Monday, June 11, 2012

Men on Film: Can Even Jesus Save GCB?

The trouble started for GCB, the funny and fabulous sitcom about dirty dealings amongst Dallas’ most holier-than-thou society women, when ABC made them change the name to GCB from the original Good Christian Bitches. To be fair, no network but HBO or Showtime would have risked offending the heartland with such a brash but hilarious title. But in what may have been a harbinger of doom, Reverend's own mother (who is no prude and would otherwise love the show) couldn't even get past the abbreviation and refused to watch. Sadly, it was recently announced that ABC was pulling the plug on the freshman comedy – the second time they have done so to poor Kristin Chenoweth (Wicked) after the sadly overlooked Pushing Daisies, which at least got two seasons.

The first and to date only season of GCB is out on DVDtomorrow. There is still a glimmer of hope for Cricket, Carlene, Gigi, Amanda and Pastor Tudor. Even author Kim Gatlin, upon whose book the show is based, was overwhelmed to learn that an online petition intended to save the series has already received over 57,000 signatures. If you want to see more GCB, go to and join the holy fight! You may also consider sending a Bible and/or bottle of BBQ sauce (wink) as soon as possible to ABC exec Paul Lee at 77 W. 66th Street, Suite 100, New York, NY 10023-6201.

Created by Steel Magnolias writer Robert Harling, the series stars not only the sublime Chenoweth but also Miriam Shor from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Annie Potts from Designing Women, not to mention the extremely hunky Mark Deklin (soon to be sort of seen as Tarzan's father in the upcoming, updated motion-capture version), David James Elliot (JAG) and Tyler Jacob Moore. GCB may not have been a ratings star, but it is like a slice of heaven for the GLBT community. You will definitely want to own the whole series even if you haven't yet seen a single episode.

Former mean girl Amanda Vaughn (Popular's Lesley Bibb) is forced to move back to Dallas to live with her mother Gigi (Potts) after her husband defrauded millions from investors and then died in a scandalous sex-related car crash. Amanda spent her high school years tormenting less popular girls, so imagine her dismay to discover that all of her enemies are now the queen bees of her affluent Dallas suburb, and that they definitely know how to hold a grudge. Carlene Cockburn (Chenoweth) and her husband Ripp (Elliot) are rich benefactors to the church, while Cricket Caruth-Reilly (Shor) and her gorgeous husband Blake (Deklin) have a ranch and run numerous big businesses. Behind the scenes, their marriage is somewhat unusual. Blake spends his quality time with his “ranch foremen” while Cricket releases her tension with her personal trainers. Meanwhile, sweet Sharon Peachum (Jennifer Aspen) starts off an insecure former beauty with a weight problem, but blossoms into an entrepreneur pushing a Jesus-based weight loss diet plan.

Amanda isn’t the cruel girl from high school, and it takes all ten episodes before some sort of truce is reached. Along the way these Good Christian Bitches fight over who will sing the solo in the Easter Pageant, whether the women can cook Texas Barbecue as well as the Good Ol’ Boys and who will win the heart of the sexy blond Pastor (Moore).

GCB is non-stop fun from beginning to end with a cast that is heaven-sent. Chenoweth, a devout Christian herself, brings integrity to her scheming character, who usually lets her faith lead her back to doing the right thing no matter how much she may despise Amanda. Shor and Deklin have some remarkable scenes together where they discuss their unconventional love. Potts (channeling her late Designing co-star Dixie Carter) steals every scene as a big-haired, gun-toting Dallas doyenne who isn’t about to let a bunch of gossipy church ladies hurt her girl. While we all pray that ABC or some network finds divine inspiration in the girls and guys of GCB, this full season will make you laugh, cry and even think about going to church again. If your pastor looked like Moore, who wouldn’t?

Five Divinely Inspired Scenes From GCB:
1. The Pilot: Amanda goes out to dinner with Blake and his current ranch foreman Booth Becker (Denton Everett), and when she drops her napkin, she spots Blake and Booth getting friendly under the table, giving the show its first gay jolt.

2. Episode 4: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Carlene’s Uncle Burl (Bruce Boxleitner) shows up with his wife Bitsy, Gigi’s arch-nemesis, played by none other than Knot’s Landing bitch extraordinaire Donna Mills. A rogue hors d’oeuvre dispatches Bitsy in hilarious fashion, leaving Gigi and Burl to reunite.

3. Episode 7: Sex is Divine: Sharon tries to lose weight and spice up her marriage, and hits upon a sure-fire business idea: a Christian diet plan called “Losing It With Jesus!” that uses food from the Bible to help you shed pounds. Also, Pastor Tudor encourages his flock to have sex at least once a day for a week.

4. Episode 8: Pride Comes Before a Fall: To show up Pastor Tudor’s rival across town, Amanda directs an Easter pageant featuring a hot Jesus (Ripp) a flying Holy Spirit (Carlene or Cricket) an ultra-buffed Lazarus (Blake) and a lowly leper (Cricket or Carlene). The pageant is a hoot, but the guys running the flying inadvertently send someone sailing through the Church’s stained glass window.

5. Episode 10: Revelation: Carlene’s dream of opening Condos for Christian Living in unincorporated Juarez, Mexico hit a snag when the girls are kidnapped and brought before the sublime Sandra Bernhard. Barring a miracle, this is the way we leave our Good Christian Bitches, with more shocking scandals (An illegitimate child! A forbidden kiss!) that may never be resolved.

The DVD boasts a number of fun bonus features including "Living Large," wherein Potts and Aspen give a behind-the-scenes tour of the show's great sets by Denny Dugally, and "Preaching to the Choir," which reveals among other things that the first season's musical pageant was intended to be an annual event. Also to be found among the DVD's three discs is a mixed bag of ten deleted scenes and a hilarious collection of bloopers... interspersed with scriptural quotes!

Even if ABC doesn't continue GCB, perhaps another network will see the light (a la the transferred cult hit Cougar Town) and save these nasty but hilariously GCBs.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine and Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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