Kat Dennings and '2 Broke Girls' Ground 'Pan Am,' 'Playboy Club' on the Road to the Emmys

Steven Bryan

When it comes to the women that men truly adore, Hollywood has a notorious blind spot. The 2011-2012 Prime Time schedule had, for instance, three shows with so-called "hot" girls: "The Playboy Club," a "Charlie's Angels" remake, and the promising period drama "Pan Am." The first two shows were canceled before Thanksgiving dinner; "Pan Am" coasted on fumes until it finally was grounded for good.

So who is left standing? Kat Dennings of "2 Broke Girls," for one. Unconventionally beautiful, Dennings is one essential reason why her freshman sitcom has done so well while other female-centric shows have crashed and burned. Dennings also is on the fast track for an Emmy nomination because she is the real deal.

The "WKRP" conundrum: Jennifer or Bailey

Like other sitcom stars before her, Kat Dennings has that breakout appeal that attracts viewers. She's not a bombshell in the traditional sense, but she doesn't need to be.

Think back, for instance, to the classic sitcom " WKRP in Cincinnati." The quirky characters inside this fictional, Midwestern radio station represented people working in offices all over the country. The producers also capitalized on the Jennifer Marlowe character. Played by blond bombshell Loni Anderson, Jennifer was the receptionist, but she was reportedly paid better than the program director.

During the show's heyday, Anderson was the subject of countless posters and magazine spreads. Yet when asked, most guys preferred Jan Smithers, the brunette beauty who played intern-turned-newscaster Bailey Quarters. The word from the set in the early 1980s was that Anderson did turn heads, but most visitors to the set asked for Smithers' phone number.

Dennings brings that Bailey Quarters kind of appeal to the set of "2 Broke Girls." Playing a waitress in a Brooklyn diner, Dennings has the beauty that makes people stop for a second look. If Max, her character, worked in a real-life diner, she'd have a steady stream of customers who came there for her, not just the meatloaf.

You're perfect for the role…now change!

As the New York Times reported in May, casting agents encouraged Dennings to change her look. They recommended that the actress fix her teeth, lose weight, and get a tan, effectively making herself look like hundreds of other hopefuls.

As People magazine pointed out in 1979, Executive Producer Garry Marshall advised Pam Dawber, the prettier half of the hit sitcom "Mork & Mindy," to wear a padded bra. Dawber refused to go along with his advice and fans were grateful. Everyone liked Mindy just the way she was, just like audiences love Dennings as a "Broke Girl."

It's like that nightmare scenario in the classic "Twilight Zone" episode "Number 12 Looks Just Like You." Society pressures a young woman to have plastic surgery to look just like everyone else. Beauty is no longer in the eye of the beholder, but in the hands of a surgical team.

Mainstream Hollywood still hasn't gotten the message that viewers don't want women stamped from the same mold. Heck, even the ladies of "Sex and the City" represent four different female types. Thankfully, HBO has given Lena Dunham a forum for her kind of woman in "Girls." As director, writer, and star, the adorable Dunham is fearless about her character.

Jennifer Grey's experience with plastic surgery should serve as a caution and warning to Kat Dennings if she ever caves to pressure. Grey had simple rhinoplasty surgery, which ended with her looking more conventionally beautiful than ever. Yet, she inadvertently sacrificed that quirky beauty that "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" fans fell in love with.

Grey parodied her plight in the short-lived sitcom "It's Like, You Know," playing an actress named Jennifer Grey who was the victim of botched plastic surgery. Here's hoping that Kat Dennings never shares her fate.