Welcome to Next, a column that gives you an overview of the latest television. This week Valerie Ettenhofer reviews Girls5eva, the new Peacock series by the team behind Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
The theme song too Girls5eva is both incredibly cheesy and incredibly catchy. “We’ll be 5eva famous because 4ever’s 2 is short!” A group of women sing as they pose in dazzling camouflage pants and tube tops. The opening credits of the new Peacock franchise fit in with a comedy that creatively impales the absurdity of the music industry, and you will most likely sing along in episode four of the binge-worthy eight. Inevitably Resist Girls5eva, the rare recent sitcom whose debut season is fun from start to finish.
The series follows a former 90s girl group looking to make a comeback when an aspiring rapper tries their lonely song with the best charts. For a short while this group was on the verge of superstar, but they are long out of business. As one character says, “It’s been a whole Zendaya since you last recorded.” Anxiety-prone New York mother Dawn (Sara Bareilles), broke diva Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), lesbian dentist Gloria (Paula Pell) and budding Real Housewife Summer (Philipps busy) reunite to get their lives going, and the resulting chaos is incredibly fun.
Girls5eva was created by The Colbert Report and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Meredith Scardino and counts some of the key players behind Rock 30, including Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, and Robert Carlockamong its producers. It’s the kind of comedy that jokes every minute and lands surprising and bizarre punch lines about everything from water bras to hermit crab shells. One of the regular destinations is the cheesy late 90s time capsule captured in extremely precise faux archival footage from MTV shows like TRL and Cribs, as well as in the group’s songs that are incredibly momentarily specific.
The series deals with quick pop culture references that will tickle music fans especially, but like 30 Rock, it has a broad comedic spectrum that is much broader – and weird – than any other topic. At some point, Dawn worries that her precocious only child will become a “New York Lonely Boy,” a term that comes with its own theme song and a surprising celebrity cameo. A subplot referring to Sommer’s distant marriage to the clearly gay boy band alum Kev (Andrew Rannells) is ridiculous. Girls5eva plays a big role with his casting decisions, especially the inclusion of musician Bareilles and Broadway star Goldsberry. Fortunately, both of them not only hold their own among a group of clowns, but often deliver the funniest punchlines.
In an age of mixed genres on television, it’s refreshing to find a comedy series that is guaranteed to make you laugh. Girls5eva is especially welcome because unlike other shows from Fey and Co. including Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock, there is no gross, non-colored undercurrent. In a world that has become very aware of the long history of racial stereotypes in sitcoms, the phrase “produced by Tina Fey” no longer conveys as much confidence as it used to. Thankfully, this series manages to be spicy and surprising without beating. It is, among other things, an ironic criticism of the entertainment industry’s long history of blatant exploitation, faux feminism, and generally soul-destroying tactics.
Once a vicious genre, the musical TV series has been revitalized by shows in recent years Zoey’s extraordinary playlist and Crazy ex girlfriend. Girls5eva is a deserved addition to the list, with songs to be repeated. The group’s older stuff cleverly mocks an era of problematic pop with flat, girlish lyrics, while their comeback music is just as catchy but a little deeper. Songs are often played on the fly in an episode just to have a fuller studio version appear over the credits. The latter quickly becomes a special treat to look forward to, like a Marvel post-credits scene for a version of The Avengers made up of talented women in their forties. “Space Boys”, a high-profile jam about searching the galaxy for kissable men, is really catchy, while the wildly hilarious “Dream Girlfriends” shake off a list of supposedly attractive traits, like the willingness to let his friend talk about Quentin Tarantino.
So far, Peacock’s original series deals have been a success or failure, but Girls5eva appears to be a breakthrough for the streamer. The seditious Whip Smart series is a return to the form of a network – NBC – that was once home to many of the best and daring sitcoms on network television. With a breakneck comedy, a cast that is utterly playful, and a seemingly endless supply of catchy tunes, Girls5eva is sure to be more than a one-hit wonder.
Girls5Eva will be releasing its first eight episode season on Peacock on May 6th.