What are you waiting five?
Starring Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell, and Renée Elise Goldsberry
There’s such an ineffable, positive buzz about Girls5Eva that makes it an instant hit within minutes of tuning into the pilot. Sharing creative genetics with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock and Great News, Girls5Eva is executively produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock and possesses a lot of the same draws that they do: bizarre cutaway gags, larger-than-life personalities and hilarious line reading after hilarious line reading. Adding to this a committed and talented core cast, Girls5Eva speeds by.
Brazenly declaring that they would be “famous 5eva” (‘cos forever’s too short) was probably tempting fate for late ’90s/early noughties girl band Girls5Eva. Consisting of members Dawn (Sara Bareilles), Summer (Busy Philipps), Gloria (Erika Henningsen in flashback; Paula Pell in the present day), Ashley (Ashley Park) and Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Girls5Eva’s ill-timed aeroplane-themed song released on September 10th 2001 spelt the end of their pop journey, with Wickie pulling a Geri Halliwell and going solo, while the others faded into obscurity.
An entire Zendaya later, Dawn works for her brother’s restaurant; Summer is a wannabe-socialite, married to former boyband member Kev (Andrew Rannells), who is both probably gay and also only spends a weekend a month with her; Gloria is a dentist; Ashley is, well, dead (accident with an infinity pool, apparently); while Wickie is, seemingly, living the dream. It takes young rapper Lil Stinker (Jeremiah Craft) sampling Girls5Eva’s big hit “Famous 5 Eva” to reunite the four has-beens, setting them on the path to achieve their goal of performing at the Jingle Ball.
The audience’s way into the foursome is through everywoman Dawn, played to perfection by Bareilles. Shy and lacking in self confidence, the audience sees Dawn’s passion for performing and music reignited as Girls5Eva give it another go. Goldsberry is impeccable as Wickie, throwing herself into the bizarre role with abandon. Wickie is Girls5Eva‘s incarnation of Jacqueline White and Jenna Maroney, and her lack of touch with regular people is a constant source of amusement. Lots of Gloria’s appeal comes from her social awkwardness and bumbling attitude, particularly in a raucously hilarious cutaway song which, I assume, is entitled “Rekindling”.
The only potential weak link within the foursome is Summer. That’s not to question Busy Philipps’ talent, of course, but, if vocal fry were a personality trait, that’s pretty much what Summer is. While Schitt’s Creek delivered us Alexis Rose – the epitome of an LA socialite/reality TV star turned feminist icon, Summer is all of the negative points of that image without any of the redemption. She is self-obsessed, she is narcissistic, she is purely idiotic and every line reading is downright bizarre to the point of almost being grating. There’s not enough light and shade within the depiction to make it appear three-dimensional or as anything other than pastiche, and when audiences have been spoiled by Annie Murphy’s award-winning portrayal of Alexis Rose’s depth, it’s tricky not to draw the obvious comparison here.
Girls5Eva is also bursting with nostalgia factor, with many cutaways to the bizarre songs that they used to have to sing, such as “Dream Girlfriends”, with the choice lyric “We are dream girlfriends, cos our dads are dead, so you never have to meet them, and get asked why you left school”. Jeff Richmond also has great fun writing Dawn’s attempts at a hit before Sara Bareilles-penned track “4 Stars”, including “Dawn’s Song of Fears”, in which she is terrified of having her head sliced off by a stop sign during a tornado (she wrote it while ridiculously hungry and visited by Tina Fey dressed as Dolly Parton acting as her muse) and “The Splingee”, which details a ridiculously complicated dance routine, which concludes with “Only thing left to do is repeat it two more times to make one complete splingee”.
Girls5Eva is at turns heartwarming, bizarre, hilarious and downright entertaining. Buoyed by a sublime writing team clearly in their element and incredible core cast members, here’s hoping that Girls5Eva lasts five-ever (or, at least, gets another season).
Girls5Eva does not currently have a UK broadcaster, but streams on Peacock in the US.