The theme song to Girls5eva is both incredibly corny and incredibly catchy. “We’re gonna be famous 5eva, ‘cause 4ever’s 2 short!” a group of women sing while striking poses in bedazzled camo pants and tube tops. The opening credits of the new Peacock series are fitting for a comedy that creatively skewers the absurdity of the music industry, and by the fourth episode of the binge-worthy eight, you’ll most likely find yourself singing along. Girls5eva is impossible to resist, the rare recent sitcom whose debut season is laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end.
The series follows a former ‘90s girl group that tries to make a comeback when an up-and-coming rapper samples their lone chart-topping song. For a brief period, this group was on the edge of superstardom, but they’ve long since been out of the biz. As one character says, “It’s been an entire Zendaya since you last recorded.” Anxiety-prone New York mom Dawn (Sara Bareilles), broke diva Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), lesbian dentist Gloria (Paula Pell), and would-be Real Housewife Summer (Busy Philipps) reunite in an effort to jumpstart their lives, and the resulting chaos is incredibly entertaining.
Girls5eva is created by The Colbert Report and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt writer Meredith Scardino and counts several of the key players behind 30 Rock, including Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, and Robert Carlock, among its producers. It’s the type of comedy that flings out jokes a minute, successfully landing surprising and bizarre punchlines about everything from water bras to hermit crab shells. One of the regular targets is the kitschy time capsule of the late ‘90s, captured in uproariously accurate faux-archival footage from MTV shows like TRL and Cribs, and in the group’s songs, which are hilariously moment-specific.
The series trades in rapid-speed pop culture references that will especially tickle music fans, but like 30 Rock, it has a wide comedic range that’s much broader — and stranger — than any one topic. At one point, Dawn worries that her precocious only child is becoming a “New York Lonely Boy,” a term that comes with its own theme song and a surprise celebrity cameo. A side plot centered on Summer’s ultra-distant marriage to clearly gay boy-band alum Kev (Andrew Rannells) is side-splittingly silly. Girls5eva gambles big with its casting choices, specifically the inclusion of musician Bareilles and Broadway star Goldsberry. Fortunately, both not only hold their own among a cast of clowns but often deliver the funniest punchlines.
In an era of television genre-blending, it’s refreshing to find a comedy series that’s guaranteed to make you laugh out loud. Girls5eva is especially welcome because, unlike other shows from Fey and co., including Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and 30 Rock, there’s no icky, off-color undercurrent. In a world that’s become keenly aware of sitcoms’ long history of racial stereotyping, the phrase “produced by Tina Fey” doesn’t instill as much confidence as it once did. Thankfully, this series manages to be sharp and surprising without punching down. It is written as, among other things, a wry critique of the entertainment industry’s long history of blatant exploitation, faux-feminism, and generally soul-crushing tactics.
The musical TV series, once a maligned genre, has been reinvigorated in recent years by shows like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Girls5eva is a deserving addition to the list, with songs that beg to be replayed. The group’s older stuff cleverly satirizes an era of problematic pop with shallow, girl-power lyrics, while their comeback music is equally catchy but slightly deeper. Songs are often played in passing in an episode, only for a fuller, studio version to appear over the end credits. The latter quickly becomes a special treat to look forward to, like a Marvel post-credits scene for a version of The Avengers made up of talented women in their forties. “Space Boys,” a high-concept jam about searching the galaxy for kissable males, is genuinely catchy, while the savagely funny “Dream Girlfriends” rattles off a list of supposedly attractive qualities, like a willingness to let one’s boyfriend talk about Quentin Tarantino.
To date, Peacock’s original series offerings have been hit or miss, but Girls5eva feels like a breakthrough for the streamer. The riotous, whip-smart series is a return to form for a network — NBC — that was once home to many of the best and boldest sitcoms on network TV. With comedy performed at breakneck speeds, a cast that’s totally game, and a seemingly endless supply of earworms on hand, Girls5eva is sure to be more than a one-hit-wonder.
Girls5Eva will drop its full eight-episode first season on Peacock on May 6th.