Netflix’s ‘Ginny & Georgia’ Isn’t the New ‘Gilmore Girls.’ It’s a Mess

·5 min read

Netflix’s new comedy-drama, Ginny & Georgia, has not exactly been subtle about its inspiration. In case the show’s alliterative “G” title, upper-crust northeastern setting, and focus on the relationship between a precocious girl and her young single mother was not a strong enough hint, its first episode states it plainly: “We’re like the Gilmore Girls,” Brianne Howey’s Southern-twanged matriarch, Georgia, tells her daughter. “But with bigger boobs.”

It’s something of a pattern for this series, which revels in dropping very obvious cultural references only to underline and explain them for an audience it does not seem to trust.

TV fans clocked Ginny & Georgia’s Gilmore vibes from the beginning—and during the run-up to the show’s premiere, Netflix leaned into their comparisons. (That boob line even appears in a trailer.) But there’s little Gilmore DNA to be found in this series, which often feels more spiritually linked to more topical teen dramas like Degrassi or 13 Reasons Why than it does to that quaint little WB show set in Stars Hollow.

We join Ginny (Antonia Gentry) and Georgia Miller as they leave Texas to live in the uber-prim Boston suburb Wellsbury, Massachusetts. (Austin, Georgia’s second child, is also in tow, but his absence from the title says a lot about his isolated existence within the show as a whole.) The Miller matriarch is on the run from a murky, dark past—which her kids know nothing about. Her daughter, meanwhile, is mostly trying to wrap her head around moving to a new town with a new school (again) as her mother picks up the pieces from another mess.

There are some Gilmore-esque qualities to these proceedings. Both mother and daughter quickly fall into love triangles (or technically, in Georgia’s case, a quadrilateral) early on. (Ginny’s entanglement, between her good-guy boyfriend and her bad-boy neighbor, definitely feels reminiscent of the Dean Forester vs. Jess Mariano showdown of the early aughts.) And like Rory, Ginny has a father who appears to come in and out of her life—depending on how things stand with her mother.

But Ginny is not fixated on college or becoming the next Christiane Amanpour; instead, she’s mostly just trying to make it through high school, maybe become popular, and figure out what the hell her mother is hiding from her about their past. She’s also half-Black, a fact that shapes her experience of the ultra-white suburb she now calls home.

Across 10 hour-long episodes, however, Ginny & Georgia never seems to find the thread connecting its many moving parts together.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this series is how little time our titular heroines actually spend together. Georgia might be fiercely devoted to her children, but she’s too busy covering up her criminal activities (past and present) and romancing the town’s mayor (Scott Porter, AKA Jason Street in Friday Night Lights) to schedule much quality time. It also doesn’t help that Georgia’s backstory unfolds in flashback, gobbling up runtime from each episode to unravel a mystery that’s far too easy to solve.

It’s hard to understand what we’re meant to make of Georgia, but Ginny seems even more opaque. Her frustration with her mother makes sense; most teens would not relish the thought of being forced to change schools several times throughout their lives. But Ginny’s point of view is otherwise hard to discern.

Unlike Rory Gilmore, whose lofty aspirations and ridiculously long reading list defined a great deal of who she was, Ginny’s trauma largely defines her. We don’t really know who or what she wants to be. Or why she sticks with a group of girls that pressured her into shoplifting and then tried to let her take the fall for them, and even shrugs off the Black student trying to welcome her to the school for so long in favor of hanging out with them. Or why she’s dating her boyfriend, with whom she has little to no chemistry. Or why she says nothing when one of her friends literally slaps her during an argument.

Ginny & Georgia clearly wants to prove it’s more than just a Gilmore Girls knock-off, but creator Sarah Lampert and her writing team do not seem to have decided what they want it to be instead. The non-linear unraveling of Georgia’s story feels like a grasp at gravitas, but falls flat. Each episode feels like a rapid-fire parade of traumas, many of which go unaddressed—from eating disorders to self harm. (If that doesn’t boost Degrassi comparisons enough, there’s also the fact that at least three cast members, including the onetime Sav Bhandari, Raymond Ablack, have starred in the Canadian teen soap.) And then there’s the clunky narration, which establishes little except that no matter what happens to Ginny, she is always, for whatever reason, ready to launch into a monologue that begins with the words “My mother...”

At every beat, Ginny & Georgia seems to believe that revealing characters’ trauma is the same as telling us who they are, and that having a list of talking points is the same as having something to say. But its potential glimmers in the slower moments—like Georgia’s unexpected bond with her Kate Gosselin-like neighbor, Ellen, played by Schitts Creek alum Jennifer Robertson, or the good-natured banter between Joe (Ablack’s disarmingly sweet, bearded restaurant owner) and Ginny, his newest employee. Perhaps that’s because these scenes actually give us a sense of who these characters are and how they relate to one another when they’re not in crisis mode.

But there is potential here. Antonia Gentry, a relative newcomer, is a compelling presence, even when limited by somewhat unwieldy material. Diesel La Torraca, who plays Austin, embodies the cute-but-menacing child perfectly. And I would absolutely watch a spin-off series about Jennifer Robertson as an overwhelmed, wine-swilling mom who’s just trying to figure out what a “finsta” is. Should Ginny & Georgia return for a second season, which feels somewhat inevitable given its algorithmic appeal, it would do well to give all of these performances more room to breathe—and to trust its viewers to stick around even if every few minutes does not reveal a new twist or traumatic backstory.

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