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Was ‘2 Broke Girls’ the filthiest show to ever air on network TV?

Max Black (Kat Dennings), Caroline Channing (Beth Behrs) and Han Lee (Matthew Moy) in a scene from “2 Broke Girls.” (Robert Voets/CBS)
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On a recent episode of “2 Broke Girls,” Max (Kat Dennings) complained to her fellow waitress, Caroline (Beth Behrs), that work at the diner was boring because they had no customers.

“First of all, you’re forgetting the pack of dogs that wandered in, had an orgy and left,” Caroline said.

“Probably easy for me to forget, ’cause I wasn’t the one they tried to have sex with!” Max replied.

The laugh track roared over that exchange, which occurred in the first 10 seconds of the episode. As far as shock-value, it barely registered. In fact, it’s more challenging to stumble upon a scene from “2 Broke Girls” that doesn’t have a lewd comment. The sitcom, canceled last week after six seasons, will be remembered — more than anything else — for its sheer quantity of raunchy jokes. Glamour once ran an article titled “So Exactly How Many Sex Jokes Are There in an Episode of ‘2 Broke Girls?’ ” (There were 42.)

So now that the comedy was officially scrapped by CBS, which unveiled its new fall schedule on Wednesday, we offer a farewell to the filthiest show on network television — which sparked quite a few FCC complaints — with a Q&A that will clear up any questions for confused viewers.

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Q: Was the show based in some sort of sex-crazed setting? 

A: You might think so. In the opening scene of the pilot, a diner customer asks Max where his waitress went. A loud scream is heard from off-screen, because as it turns out, the waitress is having sex in the kitchen. “She’s coming!” Max replies. The episode also has a joke that the waitress’s uniform has a stain that’s clam chowder, or it could be something else. (Get it?)

But no, the show is set in a regular diner, even though the off-screen waitress is a prostitute. She gets fired and is replaced by the glitzy Caroline, newly broke because her rich father was just busted for a Ponzi scheme. Even though Caroline is Max’s polar opposite, they become friends and roommates, and embark on a dream to open a cupcake shop.

Q: This aired in prime time on CBS. How did they get away with all the jokes?

A: The scripts were filled with references to sex acts and genitalia but they were conveyed through (heavy-handed) innuendo. “Old Hollywood rule — never follow sausage,” someone tells Max and Caroline in the series finale before they walk a red carpet. “Oh, I’ll go. Following sausage is kind of my thing!” Max says, her approximately one-millionth dig about her own promiscuity. (Dialogue in Season 3 about a Salvation Army donation bin: “You’re just going to crawl into the dirty box?” Max: “Dirty box was my nickname in continuation school.” And earlier, Caroline: “I’m not as easy as Max.” Max: “Said every girl in my seventh-grade class.”)

There were countless more. From Season 2: “What do you do when a girl is choking?” Caroline exclaims about a customer in distress. “I just back up a few inches,” responds Oleg (Jonathan Kite), the chef. Season 4: “The Sad Ladies Book Club is reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ again. There’s not a dry seat in the house.” The jokes often involved Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge), Oleg’s love interest. Season 4: “Sophie, you are hot,” Max says. “The first time Oleg saw you, his soldier not only saluted, it exploded.”

During the first season, Michael Patrick King of “Sex and the City” — who co-created the show with comedian Whitney Cummings — defended the show’s sense of humor, praising the writing’s “extreme wit,” while addressing its fairly early time slot. “It’s a very different world than 8:30 on Monday on CBS in 1994,” he told reporters at the 2012 Television Critics’ Association winter press tour. “I consider our jokes really classy dirty. I think they’re high lowbrow. I think they’re fun and sophisticated and naughty, and I think everybody likes a good naughty joke.”

Q: How did critics feel about the show?

A: They weren’t fans, starting from the first season’s troublesome cracks about race and ethnicity. It boiled over during the aforementioned media tour session, when King battled with critics who asked whether he was planning to “dimensionalize” the diverse supporting characters, who were frequently reduced to stereotypes — as in the short jokes about Han (Matthew Moy), the Korean diner owner. “I don’t think the characters were one-note. I thought the characters were the first note,” King said.

Journalists occasionally found something to like. “ ‘2 Broke Girls’ is refreshing, in a way. There are tons of shows in which men are ‘allowed’ to be bad boys, but women are generally not the ones getting stoned and sleeping around,” Jezebel wrote at the time. “The show may be very problematic and only sometimes-funny, but it’s kind of fun to hear women talking so frankly about sex and enjoying being crass.”

Q: How did viewers feel about the show?

A: Many loved it, as it still averaged around 6 million viewers an episode in its final season, though down from an average of 11 million viewers in 2012. Others hated it. In 2014, several publications published pages of complaints to FCC about the show’s explicit nature. (Sample complaint: “Two casual references suggesting anal sex on a first date. Are there no standards anymore on broadcast television?”)

Q: Were the girls still broke when the show ended?

A: Yes — but maybe not for long. A movie producer made a movie based on Caroline’s life, and Max got engaged to a wealthy lawyer. The series ended in a fairly typical fashion, as Max’s fiance and Caroline’s boyfriend start physically fighting. The camera shows them grunting and yelling as they wrestle, shirtless.

Max gazes at them thoughtfully and then asks Caroline: “Is it weird I think that’s a little hot?”

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