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If you want your sitcom to get cancelled, put Liza Lapira on it (she’s good on the drama side, though)

I watched Don’t Trust The B in Apartment 23, which I believe should actually be written Don’t Trust The B—- In Apartment 23, when it was on. I didn’t watch it religiously or anything; I caught maybe 2-3 episodes every month and a half. Now that it’s gone to a better place where sitcoms eventually end up, I’ve watched a couple on Netflix. It wasn’t a bad show. Krysten Ritter, who most people probably know from Gilmore Girls or Veronica Mars or Breaking Bad (** spoiler: her death on Breaking Bad kinda sets most of the rest of the show in motion from that point onward), is awesome. (I was glad to see she has a bunch of stuff coming out in 2014.) Overall, the show wasn’t bad. It got cancelled because Season 2 ratings sagged, but you can see extra episodes on Hulu. In fairness, it was probably doomed from the jump: Ritter’s character was funny but basically sociopathic, which I doubt the much-discussed “middle America” that drives TV ratings can truly relate to. Making Dawson into a drunk Lothario with self-esteem issues was hysterical at points and tedious at others. Point is, ’twas a good show, but ’tis gone.

When I was watching it, though … I realized that the girl who plays Robin (the next door neighbor who wants to be best friends with Ritter’s character; kinda like a sycophantic Judy Greer character who’s Asian) is Liza Lapira. I knew I had seen her other places, probably most notably Crazy Stupid Love (she was Emma Stone’s BFF in there). Also, currently she’s on Super Fun Night, the Rebel Wilson sitcom, which has moments here and there but is mostly unfunny (and has less-than-stellar ratings). Then I remembered I also saw her on Traffic Light, on FOX, which was pretty funny but … er, got cancelled.

So I checked the Lapira IMDB. There’s an interesting trend line here: she’s never really been a lead character, yes, and lead characters tend to drive TV shows, so none of what I’m about to say can actually be blamed on/attributed to her, but it’s still intriguing. Almost every time she’s been on a dramatic TV show (ER, Law and Order SVU, The Sopranos, Dexter, NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy), it’s been a successful one. But every time she’s been on a comedic TV show (Super Fun Night, Traffic Light, Don’t Trust The B, Huff), it’s been cancelled after a season or two. The notable exception here is Dollhouse, which she was on and was cancelled after about two seasons; that show did have Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku attached, but got buried time slot and pairing-wise.

Again, these aren’t lead roles — and they may not be for a bit, since her next role is “Single Mom At The Wedding” in Someone Marry Barry — but her career is almost like an odd baseball split situation for an actress. When she tangentially touches drama, it tends to be very strong shows; when she tangentially (or recurringly) touches comedy, the shows tend to disappear quickly. While some have claimed this period of time is a coming-out career party for her, others have pointed to her sitcom career as representative of what’s wrong with Asian-American portrayals on American shows:

Liza Lapira wears fright clothes and dowdy haircuts as the sidekick Helen-Alice on “Super Fun Night” (ABC), something she already endured as the eccentric neighbor on “Don’t Trust the B — — in Apt. 23” last season.

She was part of the “He’s Just Not That Into You” scene, which of course became a whole cultural thing. Maybe that kinda makes up for her other sitcoms flopping.

It’s an interesting contextual discussion in some ways, though: is the lack of success she has found on sitcoms because she picks bad projects, because she gets forced into dumb sidebar characters due to being Asian, or because American sitcom audiences are expecting something else out of the sidekick/friend/neighbor role she tends to play? I have no real idea. In fact, I liked Traffic Light, Don’t Trust The B, and periodically laugh at Super Fun Night (they need to abandon the storyline with the upstairs male neighbors, who are terrible, and they need to do something about the Kendall character, because her and the Richard character have no chemistry and that makes most of the rest of it not as believable).

Point is, Lapira is a good actress and has done some good roles. She’s like a baseball player hitting .300 at home who goes on the road and hits .206, though. She should find a good one-hour procedural — someone get her Dick Wolf’s people, STAT! — and shine on there as a supporting, but recurring character; in the down periods, she can flex her muscles in another 21 or Crazy Stupid Love. Ah, career advice from a person who last acted in a 9th grade production of Bus Stop. I’m sure she’ll listen. It has been an interesting career to tangentially observe so far, though.

Ted Bauer

2 Comments

  1. Liza Lapira was a horrible actress on Dexter. Felt bad for the good actors who had to work off her.

  2. I don’t think there is any scientific basis to your observations. I’m sure you can find other actors/actresses like her who were casted in cancelled shows. Feels like this is a biased article. I don’t know what you have against her, but it feels personal to me.

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