TV Review by Ethlie Ann Vare
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/14/21 – Whether it was the Spice Girls asking what you really, really want or Britney Spears wanting you to hit her, baby, one more time, ‘90s girl-group pop was pretty cringe for a bunch of danceable fluff, when you think about it. 30 Rock’s Tina Fey and her songwriter husband Jeff Richmond did think about it, and along with their Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, writing partner Meredith Scardino combine the cringe, the fluff, and the enduring friendship of four adult women into the most embraceable half-hour since Ted Lasso.
Girls5Eva (because forever just isn’t long enough) had one big hit in the ’90s, “Famous 5Eva,” a song that turned out to be sadly non-prescient. Busy Phillips (Cougar Town) was the pouty one, Rene Elize Goldsberry (Hamilton) was the diva, Sara Bareilles (The Voice) was the smart one and Erica Henningsen (Les Mis) the sporty one. But that was decades ago, and now the smart one manages a restaurant, the pouty one clings awkwardly to hotness, the diva is an Instagram influencer, and the sporty one is a lesbian dentist played by SNL’s Paula Pell.
And then a rapper called L’il Stinker samples “Famous 5Eva,” and it’s on.
Considering the show’s pedigree, it’s no surprise that the jokes come fast and furious, with a joke density only rivaled by The Simpsons — and that one has the advantage of No Humans Involved. But two other elements of the show are a delightful surprise. First, the songs are good. Really good. Legitimate pop ear-worms as well as sharp lyrical satires… and the singing talent! Sara Bareilles and Rene Elise Goldsberry doing duets at the piano is died-and-went-to-heaven vocals.
Also, the piano is made of clear plastic, and people keep tripping over it. So there’s that.
But perhaps more important than the jokes or the songs over the long run is that we come to care about the relationships onscreen. Not just the relationships between the bandmates, who have a lot of history to sort out. There’s also Sara Bareilles negotiating with her well-meaning, dream-snuffer husband; Paula Pell longing for her crunchy granola ex; and Busy Phillips trying to save a tabloid marriage to her boy band counterpart, played by Andrew Rannells. (That casting is half the joke, of course, but no character in Girls5Eva is precisely who you assume they are.)
Star cameos abound, including Vanessa Williams as an A-list manager, Bowen Yang as a TikTok sensation, John Slattery and Talia Balsam as themselves, Tina Fey as Dolly Parton (sort of), plus a few surprises I won’t spoil here.
All 8 episodes are streaming on Peacock, and prospects are good for a Season Two. I highly recommend it to anyone who can remember the ‘90s, and if you’re reading this you probably can. Do you know how I know that? You’re reading this.