The 90s were a competitive period for aspiring young pop stars with seemingly new artists appearing on the scene every week. Not everyone shared the success of Britney, Christina, *NSYNC, or the Backstreet Boys in the saturated market. Fictional group, Girls5eva, were able to score at least one hit in the era but what happens when the fame goes away? The new musical comedy with the same name explores a former girl group two decades after they reached stardom.
Girls5eva consists of Dawn (Sara Bareilles), Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Gloria (Paula Pell), and Summer (Busy Phillips). They’ve all moved on from their pop star days and are living relatively normal lives. One of the hottest rappers samples their only hit and the group is invited to perform with him on a late night television talk show. With a renewed public profile, they decide to give music another shot.
The series evokes nostalgic feelings of the 90s era with flashbacks to the hysteria of TRL and the opulence of MTV Cribs. These sentimental looks to the past are a fun distraction but the running commentary on the current music scene and fame in general are more impactful. They cover such topics as sensitivity training to going viral to holograms in a snide and sometimes over the top way. But they carry enough truth with them that still makes you think.
At its heart, Girls5eva is about growing up. Not only are the characters at a different stage in their lives when the show begins, but they also mature and develop over the course of the eight-episode first season. They reconnect and reestablish their strong bonds as they strive for fame on their own terms.
The main cast play well off each other with Pell’s Gloria as the mother hen looking after the wellbeing of the others, especially Summer. Though still having her issues, Gloria is the one to have established a stable post-stardom career as a dentist.
Dawn and Wickie’s relationship help drive the narrative with the former an idyllic team player and the latter more opportunistic and self-motivated. Goldsberry shines in her role and effectively portrays a compelling evolution from self-absorbed to truly caring. Her physical comedy is also a joy to watch as she goes to great lengths to maintain her fierceness and youth. The most one-dimensional of the bunch is Summer. She is the stereotypical hot dumb blonde but even she has her moments. The overarching storyline on her complicated marriage brings the character some depth.
Overall, the writing is pretty good with funny scenes. The humor has a distinct 30 Rock feel with a combination of sharp quips and one liners and random silliness plus a New York City centric point of view. The catchy songs of Girls5eva would fit right in musically within the pop genre but the lyrics take it to another level highlighting the absurdity of it all.
The randomness doesn’t always hit such as the bits with an Airbnb host and the big reveal to Summer’s marriage, but when it does, they are absolutely hysterical. The one-on-one pick-up basketball game with a country legend and a hybrid reality singing competition comes to mind. Despite the drawbacks, the series finale ties everything together rather nicely with call backs and a real feel-good moment for the group.
The first season is a fun inspiring ride about pursuing success on your own terms with the people closest to you.
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