Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
At today’s contentious TCA panel on 2 Broke Girls, creator/executive producer Michael Patrick King defended the comedy against continuing criticism that it traffics in ethnic stereotypes. The heated exchanges left King disappointed by the end of the session, when he said he arrived thinking the panel was going to be fun. As when the show came on the air, the questions mostly centered on Asian character Han Lee (Matthew Moy). “I’m gay. We put in gay stereotypes — I don’t get offended by any of this,” said the producer during the panel with stars Kat Denning and Beth Behrs. “I find it comic to take everybody down.” A questioner weren’t going to let him off that easily, asking if being part of a marginalized group gives one license to stereotype others. King shot back: “I would say it’s about being a comedy writer. It gives you permission to be an outsider and poke fun at what people think about other people.” King bristled at further questions about whether CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler had specifically asked King to “dimensionalize” characters beyond the stereotypes. When pressed, King acknowledged Tassler had used the word “dimensionalize” but said: “The characters are dimensional. And they are seen in segments of 21 minutes; you are limited in the amount of dimension you can see.” To his questioner, he added heatedly: “I will call you in five years” to see if the critic would find the characters fleshed out.” While denying the overuse of ethnic stereotypes, King did say he was proud that after the first three episodes of the series, the Han Lee character has only been the butt of short jokes, not Asian jokes.
King was also called upon to defend the show’s broad humor — it has become known as the show that loves the word “vagina.” “Our show is a big, ballsy comedy, but it has a bigger heart than it has balls,” he said. Asked whether “ballsy” humor is appropriate for an 8:30 PM show, King said: “Let me correct you, the question is, is it appropriate to 8:30 on CBS in 2012? 8:30 on CBS in 1994” would be a different story, he continued. He added: “I consider our jokes classy-dirty, highbrow-lowbrow. If the show existed only in naughty jokes without pathos, I would be unhappy.”
After the session, King said he was surprised by the criticism. “I came here thinking it was going to be a blast — about fun, not this skewed viewpoint,” he said.
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