Oxygen asked irate locals to wait until Brooklyn 11223 actually aired before accusing it of insulting southern Brooklyn, women and Italian-Americans. But I can’t imagine what the cable channel hoped to gain from that strategy, because this show is everything its premature critics alleged it would be. It smudges the distinctions between communities—Coney Island, Bay Ridge, Gravesend, and others—turning the southwestern corner of the borough into one enormous “neighborhood”; it’s a show full of women who almost never talk to each other about anything other than guys; and nearly every character is an Italian-American stereotype who, rather than get fleshed out, instead has their stereotypes reinforced: there’s the debate about crab meat (is it better than lobster, or does it need some sauce?); or that time two brothers come near to blows because one said the other’s bedroom was messy. One character actually says, “fuhget about it.” “I am full Italian, and I’m from fucking Brooklyn, so I have absolutely no problem, no problem, fucking somebody up,” another says. More than one seems to have a close family member in the mob.
The show is about two former friends who stopped talking after one allegedly slept with the other’s boyfriend. Each now has a different group of friends who comfort them as they talk about it endlessly. “Anybody who tells you, ‘I hate drama, I hate drama’—they’re lying,” one of the interchangeable friends says. “Everybody loves drama. Nobody’s life would be exciting without drama.” (She says this with a slur; the drama here is Corona-fueled, and there’s some pretty serious alcohol abuse on display in one of the show’s few examples of southern Brooklyn authenticity.) “Everybody Loves Drama,” in fact, is the name of this pilot episode; I was reminded of the famous quote oft misattributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
The show is the latest example of the ordinary person elevated to celebrity, the girls at the end of the bar now with their own TV show. (Indeed, one of the main characters works at a bar not far from my house; “I hate this neighborhood, I hate everybody in it,” she says while pouring beers, speaking like a true Bay Ridgeite.) This isn’t a new phenomenon on television, but it’s so specific and hyperlocal here that it’s interesting, at least for Brooklynites, from that perspective. Otherwise, these just seem like more people who progressed effortlessly from living their lives under the influence of reality television, according to its tropes, to living it under the direction of a manipulative reality-television producer. “It’s all baby games,” says one of the managers of an auto-glass shop (who function sort of like the shoeshine guy in Police Squad). Right on, man.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart