Stars: Leslie Bibb, Kristin Chenoweth, Annie Potts, Jennifer Aspen, Miriam Shor, Marisol Nichols, Mark Deklin, David James Elliott, Brad Beyer
Writer: Robert Harling based on the novel “Good Christian Bitches” by Kim Gatlin
Director: Alan Poul
Network: ABC, airs Sunday nights
Original Telecast: March 4, 2012

With DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES leaving the air after eight seasons later this Spring, ABC looks like they’ve hit pay dirt with the perfect heir to that show with GCB.

GCB (otherwise known as GOOD CHRISTIAN BELLES or GOOD CHRISTIAN BITCHES if you want to use the title of the Kim Gatlin novel that this is based on) is a Dallas set soap opera that’s more catty and playful than the soap DALLAS and a little more dimensional than DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.

The story follows Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb), a former mean girl in high school who is forced to move back home to Dallas with her two kids after her husband pulled off a billion dollar Ponzi scheme and accidentally drove himself off a cliff during a moment of accelerated infidelity.

Amanda knew nothing of the Ponzi scheme, but she’s being punished for it and her penance is moving back in with her domineering mother Gigi (the wonderful Annie Potts).

However, there are many people in their tight knit Christian community that would prefer Amanda hadn’t returned. Top on that list are the women she tortured in high school who are now ruling the roost in the community.

Carlene Cockburn (Kristin Chenowith) is the biggest thorn in her side. She was tormented by Amanda in high school for being ugly and she wants revenge; Cricket Caruth-Reilly (Miriam Shor) had her boyfriend stolen from her in high school by Amanda and now turns to food for solace; Sharon Peacham (Jennifer Aspen) is a former beauty queen whose dreams were dashed by a horrible rumor Amanda spread; and lastly there’s Heather Cruz (Marisol Nichols) who has been sucked into Carlene’s little hen house, but has found her loyalties leaning to the reformed Amanda.

Whereas DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is all about the ensemble of the four leads, GCB really is about the redemption of Amanda. While everyone else has held on to their high school ways, Amanda truly has moved on and is trying to make a better life for her family – despite tragedy and global embarrassment. It’s an interesting theme, also emphasized by the religious nods throughout.

This is a fantastic cast with Bibb really given a great role to play – and she brings a humanity and warmth to a character we should really hate, but actually really like as the episode progresses. Her relationship with her mom is also fantastically written by Robert Harling who developed the material from the book. Potts is a natural for this role and she too brings a warmth and humanity to a character that could have been one-dimensional, shrill and annoying if someone else tackled it.

That’s not to say the show doesn’t partake in some of the comedic hamminess that DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is known for. Chenowith gets the bulk of that business. She’s fun to watch, but it will be nice to see the character developed beyond just the caricature that’s on display in the pilot. Chenowith is a fantastic actress and she tackles every scene with gusto, but this is something that can’t be sustained for a full season, let alone an eight-season run. I like what she’s doing, and she pulls it off brilliantly, but with a series that is trying hard to ground many aspects of its story, Carlene will have to be brought down to earth a little for her to remain interesting and viable to the show.

I also liked how the character of Heather sizes Amanda up, realizes she has changed and finds her drawn to her as a friend. It would have been unfortunate if all four women were out to get Amanda.

I was expecting to hate GCB, and while it’s definitely not my kind of show, the “Pilot” is solid for what it is. It’s a breezy fun ride, with interesting characters, a good story and some great actresses thrown into the mix. Can it sustain itself? Sure it can. Will DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES fans flock to it? Of course. Will I be watching week after week? Hell, no. Yet. for me to not the be core demographic and still get sucked into the show this one time – that’s a testament to how good it is.


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Article: TV Review – GCB – Season 1 – “Pilot” – Series Premiere


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