There is an old joke that goes: “When I was a child, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle, but then I realized that God doesn’t work that way. So, I just stole one and asked him to forgive me.” It’s this shining vein of shameless hypocrisy, seemingly present within wealthy, southern religiosity, that ABC seeks to mine as it offers up a potential Desperate Housewives replacement to those soon to be jonesing for their fix of middle class camp.
Based on Dallas native Gail Gatlin’s book, Good Christian Bitches (ABC copped flak for the title so they changed it, first to Good Christian Belles, then to just GCB), this garish spitefest centers on the wealthy residents of an upscale Dallas suburb who gossip, meddle and manipulate while worshiping the twin Christian pillars, Dior and Lacroix. The series centers on Amanda Vaughn (Bibb), the former queen bitch of her high school who is forced to return home in disgrace after her wealthy husband, accused of embezzling billions from his investors, died in a car crash along with his mistress.
Of course, this is TV land, so Amanda’s fall from grace extends only so far as her having to move back into her mother’s house – a palace by the standards of all save the Saudi Royal Family – who can afford to shower her daughter with a new Lexus and a six-figure gift card to soothe her emotional boo boos. Still quietly seething over decades-old slights, the rest of the neighborhood’s wealthy elite – former beauty queen Sharon (Aspen), successful realtor Heather (Nichols), local business mogul Crockett (Shor) and bitter ringleader Carlene (Chenoweth) — begin a campaign to make her even more miserable.
In an effort to illustrate the attitudes of the women, where being holy comes in second to being holier-than-thou and lip-service to the Lord gives you a free pass to play the Devil, all the Texas stereotypes are checked; pageant parents (in this case, grandparent), big hair, tasteless jewelry and god-awful, gawdy outfits. But in trying to spoof so-called superficiality and shallowness, the show offers little in the way of alternative. The cast is packed with capable actresses, especially Chenoweth, who is simply better than this sort of thing (was Jamie Pressley busy?), but they are just such cartoons that it’s hard to buy into the drama.
Most glaring is the seeming lack of any available arc for its leading lady. Billed as a story of redemption, Amanda returns home so utterly humble and eager to offer amends to begin with that it is hard to see where the show can go from here. That, and she just comes off as so normal, grounded and sane compared to the broadly drawn caricatures put forth by everyone else, that it is tough to discern how exactly her character might grow and develop moving forward.
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