Why it’s not worth getting worked up about G.C.B.

Christians who have been for the past year up in arms about ABC’s new series G.C.B. can begin the search for something new at which to take offense. Unless the show improves drastically, I predict that the program originally titled Good Christian Bitches (based on Kim Gatlin’s semi-auto-biographical, ghost-written novel of the same title) won’t last more than one season.

The series premiered last night amid much fanfare, not to mention the free publicity generated by the protests over the name - which, before it morphed into its current cryptic form, had a short span as Good Christian Belles. (Apparently having the word “Christian” in the title was as objectionable as the “B” word.) The series is part Dallas, hints of Mean Girls, a bit of Saved and heavy doses of Desperate Housewives. In short, it is derivative and doomed.

The show centers on Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), who comes home to Dallas, Texas, with her two teenage children after her philandering husband is killed in a car accident along with his mistress while in the act of, uh, philandering. A former “mean girl” in high school, Amanda has to face her former victims who’ve now grown up and established themselves as their hometown’s queen bees (their hive is none other than Hillside Memorial Church). But the problem with G.C.B. isn’t the bitches or the Christians. Nor is it the poking fun at Christians, which has never really been an obstacle to any show’s success. The problem is that, like the high-school versions of the characters that populate it, the show has little sense of itself.

That’s not entirely the fault of the show, a comedy billed as a nighttime soap and a dramedy. The problem is that comedy thrives best within a culture characterized by uniform standards. Since humor occurs in the unexpected, or in the violation of a norm, the more rules and mores exist in a culture, the more room there is for comedic events. Periods of fewer universal norms provide less opportunity for humor to arise. Suffice it to say, these are not good years for comedy. The comedies that are thriving today tend to do so within subcultures, small pools of those who “get” it.

And therein lies one Texas-sized problem for G.C.B: it doesn’t know who its audience is. Texans will get the homages to Texas culture; church-going Christians will recognize the jokes about prayer requests and the proper punctuation of a verse; and Southerners, I guess, will relate to the rest. Especially rich ones.  

Had it a better sense of audience and purpose (and better writing), the show might have been a fine comedy of manners: a witty, stylized satire of the mores and manners of the upper-class with a view toward correction. Indeed, there is much within Christian culture (and presumably Texas) worthy of correction, particularly through laughter.

But the greater problem is that the sort of themes in the show that would appeal to a wide audience - facing the mistakes of the past, addressing everyday ordinary sins, being able to change, offering and receiving forgiveness - aren’t really developed. They flounder beneath layers of superficiality that would put a Dallas Cowgirl to shame: stereotypes, one-liners, insults and gobs of black eye make-up and yellow hair dye. Even the best dialogue in the pilot episode - the scene in which Amanda movingly apologizes to Cricket for stealing her boyfriend back in high school - is undercut when Amanda closes the conversation with a vow (offered sincerely) not to steal Cricket’s husband now. And suddenly the show’s single redemptive moment - for Amanda speaks eloquently, too, about facing hypocrisy and sin - is snapped back into cartoon mode. And that’s a real bitch.

What Do You Think?

  • Did you watch G.C.B.? What was your impression?
  • What aspects of the church deserve to be satirized?
  • Are Christians better off ignoring shows that offend them or protesting them?

 

Comments (12)

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I agree with you, Karen, that the show is badly written and derivative. I'll probably watch another episode if reviews make me believe it gets better (sometimes pilots are much broader than the rest of the season). I'm disappointed because I think we so rarely see genuine, complex depictions of Christians in our media. This show had the potential to be that, but not a single character rang true to my experience, least of all Kristin Chenowith's, who seems to have memorized obscure Bible verses for the purpose of making jokes and supporting her nefarious goals, but missed the parts about kindness and joy.
I figured the premise was too thin to be worth watching, so I gave it a miss. Now that I've read your thoughtful review Karen, I see just how wonderfully prescient that was!

For me, it's better to ignore shows that offend me as opposed to protesting them, because there are so many reasons a show might offend me that I'd have to come up with a unique protest statement for each one. What offends me? Bad writing. Cliches that take themselves too seriously. Miscasting. The list goes on. I ignore them and figure that since TV shows are all about ratings that eventually they'll get the message if enough other people do the same.

Tim
Karen, I think you nailed the show, but in a very charitable way -- the only thing good about it was Annie Potts who really should be the main character. She may get a spin-off series of some kind. And how you make the adorable Kristin Chenoweth look dowdy? That takes real effort! Having grown up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, I can attest to the fact that GCB is definitely an LA version of life among wealthy Texans. The most objectionable anti-Christian moments came when public prayer was used to wage a personal attack. Yes, there is spiritual passive aggressiveness and there is nonsense -- GCB is mostly nonsense.
I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to take a more antagonistic view of this show. It represents nothing more than another full frontal assault on Christianity (or at least the caricature of what hollywood perceives as Christianity).

Why would ABC choose a title like this knowing full well it would invoke backlash? They did it because they despise Christianity and this was their way of expressing their disdain. It's that simple. Like everything else hollywood produces these days this show is thematic attempt at character assassination - using media to demean and malign groups with which they disagree - and that is almost always and exclusively Judeo/Christianity.

Will this show fizzle out? Perhaps. But I question why it is that Christians always shrug their shoulders at this sort of thing? The assaults are becoming more in-your-face on all fronts in this society. Shrugging them off only makes the next one more difficult to repel. This show should be denounced.
Actually John, I don't think they did it because they hate Christianity. They did it because they thought it would sell advertising space. If promoting Christianity sold ad space, they'd switch to that in a heartbeat.

Blessings,
Tim
John, as I stated in the post, the series was named after a book of the same title. ABC changed the title to the initials.
You made a great call, Tim, on not watching. I think your approach to bad shows is one more Christians should emulate.
Bethany, I share your disappoint because I saw the same potential in the show. I would love to see the kind of "genuine, complex" portrayals of Christians in the media you would.
Great call on Annie Potts!

 

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