Review: ‘The Bad Girl’s Guide’

As the promos for "The Bad Girl's Guide" boast, sometimes it's good to be bad, but it is bad to be mediocre. Especially if you're a sitcom on UPN trying to woo viewers during a lull in fresh network programming. The net has a prime opportunity here to garner more female viewers -- more viewers period -- with a series based on the popular tongue-in-cheek "how-to" books from Cameron Tuttle.

As the promos for “The Bad Girl’s Guide” boast, sometimes it’s good to be bad, but it is bad to be mediocre. Especially if you’re a sitcom on UPN trying to woo viewers during a lull in fresh network programming. The net has a prime opportunity here to garner more female viewers — more viewers period — with a series based on the popular tongue-in-cheek “how-to” books from Cameron Tuttle. However, this bawdy comedy starring Jenny McCarthy is more of a “Being Sleazy for Dummies.”

Robin Schiff’s script tartly transfers Tuttle’s sassy, chick-lit style into sassy, chick-sit-com, infusing the premiere episode with the novelist’s self-proclaimed “femme realist” approach. There’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll unabashedly on display, but instead of really empowering the characters, more often it just reinforces old stereotypes.

McCarthy stars as JJ, a bad girl extraordinaire who suffers through work because “that’s what you do to pay for going out.” Despite a penchant for latenight partying, ditching the boss and toking up in the employee bathroom, JJ and her friend and co-worker Holly (Marcelle Larice) have prestigious jobs at a high-profile ad agency in Chicago.

Meanwhile, JJ and best friend Sarah (Christina Moore) spend a good deal of effort searching for “one truly worthy of us, who accepts our wonderfulness without being threatened.”

This leaves little time for real things, like work, but that never seems to be a problem. Despite habitual tardiness, procrastinating on big ad campaigns and the aforementioned on-the-clock pot smoking, JJ is fabulous at her job. This is about as believable as the Gilmore girls’ ability to eat whatever they want without gaining an ounce.

Granted, the material is not meant to be subtle, and that’s OK. If you are going to do a series that makes constant reference to sex and drugs, you might as well go for it. The problem here lies in timing and delivery.

Someone like “Absolutely Fabulous’ ” Jennifer Saunders can pull off a line like “Hello, bitches” without the gratuitous pause for laughs that seem to plague most of McCarthy’s line readings.

Although wholly appealing, McCarthy and pals are more like sorority girls than savvy singles. A little more Samantha Jones or Mae West could make all of the difference.

As it is, “Bad Girl’s” feels like a watered-down American “AbFab” or “Sex and the City” Light.

Director Ellen Gittelsohn clearly relishes the material, making great use of the fantasy segments, while costumes by Jyl Moder make the most of what is for now the show’s biggest assets.

The Bad Girl's Guide

UPN, Tues. May 24; 9:30 p.m.

Production

Filmed on location in Los Angeles by Flame Television and Palm Tree Prods. in association with Paramount Network Television. Executive producers, Tony Krantz, Robin Schiff; co-executive producers, Wendy Goldman, Rob Lotterstein, Nina Lederman, Cameron Tuttle; producers, Jenny McCarthy, Mark H. Ovitz; co-producer, Darin Henry; director, Ellen Gittelsohn, writer, Robin Schiff.

Crew

Camera, Ken Lamkin, editor, Andrew Chulack; casting, Susan Vash. Running time: 30 MIN.

Cast

JJ - Jenny McCarthy Holly - Marcelle Larice Sarah - Christina Moore Irene - Stephanie Childers Patric - Johnathan McClain
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