Take a healthy portion of Mean Girls, add a few shakes of “Desperate Housewives,” a dash of Steel Magnolias and a pinch of “Popular,” then coat heavily with equal parts Southern charm and saucy attitude. What do you get? “GCB,” ABC’s comedy about going home again—and paying the price for the person you used to be.
Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb, “Popular”) hauls her two kids back to the family home in Dallas after her Ponzi-scheming husband is killed in a car wreck with his mistress and several thousand dollars of other people’s money. Eager to start fresh, she finds that she first has to resolve the bad feelings she left behind when, as the queen bee in high school, she tormented her fellow classmates (and new neighbors).
Carlene Cockburn (the glorious Kristin Chenoweth), in particular, has no love for the new widow. Once the ugly duckling, Amanda’s departure allowed Carlene to blossom into the neighborhood diva. Married to the handsome Ripp (David James Elliott), Carlene dominates her clique of powerful women friends, all of whom felt the sting of Amanda’s barbs years earlier: former beauty queen Sharon (Jennifer Aspen), business mogul Cricket (Miriam Shor) and single-but-searching Heather (Marisol Nichols). Their wariness of the former mean girl and her intentions is summed up by Carlene, after inquiring if Dallas is Amanda’s final destination: “Well, we hope you’re here for good…and not for evil.”
The show’s delicious catfights and schemes were nicely balanced with story lines about family, faith and finding the balance between the urge for revenge and the need for forgiveness. Based on the book Good Christian Bitches by Kim Gatlin, ABC’s version toned down the back-biting, yet still faced problems as Christian organizations pressured the network to rename the series or face boycotts. Thus the series became “Good Christian Belles,” shortened to simply “GCB,” before airing in March.
Although some viewers were expecting a show that made fun of Texans, Christians and women in general, they were instead treated to smart writing, laugh-out-loud story lines and the kind of decadent escapism these dreary times call for. Yes, it was snarky, but, like “ABC Afterschool Specials,” there was always a lesson hidden amongst the drama.
ABC gave the series the axe in May, despite drawing a respectable 5.6 million viewers to the finale. Though the show made history by gathering more than 100,000 signatures via online petitions, promoted by fans as notable as talk show host Wendy Williams and gossip monger Perez Hilton, there has been no sign of a savior for the freshman series.
Now available in a 3-disc DVD package from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (MSRP: $39.99), fans can relieve the complete first (and, most likely, final) season with a nice sprinkling of extras.
Though the show features some top-notch musical numbers, it’s far from a gospel version of “Glee!.” “Preaching to the Choir” highlights the ways the show uses music to further tell the stories of these women, revealing personality traits of Chenoweth’s, Shor’s and Mark Deklin’s characters that couldn’t be told without musical accompaniment.
Each disc features deleted or extended scenes, and audio commentaries are available for three episodes (one per disc) that feature spirited narrative (Bibb, creator Robert Harling and executive producers Aaron Kaplan and Gretchen J. Berg appear on all three tracks, with a different guest on each of the three commentaries). Their banter is bittersweet, as they often reference where things were headed in season two, clearly unprepared for cancellation.
Since the premise of the show is to show the post-high school lives of Dallas’ most prominent, “GCB: Most Likely To...” is a fun look at the virtual yearbook of the cast and their picks for different titles, from “Best Smile” to “Most Likely To Be An Olympic Athlete,” while the requisite blooper reel reveals a much more lighthearted side of the Belles.
There are also two featurettes included in the package. Both “Bigger in Texas” and “Living Large” focus on the bigger-is-better mentality of Texans, from the luxe living spaces to keeping up appearances. “Bigger in Texas” takes a deeper look at the fashion, beauty and grooming that was required to transform L.A. actors into Dallas doyennes, while “Living Large” is focused more on the real estate and set design challenges involved in bringing Texas excess to the small screen. It’s fun to see the details that contribute to the (apparently not exaggerated) opulence and decadence of those living larger than life in the Lone Star State.
While, given time and a better time slot, “GCB” could have proven a worthy successor to “Desperate Housewives,” the show’s ultimate fate will have to remain in the hands of a higher power.
“GCB: The Complete First Season” is now available on DVD.