Paris Hilton, she is a Wharton graduate, making her a perfect match for Max, who may be adept at taking down rude customers but is, deep down, just a girl who makes really good cupcakes and has low self-esteem.
There are vagina and lesbian jokes, and the sexual objectification of Max’s perpetually topless boyfriend, but the essentials are meat-and-potatoes sitcom, which is surprising considering the combined edge factor of Michael Patrick King (“Sex and the City”) and stand-up Whitney Cummings (who also writes and stars in NBC’s upcoming “Whitney”).
But meat-and-potatoes remain popular for a reason, and amid the parade of bunnies, angels, stewardesses and princesses tromping across the screen this season, a couple of smart, sassy waitresses from the opposite sides of the tracks are as welcome as a cup of hot coffee in a white diner cup.
It certainly helps that one of them is played by Dennings, who has the deadpan but endearing comic delivery of a young Catherine Keener (whose daughter she played in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”). Although no one should be asked to use “dry” as a modifier for vagina on network television, Dennings does it with as much grace and humor as humanly possible.
Newcomer Behrs provides a strong foil; her Caroline may be Brazilian blowout blond and over-accessorized for any occasion, but she’s smart, resourceful and far less diva-like than the usual TV versions of her species. The role of rich white woman as comic piñata is filled by Brooke Lyons, who plays Upper East Side new mommy for whom Max baby-sits and is so moronic she has named her twins Brad and Angelina. (Memo to King and Cummings: “Really?”)
The diner is also populated by the assorted usual suspects, including a salacious short-order cook (Jonathan Kite), an article-dropping Asian owner (Matthew Moy) and a wizened rape-joke-telling cashier (Garrett Morris).
But the heart of the show is the womance — the inevitable friendship between the two women as they reluctantly team up to learn how to be truly independent.
And for the record, and because it is never explained in the pilot, “marrying” the ketchup bottles means taking one half-full bottle and balancing it on top of another half-full bottle to make a full bottle, which is not nearly as hard as it sounds.