In a jaw-dropping panel at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Sex and the City and 2 Broke Girls creator and producer Michael Patrick King doubled down his defense of the rampant racial and ethnic stereotypes in 2 Broke Girls, suggesting that they would not change even in response to notes from the network that suggested “dimensionalizing” the non-white characters in the supporting cast.
“Nina likes to say we’re an equal opportunity offender…I personally am thrilled with everything we’re doing. I’m happy with the growth. I feel we’re growing. I think there’s room to grow. I’m thrilled with the arena, with CBS, who knows what a big, bold joke means,” he told an audience of critics, many of whom have argued that the show’s signal weakness is its heavy reliance on obvious racial humor. “I don’t find it offensive, any of this. I find it comic to take everybody down…Being a comedy writer gives you permission to be an outsider and poke fun at what people think of other people.”
King defended the jokes about Matthew Moy’s diner manager Han Lee, saying “I like the fact that he’s an immigrant. I like the fact that he’s trying to fit into America. I like the fact that in the last 3 episodes we haven’t made an Asian character, we’ve only made short jokes.”
He also said that he thought the show was an authentic representation of the relationships between people of different races and backgrounds in gentrifying New York neighborhoods.
“I feel that it is broad and brash and very current. It takes place in Williamsburg, NY,” he said. “It is a complete mashup of young, irreverent hipsters, old-school people, different nationalities, different ethnic backgrounds. And what our show represents is that mashup of smart girls and a wide range of characters. Nina [Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment] likes to say we’re an equal opportunity offender. I like to say that the big story about race on our show is so many are represented. The cast is incredibly multi-ethnic, including the regulars and the guest stars. We sort of represent what New York used to be, and still is, a melting pot.”
King did acknowledge that the show would continue to develop supporting characters of color like Garrett Morris’s Earl, who he said got a more substantial storyline in an upcoming episode. And he suggested that while his obligation was to expand the two main characters (who he said had their origins in stereotypes as well) first, he “didn’t think the [supporting] characters were one note. I thought they were the first note.”
But it was an undeniably tense session, with King at one point calling out The Wrap critic Tim Molloy and, in a lame attempt at proving the humor he was defending can work, suggesting that Molloy’s Irish heritage is the source of sexual problems. I’m told that critics asked these kinds of questions at summer press tour, so it’s difficult to believe that CBS in general, which has another broad ethnic show debuting in Rob, or King in particular would have been surprised by them. Perhaps he genuinely believes that these sort of jokes are cutting edge in the same way he suggested that the show’s sex jokes reflect the fact that the show is “8:30, on Monday on CBS in 2012. It’s a very different world than 8:30 on Monday on CBS in 1994.” If this is as far as we’ve come, we’ve got a long haul ahead of us.