SERIES PREMIERE "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23"
WHEN | WHERE Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on ABC/7
REASON TO WATCH Come on, admit it. With a title like that, you almost have to.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT New York, New York, the city so nice they named it twice, except it's not so nice to newcomers like June (Dreama Walker), who arrives from Indiana only to find her big new job nuked in the wake of a Bernie Madoff-like scandal at the company that hired her. With no job and no apartment, she starts looking for a place to live, and knocks on the door of one Chloe (Krysten Ritter).
Chloe's a scam artist who figures she has the perfect con: Act so crazy that her roommates leave without their deposit or assorted other valuables. The pervert in the apartment next door, Eli
(Michael Blaiklock), hastens their departure. But nice, wholesome June can't say she wasn't warned. Robin (Liza Lapira) down the hall warns her: "Don't trust the b---- in apartment 23."
MY SAY Like a jilted lover -- or, say, like poor June -- "Apartment 23" has bounced around development hell for five long years. Fox first took a look and passed, then ABC, which did as well, until a new boss at the network's entertainment division arrived and finally gave this a green light.
Will his faith be rewarded? The answer's a bit complicated. Wednesday night's pilot is tentative and unsure of itself. The show, along with this hard sell of a premise, feels more like a misfit than a highly polished sitcom with reliable laugh lines.
But next week's episode is a sharp departure -- and one for the better. As the preening I-used-to-be-a-contender TV hunk, Van Der Beek is an inspired casting move. Hounded by "Dawson's Creek" fans who want him to recite some cherished bit of Dawson Leery dialogue, he just wants to be taken seriously (as an interpreter of Shakespeare, no less). Walker and Ritter, likewise, have plenty of vitality and charm. Raunchy and at times genuinely funny, "Apartment 23" is jam-packed with promise -- and inconsistencies.
BOTTOM LINE Sluggish start, but "Apartment 23" gets better.