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Girls5eva Switches Streaming Labels with Funny, Brief Third Season

Every musician needs to change record labels at one point or another. The lovable '90s pop girl group "Girls5eva"—Dawn (Sara Bareilles), Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Summer (Busy Philipps), and Gloria (Paula Pell)—have taken their comedic, lyrical services from Peacock to Netflix in a road-trip-centric third season. Unsurprisingly, the Meredith Scardino-created series hasn't lost its rhythm. However, its lesser episode count, and the too-frequent head-rearing of its new management, make it less charming than previous recording.

Dawn, Wickie, Summer, and Gloria have enacted their comeback venture, the Returnity Tour. Rather than being sponsored by a brand or put up by a label, it's all self-funded and impromptu. They go van driving and hotel hopping, getting gigs wherever the road takes them. Whether at a hoedown space in Fort Worth or a billionaire baby's nostalgia-themed birthday party in Florida, the girls will work forever to get their names on top again.

Their tour also finds each member continuing the next chapter in their personal life stages: Dawn's pregnant with her second kid, Gloria is in her ho phase—trying to hook up with as many women on the road to compensate for her lack of experience during the early 2000s—Wickie is still learning how to be selfless one destination at a time, and Summer is trying to find her own identity without a man or parents to influence her thoughts.

This long-awaited third season hasn't lost much of its charm and hilarity under the N-shaped banner as the talented cast is all as pitch-perfect as ever. Every episodic misadventure the girls embark on in the 6-episode season takes complete advantage of every stop the girls make without losing sight of character advancement. The season opener, titled "Fort Worth," is demonstrates this as it finds Girls5Eva relishing in the niche popularity of their catchy song "Tapping into Your Fort Worth" that they coast on it for far too long for their own good, forcing everyone to take different roles. 

On the road, the writing staff never fails to come up with fresh, hilarious gags, continuing the upbeat, silly, and sometimes cleverly satirical "Josie and the Pussycats" meets "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" elements that made me fall in love with it in the first place. It deviates from inside-baseball industry jokes and leans more into the different venues, cities, and traits of people they come across, delivered with a charming buoyancy. One standout episode features Catherine Cohen as a nostalgia-heavy millennial billionaire throwing a party, who hires Girls5Eva to perform one of their most provocative songs from their past that puts Dawn on edge. There, the girls go off on their subplots, all equally funny.

Whereas the Peacock let the "Girls5eva" writers run free, season three bears an annoying mandate from Netflix for having many of its episodes feature in-universe jokes to their shows, as if it was the only condition for restarting the series. Taking a page out of "Black Mirror," literally with the "Streamberry" parody service where they poke fun at "The Crown" and often reference "Stranger Things"—calling the trend of an old song becoming renowned thanks to a series a "Kate Bush"—the constant in-your-faceness of every Netflix reference abruptly disrupts the pacing and joke streak. 

As good as season three is at times, it feels partial. It could be this critic's exhaustion of the streaming model ecosystem where they have to change their brain chemistry into thinking that six to eight episodes for a half-hour lengthened comedy series constitute an entire season. Still, the season plays similarly to a network series continuing its season following a long winter break. I had to digest this series altogether, and for some reason, three continued all the threads and character arcs of two rather than building upon anything new. Maybe the six-episode count is a test run to what can be done for a season four, but for a show as consistently funny, charming, and full of undeniable bops, it deserves to have all the 5evasodes it wants.

Whole season screened for review. Now on Netflix.

 

 

Rendy Jones

Rendy Jones (they/he) is a film and television journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published independent outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics' Choice Association, GALECA, and a part time stand-up comedian.

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