“And The Drug Money” isn’t a great episode of television by any means, and it’s not an episode of television that suggests a show I would eagerly watch week to week, but if this was the general quality of 2 Broke Girls from week to week, it would make the fact that the show’s a massive hit a lot less appalling. Where the show has been actively bad in the last few months, “Drug Money” is just pleasantly mediocre, with only a couple of gags that seem to be there primarily to shock us with how far the show is willing to go. 2 Broke Girls is rarely at its best when it’s trying to be provocative for the sake of provoking the audience, and this episode had a minimum of that. What’s more, the episode actually told a cohesive story with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s enough to make me think that somebody somewhere knew what they were doing this week.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first: The scene where Caroline and Max—participating in a drug test to raise money to be able to come to Caroline’s father’s legal defense—sit in a small room and listen to their fellow roommate pee probably isn’t quite what Norman Lear had in mind when he famously fought CBS to allow for the sound of toilet flushes to act as punchlines on All In The Family. The gag is that the drug the two are testing can cause RU—relentless urination—and their roommate has gotten that as her side effect of choice. (Also, apparently, anal leakage, which makes for a “fun” addition to the scene.) Nobody’s going to sit here and argue that bathroom humor is the height of sophistication, but there’s a way to make it funny if it’s done right. The level of it here was pretty much just a 5-year-old child running up to you, thrusting a big pile of crap in your face, and shouting, “HA HA! POOP AND PEE!”
The rest of the episode, however, was significantly better than the show has been in recent weeks. The episode sets up a bunch of ideas in its first scene, then spends the rest of the episode paying those ideas off. (Since that’s Sitcom Storytelling 101, praising the show for doing something that simple shouldn’t result in anything more than, “Good! You’re accomplishing things even Small Wonder could handle!” but here we are.) Max is going to take the drug test to make a cool $500, and she tells Caroline about it. Since we know this show, we know that Caroline is going to get roped into taking the test as well, and just as soon as we’re thinking this, her justification walks in the door. She needs to hire her father’s old lawyer to testify on his behalf, but he’s going to cost $1,100 for one hour’s work. What’s $500 times two? And if we add in $100 from the cupcake fund? Why, that’s $1100!
This sets up a bunch of promises the storyline immediately begins fulfilling. We know that Caroline and Max are going to take the drug test, and it will somehow interfere with Caroline’s testimony. (Otherwise, why would these two storylines be intersecting like this?) We know that the side effects will be comically over-the-top. We know that the other people Max and Caroline interact with at the drug test will all be amusingly over-the-top in one way or another, though since it’s this show, we just might be cringing that they’re all going to be stereotypes of one sort or another. Now, in a lot of other episodes of the show, this storyline would immediately turn out to be about something else entirely, and maybe the women would end up owning a hot-dog cart or something equally preposterous. “Drug Money” works because it immediately sets out doing everything it promised, right down to the scene at the end, when Caroline’s testimony is destroyed by the fact that the drug has caused her tongue to swell, so she can’t speak, leaving Max to interpret for her. (I’ll leave the veracity of this scene to our legal experts, but I somehow can’t imagine that anything like this would ever happen.) Hell, the show even pulls in the seemingly disconnected “emotional companion” bit from the teaser in this final scene.
Again, this is all Sitcom Writing 101. There’s no good reason the show can’t be doing this week to week. If it was and if the stereotype jokes didn’t exist, I’d have no problem saying this show was never going to be for me, but its massive success didn’t trouble me at all. Sometimes, people just want to see funny actresses get into wacky situations they have to resolve through slapstick. It’s the foundation of the most influential sitcom ever made, after all. Even if this show brings nothing to that particular subgenre, it’s nice to have a variation on that format out there, particularly in a time when television is so dominated by masculine voices. The problem has always been that every time the show does a pretty good episode like this, it immediately does another five that are godawful. There’s no rhyme or reason to how these episodes appear, either.
“Drug Money” is written by Greg Malins, who’s a veteran of some much, much better shows, including Friends and How I Met Your Mother. He’s only a consulting producer on this show, which most likely means that he comes in to work one or two days per week and tosses out ideas here and there, before heading off to work on his passion projects. It’s a good way to collect a paycheck for a TV writer, particularly if you get to write a script or two (as he has this season). It appears Malins is attempting to get his own show on the air (with Greg Berlanti) for next fall, which would explain why he’s only consulting on this show. I’m usually loathe to credit individual writers for good sitcom scripts—since sitcoms are so heavily written and rewritten in the writers room—but the structure of this one is so sound that I kind of hope Malins sticks around, if only for me to see if his first drafts provide such solid stories that everybody else can’t fuck them up. (Also, to be fair to the rest of the writers, Malins also was credited on “And The Disappearing Bed,” which I liked quite a bit less.)
That’s neither here nor there, though. “Drug Money” is the best episode of this show in quite a while, and while it’s hard to see this single episode converting anyone to the show’s cause, at least it didn’t make me want to dig out my own eyeballs with a spork. That this is high praise probably says something about how far this show has fallen from whatever expectations I had for it—but, hey, I’ll pretty much take what I can get at this point.
- Even the stereotype gags were mostly absent this week! Max and Caroline find Han speaking in Korean to be sexy, while Oleg actually gets one or two amusing lines.
- Hey, I’ll admit that I grinned at a couple of moments in this episode. I liked the casual introduction of Max and Caroline’s new roommate (she shuts down a self-mutilator), and I also enjoyed Max basing everything she knew of the legal system on Law & Order. An old gag, but Kat Dennings’ enthusiasm for it sold it.
- I said this in a comment earlier today, but I felt like reproducing it here to pad out the ol’ word count. I’m talking about the choice to make Martin Channing invisible for now: “I don’t mind seeing Caroline’s side of the relationship, but the way Max has gone whole hog for him as well strikes me as a bit odd. And, anyway, if they were going to have a character we never see, I think they picked the wrong one. Sophie, for instance, would be a lot funnier as someone who’s imaginary, while the show is giving one-half of its most important emotional storyline to a guy who’s never there. It’s just weird.”