Do you like ’30 Rock ‘? ‘Girls5eva’ Peacock hits same note for music
In “Girls5eva,” the latest sitcom to combine Tina Fey-Robert Carlock, Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell and Renée Elise Goldsberry play the members of a briefly famous’ 90s girl group that comes out, if not the public, calls to meet. Like other shows in the Fey-Carlock canon – “30 Rock”, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, “Mr. Mayor ”, renewed for a second season on NBC – it’s a mishmash of real feelings and cartoon rhythms, ruthless reactions to craziness and collapses for nothing, surreal tokens and pop satire -cultural. Both biting and heartwarming, he can laugh at his characters but never at their feelings, of which there are many.
The model is the Spice Girls and their casting ilk. (“We’ve been best friends since we auditioned for a man at a New Jersey motel,” Goldsberry character Wickie says in an old “TRL” interview.). When a single from their hit, “Famous 5eva” – “Gonna be famous 5eva / ‘Cause forever is too short” – surfaced in a young artist’s new song, the surviving members of Girls5eva are brought back into orbit. one of the other.
Bareilles plays Dawn, “The Chill One,” settled down with an ordinary husband (Daniel Breaker, from the Broadway stage) and a slightly irregular child, working at a restaurant for her brother (Dean Winters, Liz Lemon’s lunkhead). sometimes in love on “30 Rock”). Summer (Philipps) is “The Hot One,” a hairstyle and makeup arrangement in arms, married to Kevin (Andrew Rannells, also of Broadway, and in TV and movies), a former member of a boy group. whose “swoopy boy band hair … caused one of her eyes to atrophy and kink”, and which she only sees once a month; the rest of the time he’s in Tampa, working as an entertainment reporter and living a life of which she is gravely oblivious. “I’ve tried the ‘Housewives’, like, eight times,” she tells Dawn, but the Housewives would eat her alive.
Gloria (Pell) became a dentist; she and her ex-wife (Janine Brito) have the distinction of being “the first gay couple in New York State to divorce”, although Gloria still carries a torch. Wickie (Goldsberry), “The Fierce One,” who left the group unsuccessfully solo and whose “fempire” fashion turns out to be a social media scam, remains a star in her mind, though a wig runs out. hair of a diva. (We first see her walking down a hallway with a scarf flowing just behind her, like in a strong wind.) Fifth Girl5eva Ashley, seen on old MTV facsimiles and played by Ashley Park, is dead. Now, just a plaque on a bench, she had been the de facto ruler: “She got us through all of our breakups with Moby. (Park and Erika Henningsen, who plays Gloria in flashbacks, are both from the original Broadway cast of Fey’s “Mean Girls” musical.)
Their goal, declared early, is to perform at the Jingle Ball, the real-world Christmas pop event that fills arenas in some cities. And that long arc, with its back and forth and steps forward and backward, ends roughly where you think it should, if the precise path is unpredictable. It’s also not surprising that in a story about friendship and teamwork, there are stretches where friends fight and the team doesn’t. That there is personal growth – which wouldn’t necessarily be the case in a full-season network sitcom – is also pretty much taken for granted. Here and there issues that those of us who aren’t part of a reuniting pop group might face are raised. As obvious as the nuts and bolts of the story are, one feels the defeats and the victories, the divisions and the reconciliations, on a human level. Certainly, I am a gentle man, but you too can be moved.
Creator Meredith Scardino has written for “Late Show With David Letterman”, “The Colbert Report”, “At Home With Amy Sedaris” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and is co-executive producer on “Mr. Mayor ”, credits that suggest a talent for lateral thinking. The humor is identifiable with the school of Fey and Carlock. The jokes play out like the phrase, “You never forget how to play – it’s like riding a bicycle in the river to get your husband to pay attention to you.” Or come in the form of compressed oxymorons: “This is really a short term thinking.” Or come across as an afterthought to a reasonable statement: “I had dreams,” says Winters’ character. “I wanted to be Keith Hernandez but had to give up because you can’t be another person. The science just isn’t there yet. “
The eight-episode season keeps the focus on the group. The actresses range from 41 (Philipps and Bareilles) to 58 (Pell), with Goldsberry in the middle at 50, although their characters are not – “Can you believe I’m the youngest?” Pell asks – and the show feels aimed at people old enough to remember the 20th century (but not fazed by the 21st). Filled with timely, period allusions, it’s the kind of humor that may possibly – now may – require footnotes. Nonetheless, young viewers, you don’t need to look away. You can learn comedy things from your elders.
Corners of the action are studied with quirks – advertisements for made-up products, clips from old videos. There is the She-visor, “the only contraception that is also a hat”; a Spanx-type underwear called S’Leaks (“You can have a baby in these clothes and then wear them to the club that night”); and swag of a ‘Women’s Empowerment Lunch at Victoria’s Secret Trampoline Park’. We get a preview of a show called “American Warrior Singer,” “the first show created entirely by a ranking algorithm,” in which contestants are beaten as they try to release a song; “The Judge Dread House”, located in a mansion “where the judges of reality live among horror pranks”; and “The Maskical”, a musical based on “The Mask” by Jim Carrey.
The performance is top notch. Like Summer, Philipps mixes excitement and bewilderment and often seems on the verge of tears whether the situation calls for it or not, and taps into a sweetness and desperation that keeps him from being just a dumb blonde. Pell (like Fey, a former editor of “Saturday Night Live”) is a pillar of Midwestern competence mixed with self-doubt. And Goldsberry, whose resume ranges from 269 episodes of “One Life to Live” to “The Good Wife” to “Hamilton,” where she created the role of Angelica Schuyler – and who appeared alongside Pell in the “Documentary Now!” episode “Original Cast Album: Co-Op” – is a whirlwind, featuring a great imitation of greatness as it bounces between person and personality, sometimes humiliated, but never quite humble.
Bareilles, a true pop star who for a time headed the Broadway musical “Waitress”, for which she wrote the music and lyrics, and who was Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” by NBC in 2018, has no other significant player. credits, but it is very good. Dawn is more or less the Liz Lemon of “Girls5eva”, not without quirks, but the person from which the viewer views the strangeness and measures the stakes. Bareilles’ music, which favors piano ballads – and forms the soundtrack of the Apple TV + series “Little Voice”, which she co-created – has nothing to do with the music of the Spice Girls, but she would have started high school at the time. “Wannabe” hit, and it must be clicking somewhere inside her. Only a model could resist this song.
There will be guests: a Stephen Colbert, a Swedish pop hit maker (“Usually when I write songs about women, I just do a BuzzFeed quiz on Disney princesses”); Fey in imaginary Dolly Parton; current “SNL” cast member Bowen Yang as an opportunist fan. Vanessa Williams, who had a number one single in the 90s, “Save the Best for Last”, arrives late as a powerful agent.
Jeff Richmond provides the playful sheet music, as he does for most of the Fey projects – the fact that they are married is irrelevant, given how much his music shapes his shows – and the parameters of certain songs. Bareilles wrote a twisted variation of a Bareilles piano ballad, “I’m Afraid (Dawn’s Songs of Fears)” and the socko finish, “Four Stars”. The problem with ironic drama is that it’s actually dramatic, and the problem with comedy is that it can break your heart just as easily as drama. It is not the stated point of “Girls5eva” that the music can move you even when the words are funny. But it is possible, and it is.
When: Anytime, from Thursday
Rating: TV-MA (may not be suitable for children under 17)