‘Girls5eva’ Hits the High Notes (Review)

The show's original conceit of following women of a certain age as they attempt to reclaim their fame and music careers still ring true.
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There are few shows currently airing that I can readily think of that exist simply because. While diving into a brainy thriller like Severance or committing to live-tweeting Succession every Sunday night, it’s fun to have a TV show that falls into the comfort food camp. Peacock’s second season of Girls5eva isn’t just comfort food—it’s your favorite Kid Cuisine with a Cosmic Brownie for dessert.

The latest entry into the Tina Fey television universe, Girls5eva, follows the lives of a washed-up girl group from the early 2000s. Four of its former members—level-headed but long-winded Dawn (Sara Bareilles), Barbie-like bobblehead Summer (Busy Philipps), diva on wheels Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), and token lesbian and dentist Gloria (Paula Pell)—reassemble after one of their decades-old hits gets sampled in a rap song. While the show’s first season followed some familiar patterns of any old band getting back together, everything was invigorated by the punchy pop culture jokes any Fey produced program is known for, committed comedic performances, and hilarious yet heartfelt songs that are genuinely good.

Any fears that Girls5eva was simply a feel-good tonic following the year that was 2020 get washed away the moment the sophomore season gets started. With much of the world-building and flashbacks to being pop stars of yesteryear in place from the last season, the second season presents the opportunity for the world of Girls5eva to expand, and that it does. Armed with the confidence following their Jingle Ball performance from last season (“4 Stars” still gets regular play from me on Spotify), the group sets off to write a new album and explores the wild world of brand deals. Shortly after that, they conquer (or at least attempt to) guest-starring in music videos, writing new songs, and highly publicized divorces. Right out of the gate, the jokes and music are back, and it feels like finding a song from your childhood that you forgot about, but the words all come back to you instantly upon pressing play.

There are small moments, of course, where the girls do stumble (we can’t all be Beyoncé, elegantly stumbling out of that slip at the Super Bowl Halftime show). Like so many comedies being made today, it’s tricky to make jokes about viral moments that don’t feel stale by the time they see the light of day. The novelty of using wine glasses to divvy up cake feels like it happened forever ago, and joking about it this late into 2022 turns the episode using it into a time capsule. It also feels odd to have a show so seemingly committed to skewering the entertainment industry not feel prepared to go there—while the jokes are still fresh, they lack a certain zing and self-awareness that would make the show a true satire like it aims to be. There’s a funny moment in the season’s second episode where Summer and her husband, Kevin (Andrew Rannells), attempt to make a huge announcement to their fans over Instagram Live. What better place for Busy Philipps to lampoon her own current claim to fame—sharing her personal life incessantly on her Instagram stories?

Busy Philipps as Summer, Sara Bareilles as Dawn, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Wickie & Paula Pell as Florida in Girls5eva (COURTESY: Peacock)

With a cast that’s still hilarious and very game, the standout is still Goldsberry as Wickie. Her proven musical chops paired with incredible comedic timing create a performance that runs away with the show at times (and this is a show also starring Saturday Night Live and Co-Op the Musical supernova, Paula Pell!). At some point during my binge, I scribbled in my notes that along with winning an EGOT, Goldsberry deserves to achieve three-initial icon status. RBG, JLD, REG!

Girls5eva‘s second season still sings and sets up some ridiculous stakes for our favorite girl group (I cannot overemphasize how much I would like to go to a real-life Girls5eva show). The show’s original conceit of following women of a certain age as they attempt to reclaim their fame and music careers still ring true, with very little about it ever feeling gimmicky or overwrought. Between knee replacement surgery and being unable to find a last-minute babysitter, the show mines humor from the hyper-realistic and the overblown. It’s absolutely worth tuning in for their encore performance.

Rating: 7/10

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