It's a very seldom event to become excited about a TV series at this point in the year when so many fall shows are about to end and none of the summer series have really begun yet (save for Mad Men), but Nahnatchka Khan's snarky homage to living in New York with a roommate you love to hate is incisive, witty, and features James Van Der Beek playing himself. I don't actually think anyone has ever come up with such a brilliant concept.
June Coleman (Dreama Walker) is perhaps the most prototypical person that moves to New York: From a small town (in Indiana), dreams of greatness and success, and has absolutely no idea just how sobering it's going to be. After recently completing grad school, June is hired by the Buchman Mortgage Company, an enterprise that is miraculously paying for her moving expenses and chic apartment (that June predictably notes is "just like in Friends!"), causing her to genuinely believe that her life path is on track. Her fiancé, Steven (Tate Ellington), even agrees to move there once he's finished working on his psychological research with a preadolescent boy named Jeremy (it's very Bill Murray in The Royal Tenenbaums). The only glitch is that the first day she arrives, the CEO is in the midst of being arrested for embezzlement (a cliché plot device, but always a believable one). Before she leaves the building, though, she gets the chance to meet Mark (Eric André), her would-be mentor had the company survived, and a contact that proves crucial later on.
Because June's apartment was subsidized by Buchman and is now deemed government-owned property, she frantically searches for a new place to live by scouring the internet for a roommate, ultimately settling on Chloe (Krysten Ritter), who comes across as the most normal in a city sea of crazy. As June is exiting the building to begin the moving process, Chloe's neighbor in apartment 21, Robin (Liza Lapira), warns, "Don't trust the bitch in apartment 23." Vaguely creeped out, June doesn't have much in the way of options and promptly starts moving her possessions into apartment 23, after which she has a run-in with Eli (Michael Blaiklock), a perverse neighbor who asks her if she's "hot" and "sweaty" from moving. Realizing his innuendos, June threatens to call the police just as Chloe traipses around the apartment naked assuring her that everything is fine and that she knows Eli from when he shut down "an underground sushi restaurant [she] was working at." This is also, mind you, at the same time she grabs a yogurt from the refrigerator that June had just finished clearly marking her name on. This show knows how to focus on details.
Chloe begins her plot to get June to move out within the next few days so that she can collect June's rent (including last month's and a security deposit) for herself. While talking to her best friend, James Van Der Beek (who she used to date, but ended up becoming friends with because, as she laments, "We weren't really compatible, genitally. It was like trying to fit a cucumber into a coin purse."), he asks Chloe if she feels at all remorseful for constantly scamming her roommates, to which she replies, "Eventually, these girls realize that they don't belong here and I'm just helping push them out. I'm part of the great digestive system that is New York City." It is one of her most poignantly bitchy remarks in the episode.
In the meantime, June has managed to get a job as a barista at the coffee shop where Mark found his new niche as a manager. Yet another character with solid gold lines, when June points out that Mark got hired at It's Just Beans a mere four hours after being laid off from Buchwald, he shrugs, "Can't have a gap in the resume, right?"
June's ire for Chloe is only mildly allayed by the fact that Steven surprised her by coming to town for her birthday. What June doesn't know is that he's cheating on her with his assistant and a handful of other random women. But then, it's Chloe's job to make June see the truth. It's a very The Odd Couple dynamic that works extremely well.
The real highlight of Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 is, undeniably, James Van Der Beek's parody of himself. His willingness to play into the perception people have of him as simply James Van Der Beek (or "that dude who played Dawson") was also present when he appeared in Ke$ha's video for "Blow"--and was fine with her calling him "James Van Der Douche."
This tongue in cheek humor he has about himself is evident in every line of dialogue he recites throughout this show. For example, while talking on the phone to Chloe, she overhears Paula Cole's "I Don't Want To Wait" playing in the background and says, "You got a fan over, huh?" James confirms this as the fan in question comes downstairs holding out a flannel shirt to him. Chloe then asks, "Did she get you to put on the flannel?" He responds, "We're negotiating."
Another memorable line from Van Der Beek occurs when he tries to explain to June that Chloe really can be a good friend and that she once flew out all of his friends and family to Vietnam while he was shooting a commercial for an energy drink. Even though she used his credit card and left him stranded there, it was still a good time. But, as Van Der Beek will caution you, "Don't be a blonde dude in a Vietnamese jail, June. That's the real life lesson here."