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At this rate, ‘GCB’ will be GONE in no time flat

THERE’S A LOT to like about ABC’s new Sunday night series, “GCB,” which could be subtitled “Grown-up ‘Mean Girls’ in Dallas.”

Unfortunately, there’s even more to dislike, starting with excesses that feel needlessly raunchy and go out of their way to insult viewers of faith.

A good example of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of “GCB” is Kristen Chenoweth and the character she plays on this series, which works hard at bouncing between funny and frustrating, clever and crass.

Chenoweth is one of the best actresses working on television, and portrays quirky and headstrong as well as anyone around.

But on this show, named after and based on the book “Good Christian Bitches” by Kim Gatlin, the actress is given the impossible task of making her character, Carlene Cockburn, somebody who inspires both fear and laughter.

Sweet and sassy one moment, hateful the next, she’s more bizarre than sympathetic. She’s all the “Desperate Housewives” rolled into one.

That’s important, because this show’s trying to be a replacement of sorts for those who liked that offering on Sunday evening.

The root problem is that “GCB” tries to take everything three steps beyond what’s believable or honestly funny.

If it’s not making half the women on the show dress and act like hookers, it’s making the mean girls a bizarre mix of church matrons and vengeful enemies.

The cause of all that ill will? Back in high school in this ritzy Dallas neighborhood, Amanda Vaughn was the meanest of mean girls, spreading lies about anyone who posed a threat to her spot as queen bee.

Flash forward a decade or two and Vaughn’s coming home again from California after her husband dies while attempting to sneak off with stolen money and his wife’s best friend.

I’d explain how the accident happened, but this is a family newspaper. That means the incident—referred to several times in the pilot—didn’t really belong on prime time of a broadcast network.

Back home in disgrace, Vaughn is forced to move in with her mom (the wonderful Annie Potts of “Designing Women”).

Waiting to get even with her are all the mean girls she insulted in high school, with Cockburn heading up the pack.

As Vaughn, the likable Leslie Bibb does a fair job creating a central character we like and can root for. She’s spunky and the only one who seems to make any sense. But, my goodness, the craziness that roils around her.

Cockburn, who’s married to an oilman who keeps asking to rendezvous on office furniture, frames all of her hurtful schemes and thoughts in biblical verse, which feels more offensive than funny.

She even excuses her flimsy manner of dressing by saying, “Cleavage makes your cross hang straight!”

This is just the tip of the unbelievable iceberg.

The husband of one of the mean girls is sleeping with his male ranch foreman. The husband of another immediately wants to sleep with Vaughn, and another of the mean girls pack is a binge eater who’s devouring something in every scene.

And because it’s all set in Dallas, there are cowboy hats and oilman dances and characters with bigger cars, diamonds and egos than can be imaged.

Potts is still fun as the grandma who has a sawed-off shotgun her in closet and a Neiman Marcus card at the ready.

Maybe things will calm down to the point where this can be watched instead of endured. But given the way the show’s trying to express its (rhymes with “witchy”) vibe, I doubt it.

And don’t get me started on the way the name “GCB” has been expressed as “Good Christian Belles.”

If you’re going to be bad, own it. Or avoid it altogether.

WANT TO WATCH?

“GCB”

When: Sunday nights at 10

Where: ABC

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/features/2012/03/09/at-this-rate-gcb-will-be-gone-in-no-time-flat/