In the week in which the 78th Golden Globes are to be broadcast with a nomination in the best comedy series category for the loose assemblage of idiocies that comprises Emily in Paris (alongside the likes of Schitt’s Creek and The Great), I feel very much that the post-truth world has come for TV, too.
Nevertheless, we must hold hard against the tides of nonsense that wish to sweep rationality away and leave us believing that a child who can’t speak French would wow a luxury Gallic fashion, beauty and – uh – champagne brand by knowing that the internet exists and being able to say things such as “The entire city looks like Ratatouille” with a straight face.
The new world probably would have you believe that Netflix’s new offering, Ginny & Georgia, about a 30-year-old free-spirit, Georgia (Brianne Howey), and her strait-laced 15-year-old daughter, Ginny (Antonia Gentry), is Heimat. Resist this. In fact, it is something far more precious and valuable. It is trash. Better yet, it is good trash. It deserves not a single award, until and unless someone creates a category for Most Absurdly Entertaining Entertainment or Series Most Aptly Described as Desperate Housewives Meets Gilmore Girls. Then it can walk off with a prize. Not before.
It really is fun, especially when Howey stops chewing the scenery quite so much (or you just get used to it – I’m not quite sure which, but the overall result is thankfully, and less exhaustingly, the same) as southern belle, sex bomb and scam artist Georgia. And it is even more fun when Gentry gets slightly more to do than roll her eyes and be her mother’s uptight foil, at the end of the first episode.
The differential diagnosis for trash/quality TV is how much self-referentiality it has and how much it thinks this allows it to get away with. To wit, at one point, Georgia screams at Ginny: “This stereotypical, angsty teenage thing you’ve got going on is so boring!” This, you see, excuses and validates the fact that the character of Ginny is indeed little more than an angsty teenage stereotype and, compared with her sexy, weed-smoking, bohemian mom, quite boring. They acknowledged it, you see! So we can all move forward united by knowledge, the writers unencumbered by the need now to do anything about it and any nascent hunger for more in the viewers resolutely quashed. It’s so much easier all round.
Plot-wise, G&G delivers. Good trash-plotting is like a river in full spate. A lot rushes past you, it all feels Very Dramatic (although, unlike a river, mostly because of the way it is scored) and you feel like the source will never run dry. In short order, we have had the death of Ginny’s latest stepfather, an inheritance, a move from Texas to Massachusetts, flashbacks to Georgia’s unhappy childhood from which she was rescued by a gang of Hell’s Angels, a minor face-off between the mean moms and the southern Barbie interloper, a major face-off between Ginny and her unprogressive English teacher at the new school, a fraud, a semi-seduction of the mayor, a spot of blackmail, a masturbation scene, a deal of Mama Bear-ing on behalf of Georgia’s son Austin, nine, and a gay best friend plus two love interests for Ginny and the loss of her virginity.
The gay best friend, Maxine (Sara Waisglass), rounds out the team of trash tropes by being that endlessly enthusiastic, hyperactive talker not-quite-bon-mot-ing her way round the place instead of any kind of person you might actually meet and find endurable in real life. The love interests are weed-supplying bad boy, and brother of Maxine, Marcus (Felix Mallard) and sweet, dependable Hunter (Mason Temple) who looks and acts 40 despite being at high school with the rest. None of human life is here. It’s very restful.
Guess which boy Ginny loses her virginity to, despite her mom’s multitudinous warnings about sex and men and power and passion in various excellent-sounding, meaningless speeches we hear in multitudinous, excellent-sounding, meaningless voiceovers throughout the episode? You guess correctly, I assure you. But this promises to be the galvanising event in Ginny’s approach to life. “You only want passion,” she realises. “Until you’re burned by it.” Then, she realises as she stalks, reborn, down the school corridor after putting the frighteners on Marcus in front of his steady girlfriend, you want power. But of course! Desperate Housewives meets Gilmore Girls meets Buffy. Create the category immediately. Awards must be given.