'2 Broke Girls' and one ugly clash with reporters
"2 Broke Girls" is one of the few new huge successes of the TV season, and its stars and executive producers had hoped to celebrate its popularity Wednesday during CBS' portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour.
But a session to promote the series deteriorated into an uncomfortable and messy clash between reporters and executive producer Michael Patrick King, who grew agitated with repeated questions about the continuing controversy concerning the show's lone Asian character, the owner of a diner who speaks in broken English.
Even though King had been expecting questions about the character Han Lee (Matthew Moy) since it has been an issue since the series premiered, he became increasingly defensive as the session wore on, making what amounted to a flat joke about the Irish heritage and sexual orientation of one reporter who continued to press him about whether CBS had asked him to make Han more dimensional and tone down his ethnicity.
The producer's combative demeanor ultimately cast a sour note over what should have been an upbeat session.
It's not the first time King has faced criticism over race. He was the creator of "Sex and the City," which was set in New York City but seldom featured principal characters of color. The only nonwhite character in the first movie spinoff of the series was an assistant to Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) played by Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson.
King initially tried to downplay the controversy over "2 Broke Girls," saying that while the show's humor may be edgy it was also full of heart. He said CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler had called the show "an equal opportunity offender," and the show comically deals with stereotypes, particularly of the title characters (played by Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs) who are respectively brunet and blond.
When the subject kept returning to Han Lee, King grew increasingly contentious. "I like Han and the fact that he's an immigrant," King said, adding that he didn't find the character offensive. King added that because he is gay — and a comedy writer — it gave him permission to poke fun at other "outsiders."
And even though King maintained that he had received no instructions from the network about toning down Han's more stereotypical characteristics, he noted that the last three episodes had not made any Asian jokes — only jokes about the character's shortness.
King repeated that he was proud of the "creativity and hilarity of what we do," and expressed surprise that there were fewer questions about that aspect of the show. But with his defensiveness, King and his prickly tone took the attention away from his show.
— Greg Braxton
Photo: Michael Patrick King, Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs at the Winter Press Tour 2012. Photo: Monty Brinton / CBS.