The book that inspired ABC's 'GCB': Clever or Offensive?

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GCB, ABC’s new dramedy starring Kristin Chenoweth, Leslie Bibb, and Annie Potts, premieres tonight at 10 p.m. Earlier this year, GCB‘s executive producer Robert Harling told reporters that the show would remain respectful. “The goal is to watch these people try to be good. What we emphasize is that we will never ever look at this in any other way than the most respectful as possible. We will never ever be disrespectful.”

But it seems highly unlikely that the show won’t offend at least some people. So before the, um, Bitches make their TV debut, we decided to take a look at the novel that inspired it all. Good Christian Bitches, by Kim Gatlin, tells the tale of the recently divorced Amanda Vaughn. Amanda flees her Southern California home—and cheating husband—to restart her life in Hillside Park, the uppity Dallas neighborhood where she grew up. Amanda assumes she’s returning to the good Christian world she left, but people aren’t so happy about her return. Sharon Peavy and Heather Sappington are at the top of that list. The ladies hatch a plan to ensure Amanda’s reputation goes down in flames. Their plan almost succeeds, but I won’t spoil it all for you. The book, which featured several laugh-out-loud moments, hits the head on the nail describing these socialite women who say one thing, but act completely different. It’s a mix of Mean Girls—taken out of the high school setting, of course—meets Steel Magnolias. There’s nothing like that good ‘ole Southern charm grudge.

ABC’s series, which I’ve only seen the pilot of, definitely borrows things from the book. But in no way is it just a retelling of Gatlin’s original story. (Interestingly enough, at the time of its initial release, people in the Dallas area wondered if Gatlin was revealing her own secrets under the guise of a work of fiction.) So if you hated the book, there’s still a chance you’ll like the TV iteration. Likewise, if you loved the book you may be slightly irritated that the series does take so many liberties.

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Image Credit: Bill Matlock/ABC

Like the book, in the pilot Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb, left) returns to Dallas after her marriage ends in scandal. But instead of quickly finding an enemy in Sharon Peavy and Heather Sappington, she meets her main competition, Carlene Cockburn (Kristin Chenoweth). In the show, you’re led to believe that Amanda was once the Queen Bee responsible for torturing everyone else. So the living hell the GCB’s put her through is totally deserved, right? Amanda’s changed since then, but just can’t seem to escape her past.

I originally hail from Broken Arrow, Okla., (ironically, the same town Kristin Chenoweth if from). That part of the country is not that different from Dallas. I know Amanda Vaughns, Sharon Peavys, and Carlene Cockburns. I find the premise of the book and the series completely believable, surprisingly accurate, and not at all offensive. But like I said, I’m sure many people won’t agree. I especially believe that the book was never intended to be offensive. Even Gatlin dedicates the novel to Christians and encourages them to be “mindful of the things they say and do, but more importantly the way they treat people.” But the show, with its taken liberties, will probably end up being even more salacious and drama-fused. I mean, the Bitches are joining the likes of some Desperate Housewives in the Sunday-night lineup. They’ve gotta keep up with that at least until Housewives bows out with its final season. And as such, I think ABC will have to tread lightly so they don’t have activist groups sending in complaints every Monday morning.

So, Shelf Lifers, it’s your turn. Have you read Gatlin’s Good Christian Bitches? Do you plan on watching ABC’s GCB? And are you at all offended by the premise of the book/TV show? Sound off in the comments below.

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Read More:
‘GCB': Good Christian Belle Kristin Chenoweth talks about ABC’s newest primetime soap
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