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F(l)o Show: Chenoweth saves an otherwise doomed GCB

By Florence Lau | March 7, 2012

Alright, I'll admit it.

I was extremely skeptical before I even started watching the pilot of GCB, ABC's new show that's basically an adult version of Mean Girls. I mean, Southern accents and cowboy hats? Mean Girls might work in a high school setting but in Texas? Yeah, probably not.

Still, like many other people I'd talked to, I gave it a chance. Yes, before you ask, it was because Kristin Chenoweth was cast as the primary antagonist, and I wanted to watch her play someone bitchy. (Okay, who am I kidding? I just wanted to see her on my TV.)

GCB — previously Good Christian Bitches and then Good Christian Belles before settling on the ambigious GCB — follows Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), a former "mean girl" and recent widow who is forced to return to Dallas with her children after her husband and his mistress die by accidentally driving off a cliff and was subsequently exposed for being involved in some sort of Ponzi scheme.

Not only does she have to deal with her overbearing and meddlesome mother, Gigi Stopper (Annie Potts), but, in Amanda's absence, a former high school classmate she used to harass, Carlene Cockburn (Kristin Chenoweth), has taken over as Queen Bee. Along with several other former high school victims who don't believe Amanda has grown up, Carlene is determined to drive her out of Texas using whatever means necessary.

While I didn't hate the show as much as I thought, I didn't have a complete change of heart from my earlier skepticism either. It's the type of show that you can only really watch at 3 a.m. after your brain has leaked out of your ears from doing physics problems for five hours. If you're looking for depth, you're not going to find it here. Everything feels extremely "blown up," by which I mean that the whole show feels like a stereotype of the south: big hair, avid church-goers, country music and, yes, cowboy boots.

Even the characters are over the top. For example, Carlene uses her giant telescope to spy on Amanda the moment her car pulls into the driveway. Sharon, Cricket and Heather, who make up the rest of Carlene's posse, spend a huge amount of time with Carlene trying to come up with ways to find scandal in Amanda's life or otherwise embarrass Amanda until she leaves.

Really, don't these grown up women have anything else to do with their time?

The one thing that saved this show for me was, predictably, Chenoweth. I'd seen her in other comedic roles before (notably Olive Snook from the much too short-lived Pushing Daisies), and just like she did in 2007, she has an impeccable sense of comedic timing.

I don't know how she does it, but she manages to make almost every role she plays hilarious. It might be that she plays up her lack of height (at one point, she pulls out a stepstool to spy on Amanda from behind her curtains), or maybe it's how she can manage to sound sweet and bitchy at the exact same time.

And of course, by the end of the episode, she sings. You can't have Kristin Chenoweth in a show without making her sing at least once, though I wasn't expecting it until at least the second or third episode.

Compared to Chenoweth, Bibb's acting felt pretty boring. It wasn't bad, but it didn't have the same spunk and it didn't draw me into the story. Granted, Amanda is supposed to be out of her element and exasperated at what is going on around her, and she managed to convey that.

Also, by the end of the episode, Amanda basically stands up during church and, through a snarky prayer, tells everyone that she's not going to take this lying down, and Bibb's very serene, yet very sarcastic "prayer" shines in this scene and garnered some amusement.

Many people have been worried about watching this show because of the title, worried that it might be some underhanded way of making fun of Christians.

Honestly, I'd be more worried about this show making fun of the south, but really, it makes fun of neither Christians or the south. Rather, it's a show about utter hypocrisy and cruelty and just happens to take place in a Christian religion and set in Texas.

I don't know if that reassurance will belay anyone's fears about this show. As for me, I haven't decided if even Chenoweth can overcome the brainless mode I have to force myself to switch into in order to watch this show.

The next episode airs on Sunday at 10 p.m..

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