The plot of Girls5eva can seem like an extended 30 Rock gag: A ’90s one-hit-wonder girl group reunites decades later for another shot at fame. It’s a testament to series creator Meredith Scardino that she’s able to flesh out what is seemingly an elevator pitch and deliver a capital H hysterical musical-comedy. Girls5eva has a million-jokes-per-minute vibe that’s similar to Scardino’s work on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (and obviously co-producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s writing on 30 Rock). In fact, season one was so heavily dependent on that rapid-fire joke delivery that it sometimes neglected little things like meaningful character development. Thankfully, season two, avoiding any form of a sophomore slump, is a solid attempt to rectify this.
As the new episodes kick off, the four women of Girls5eva are in “album mode.” (Get used to the phrase—it’s used repeatedly.) Having a singular goal to churn out 16 tracks in six weeks forces them—and the show—to snap into focus and find more cohesive storytelling depths. Crafting these songs becomes the professional throughline, especially as the band signs with a record company, Property Records. Yes, it’s a fictional venture by Jonathan and Drew Scott, a.k.a. the Property Brothers, who make quite an impressive cameo. And yes, Girls5eva’s satirization of the music industry and pop culture ephemera remains as splendid as ever.
Through this arc, the show is able to explore each character’s life in a more informed and grounded way, as it’s already established a rhythm between Dawn (Sara Bareilles), Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Summer (Busy Philipps), and Gloria (Paula Pell). Now, after their Jingle Ball performance of “4 Stars” in the season-one finale, the women team up with a talented new producer, Ray (Piter Marek). They also find a friend in Tate (Grey Henson, crushing the dry humor), a young executive at the record label who at one point sincerely refers to Bill Clinton as “the villain from Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story.”
In tandem with working on their album, the four ladies evolve in their personal journeys. And no character finds more growth than Summer, as Philipps finally gets to push her onscreen avatar out of the “bimbo” stereotype. Summer’s not just learning how to make salads or saying “feminasty” phrases. There’s an emphasis on her maturity. She’s taking a stand in her impending divorce from Kev (Andrew Rannells) and opening up to her Catholic parents, played to perfection by Neil Flynn and Amy Sedaris in episode four.
Similarly, Girls5eva standout Goldsberry delivers another top-tier performance, completely owning the screen every time she’s on it. Goldsberry’s Wickie is still very much a diva and fashion expert, the kind who wears coats from Nicole Kidman’s The Undoing collection. She’s on the celebrity dating app Raya and is deeply concerned with whether her Instagram captions are relatable. Wickie’s also determined to be a team player—a learning curve that leads to big fights with Dawn—instead of demanding all the attention. The Hamilton star is firing on all cylinders, acing the sweet spot of being vulnerable and over-the-top at the same time, especially once she possibly finds—gasp—love.
The Peacock comedy’s greatest asset is its snappy original music, composed mostly by Fey’s husband Jeff Richmond (who also helmed UKS’s earworm of a theme song). The debut season blessed audiences with “New York Lonely Boy,” the peculiar “The Splingee,” an amusing “Dream Girlfriends,” and the killer opening track “Famous 5eva.” The playlist is an ideal blend of the nonsensical, yet it’s tenable for a band like this one. Much like its protagonists, season two understandably evolves its music, a move that falls in line with the women taking control over their lyrics. Get ready to memorize fantastic new entries like “Big Pussy Energy” and “We Got Momentum.” Gloria’s busted knee even turns into the inspiration for the spirited “Bent Not Broken.”
Girls5eva’s memorable songs and zingers aside, the show nails the specificity of both timelines it tackles. The sporadic flashbacks to the ’90s are sparkly, pink, and highly reminiscent of a particular pop-music era. No one will blame viewers for firing up their own Spice Girls or En Vogue favorites after watching. The writing is keyed into the current zeitgeist as well, from Wickie referencing the Met Gala to Dawn and her husband’s obsession with the Succession-spoof Business Throne to Summer wanting her teen to go learn more about STEM (a.k.a. selfies, Tik Tok, emojis, memes).
In the end, season two subtly revels in how four middle-aged women gamely take on an industry that wants to squash their success. Despite a stellar cast and writing team, though, not all of the humor lands; a witless plot featuring John Lutz is stretched thin. Still, Girls5eva just wants everyone to have a good time with its ceaseless laugh-out-loud pacing—and this ridiculously charming second season more than delivers there.