This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
PASADENA, Calif. - A terrible brawl broke out at the Television Critics Association press tour.
No physical punches were thrown, but plenty of blows were landed as "2 Broke Girls" executive producer Michael Patrick King was confronted about the racism in his show.
King and CBS dispute the suggestion that the show is in any way racist, but three of the supporting characters are clearly offensive racial stereotypes. Have been since the pilot.
And King clearly doesn't care.
Question No. 1 began, "Michael, the show has become known for its very broad racial and ethnic humor," and King interrupted to say, "Thank you."
As he did back in July when yours truly confronted him about that, King denied there's a problem. He doesn't see that the characters - particularly Han (Matthew Moy), the Asian character who owns the diner where the "2 Broke Girls" (Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs) work - are offensive.
"I feel that it is broad and brash and very current," he insisted, adding that the show is "an equal-opportunity offender."
What he doesn't get is that it's not the same thing to make fun of people for their behavior as it is to mock them for their ethnicity.
After insisting, "I like Han. I like his character," King said that the three most recent episode they've produced feature jokes about Moy's height, not his ethnicity.
"Does that mean that you're not going to go back to the Asian stereotypes?" he was asked.
"I'm gay," King said, as jaws dropped around the room because of the sheer non-sequitur of his statement. "I'm putting in gay stereotypes every week. I don't find it offensive, any of this. I find it comic to take everybody down. That's what we're doing."
Which prompted another legitimate question: "Does being a part of one traditionally disenfranchised group make it then carte blanche to make fun of other traditionally disenfranchised groups?"
"No," King said, still missing the point completely. "I would say that you could rephrase that being a comedy writer gives you permission to be an outsider and poke fun at what people think about other people."
He couldn't even bring himself to say that maybe, just maybe, those characters might need some tweaks.
"I'm personally thrilled with everything we're doing," King said. "I'm real happy with the growth."
Nobody loves a Michael Patrick King show more than Michael Patrick King. And he didn't do himself by unleashing the towering ego that he's been known for since his days on "Sex and the City."
"Every conversation that we've had in this room today about the edge of '2 Broke Girls' is based on extreme wit, a sharp wit," he gushed about himself.
The exchange between one reporter and King became downright nasty. The reporter wasn't dead on when he was trying to quote CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, but King parsed words in a rather ridiculous fashion. The reporter correctly pointed out that Tassler had said she spoke with King about how he should "continue to dimensionalize" the supporting characters in "2 Broke Girls"; King denied it; it went downhill from there.
After asking the reporter his name, King said, "So you are Irish? OK. So we've identified your sexual problem."
If I'm running CBS, I'm a little worried that I have a sitcom showrunner who thinks that kind of behavior is amusing.
And King didn't do himself any good feigning ignorance about a "2 Broke Girls" joke about a particular sex act.
Dennings did herself even less good by insisting, "You are hearing things that don't exist."
Maybe she was kidding. But if she was, it wasn't funny. And she and King essentially accused another journalist of lying when he was dead-on.
All in all, it was an appalling turn of events. I've been attending TCA press tours since 1990, and this was one of the most tense exchanges I've witnessed.
But it didn't have to be this way. King had to know the questions were coming. They came in July; the subject of "2 Broke Girls" racism has been discussed in print ever since.
He could have handled it better. He couldn't have handled it worse.
"We believe that the show is nothing but fun for the audience," King said. "So I'm surprised that the questions are not about fun."
That's both ridiculous and disingenuous.
As was his performance in front of TV critics.