‘Girls5eva’ hits all the right notes.

by | Jan 3, 2022 | All, Reviews

“Gonna be Famous 5eva cos 4eva’s too short.”

It’s entirely possible, in fact, it’s inevitable that you haven’t heard of Girls5eva. Even you have, you probably don’t realise it’s available through Peacock which is available now through Sky Boxsets and NOW.  For the people who haven’t heard of it at all, Girls5Eva is a musical comedy series from the American streaming service Peacock. Girls5Eva follows the surviving members of a late 1990s/early 2000s girl group striving to make a comeback twenty years later. The series often takes a satirical look at post-celebrity culture and what people are willing to do in order to remain “famous 5eva”. However, Girls5Eva’s primarily focuses on the renewed friendships between Dawn (singer-songwriter Sarah Bareilles), Summer (Busy Philipps), Gloria (Paula Pell), and the incorrigible Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry).

Creator Meredith Scardino is a quadruple threat; she not only penned three episodes from Series 1, but also serves as the showrunner, an executive producer, and co-wrote several of the show’s songs. The series is also executive produced by Tina Fey, who guest stars in an episode, along with her Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock collaborator Robert Carlock. Scardino’s relationship with Fey and Carlock existed prior to Girls5Eva. She wrote for Kimmy Schmidt and served as an executive producer. Though all three shows feel similar in terms of tone, Girls5Eva successfully builds upon the frenzied nature of 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to establish its own identity.

Sara Bareilles portrays Dawn Solano, the self-doubting heart of Girls5Eva 2.0, who inadvertently brings about the group’s rebirth after one of their songs is sampled by the rapper Lil Stinker (Jeremiah Craft). Initially, Dawn appears to be content working for her sleazy brother and contemplating having another child so her son doesn’t grow up as a “New York lonely boy”. However a mixture of small successes, setbacks, and a dream sequence featuring Dolly Parton (Tina Fey) causes Dawn to go all-in on making the group a success. Dawn even delves into the seedy world of music promotions by purchasing airtime for one of their new songs.

Whether by design or by accident, it is clear the show’s breakout character is Wickie Roy. Wickie is the sun upon which all the other members of Girls5Eva are fortunate enough to orbit. She immediately takes over Dawn’s apartment after moving in and has little regard for Dawn’s husband or their child – pushing aside their belongings to make space for a translucent grand piano. Wickie is unapologetic about her desire to become a star again and is relentless in accomplishing her goal. Whether it involves faking a relationship with a much younger TikTok influencer, or lying about the identity of Girls5Eva’s new manager. Wickie’s portrayer Renée Elise Goldsberry is clearly not only using real musical divas as inspiration, but also drawing upon her experiences on the American daytime soap opera One Life To Live. If Girls5Eva was set in the world of Succession, Wickie would be a major content creator within Waystar Royco. Her willingness to circumvent the rules in order to advance her agenda would probably cause Logan Roy to smile (slightly).

Unlike the other members of Girls5Eva, Summer (Busy Philipps) was able to maintain a pseudo-celebrity status throughout the last twenty years thanks to her marriage to Kev (Andrew Rannells), a former member of the Boyz Next Door. Though Summer and Kev appear to be a happily married conservative couple, there is a lot of unresolved tension between the pair. Kev primarily lives and works in Tampa, Florida; he comes home approximately once a month. As a result Summer is frustrated about the lack of intimacy in their marriage. The tension reaches a boiling point once Summer discovers Kev has purchased a large number of condoms – resulting in his car being trashed and the word “Carma” carved into one side of the vehicle. If Summer was acquainted with the movie Waiting to Exhale, Kev’s vehicle could have ended up a charred metallic husk.

Summer is not the only member of Girls5Eva with marital problems or emotional scars from the group’s first iteration. Gloria (Paula Pell) is divorced from her wife but yearns to reconcile. She also believes not being her authentic self in Girls5Eva 1.0 created a lot of emotional baggage. When Gloria is not busy advocating for proper dental hygiene, she is often projecting her marital issues onto Summer which causes fractures in their relationship. Unlike the other characters, Gloria is not portrayed by Pell in flashback sequences. Instead, Erika Henningsen plays the 1990s closeted version of Gloria, which is initially played for laughs but hints that Gloria wasn’t being true to herself during her brief time in the spotlight. Wickie refuses to believe both versions of Gloria are the same person. Though it is not specifically stated, perhaps the show’s creators are commenting on the notion that some people do not become their true self (either emotionally or physically) until they grow older.

American sitcoms often sacrifice theme songs in order to increase the amount of time available to advertisements. However, memorable theme songs can help forge a stronger connection between the show and its viewers. Girls5Eva immediately ensnares its audience through the opening theme song – “Famous 5eva”. The title sequence is further enhanced by depicting it like a music video from the 1990s. Music videos are an integral part of the series; they offer insight into characters and context for dated song lyrics. For viewers of a certain age, the incorporation of music videos into episodes is like opening a time capsule. References to MTV programs Total Request Live (TRL) and Cribs help to further cement Girls5Eva’s backstory.

Girls5Eva is a vibrant, upbeat show with “sticky” songs that will rattle inside your brain long after an episode ends. Thanks to platforms like Spotify and Youtube, that jolt of excitement you get from listening to “Dream Girlfriends” or “4 Stars” can be easily replicated. The absurdist aspects and rapid dialogue may overwhelm some viewers, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the type of television programs NBC Universal (Peacock’s parent company) produced throughout the 2000s and 2010s. However, you do not have to connect with every joke to enjoy the experience. Characters like Summer and Wickie may appear outlandish, but sexless marriages and fears of becoming irrelevant are very relatable concerns. The show effectively uses its eight episodes to introduce the characters and provide a central arc. Girls5Eva’s life-affirming message will resonate with audiences regardless of gender and age – “it’s okay to be perfectly imperfect and a work in progress”.

Girls5eva is available to watch on Peacock via NOW or Sky Boxsets.

Maurice Walker

Maurice Walker

03/01/2022

Raised in the wilds of the North American television media landscape, discovered British Telly via Public Broadcasting Company (PBS). Favorite American Telly show: Buffy The Vampire Slayer; favorite British Telly show: Morse - enchanted by that red Jaguar and the number of academics involved in murders throughout Oxford.

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