‘Girls5eva’ is Tina Fey’s best show in years (and Peacock’s first essential viewing)

One song that has taken root in my brain over the past three weeks is “Famous5Eva”, the theme song for the Peacock series “Girls5Eva”. “Famous5eva” is the token hit of fictional girl group Girls5eva, and the song that reignites the career of successful wonders when sampled by a viral rapper named Lil Stinker. (This reminds him of his mother’s “titties,” according to his reasoning for sampling the song.)

“Famous5eva” is a perfect fictional pop song, both as a pastiche hit from the 1990s and as an example of the very zany, very sweet world-building that takes place in “Girls5Eva”. If something like “30 Rock’s” “Muffin Top” – an equally absurd and contagious song – was meant to be a laughing stock, a vanity project by Jenna Maroney, it’s actually a song that a band like Atomic Kitten (remember?) Singing with a few tweaks.

Designer Meredith Scardino probably has an outsized role in the greatness of “Girls5Eva,” but executive producer Tina Fey (and longtime co-conspirators Robert Carlock and songwriter Jeff Richmond) has her handprints all over the series, with its litany of jokes and quick bits. entering hot like a throwing machine.

Like other shows in the Fey-Carlock-Richmond Cinematic Universe, including “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Great News,” “Girls5Eva” retains a jagged cultural meaning wrapped around a bleeding lipstick heart.

But it (mostly) abandons Fey and Carlock’s less funny impulse – that of getting critics at the expense of jokes.

And, therefore, “Girls5Eva” looks like a new page for Fey. Ten years ago I was a Tina Fey stan – to the point where I read “Bossypants” several times throughout and created and retweeted “30 Rock” GIFs on Tumblr. My love took a turn for the worse in 2016, when accusations of brown and black faces and anti-Asian racism in his work were laughed at on the show, all of which have largely ended up as obsolete and reactionary. This is the impulse that shattered “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. For me and many others, it didn’t just hurt the show; it undermined the legacy of “Mean Girls” and “30 Rock”.

But Fey is back in good shape here, and so are the women from Girls5Eva. Reviving a defunct musical career is a challenge for any artist group, but it’s going to double for girl groups – hardly any, except Beyoncé, have turned her ’90s relevance into a lasting career. (Meanwhile, the Backstreet Boys and New Kids On The Block may continue to print money every revival round.) But the women persist.

A quick recap of the girls: You have Dawn (Sara Bareilles), the cold and provisional boss, Gloria (Paula Pell), the one with a penchant for ending the marriage for the workaholic, Wickie (Renee Elise Goldsberry), the ferocious the one whose Instagram character comes up against his ramshackle day job, and Summer (Busy Philipps), the hot one responsible for ending the songs “with a sultry and feminine phrase”. (Their fifth member, Ashley (“Mean Girls: The Musical’s” Ashley Park), died in 2004 in an “infinity pool accident”, but her shadow as “fun” lives on.)

Girls5eva, starring Ashley (‘Mean Girls: The Musical’s’ Ashley Park.).

Peacock / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Fey’s trademark snark is all over the show. There is a long passage on an endangered glass piano that Wickie bought for his ‘Cribs’ worthy house which is now in Dawn’s tiny apartment in Queens, including an amazing piano joke named “Ghislaine”. (“I named her 20 years ago. It was a pretty name then; it’s a pretty name now,” Wickie says.) And there are also cameos from big names like Stephen Colbert. , who plays a reclusive Swedish songwriter who smokes a vape of smoked salmon and flaunts his Björky, the biggest prize in Nordic music.


But there are few jokes made at the expense of each other. In the past, Fey and Carlock have reportedly used the tension between the girls to poke fun at their appearances – ironic or not.

And therefore, it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the best thing Tina Fey has been involved with since “30 Rock,” and not just because Fey has a long hallucination appearance from Dolly Parton.

What Girls5Eva does exceptionally well is what “30 Rock” did best, without the unquote racism and edginess: reflecting the nonsense and predatory nature of the famous industrial complex. Their former manager – an exploitative asshole who now identifies as a feminist – spends his time tending to five computers to boost the flow of his client’s songs.

But perhaps the best example of the perfect balance of “Girls5Eva” is “Cease and Desist”, the best episode in the series.

It’s dedicated to their performance at Y2Gay, a retro club night at a gay bar (remember that?), Which derailed with the introduction of Alexander, a YouTube celebrity played by Bowen Yang. It turns out that the host of gay men at the concert aren’t there to listen to Girls5Eva’s comeback single. They’re there because Alexander syncs celebrity meltdowns; his most famous is Wickie’s collapse during a community theater production of “The Mask” by Jim Carrey, called “The Maskical”, of course.

The gag is a brilliant sendoff not only of how the biggest divas (Aretha, Whitney, Nicki) live in YouTube clips and GIFs or gay men’s obsession with one-shot pop wonders (as gay man with a gold star stanclub Carly Rae Jepsen membership I’m aware of).

Tina Fey attends the Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere of

Tina Fey attends the “Love, Gilda” World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Evan Agostini / Evan Agostini / Invision / AP

The episode is also a great reminder of how much of pop culture, from “Snatch Game” to almost every TikTok dance ever, rides black women’s cocktails without celebrating or honoring them. It doesn’t reject that thought; it allows Wickie to think about it, where, on a past show, the track would have been played for a laugh. (Yang’s Asian identity isn’t played for fun, either, which is huge considering Fey’s story.)

“Girls5eva” is successful because the show doesn’t play any of its characters for cheap songs. Of course, Wickie is absurd and conceited and Summer ignores that her husband is very gay; there are times when you expect and maybe want a sneaky joke or a bitter joke. But that would devalue the premise of the show – that you want to root for these women. You want them to play Jingle Ball, you want them to be, somehow, the first revival of a girl group to succeed despite the music industry’s obsession with youth and novelty.

All of that to say that there’s a lot to love about “Girls5Eva,” a show that’s both the best thing Tina Fey has been on since “30 Rock” and Peacock’s first essential original series. I’m waiting for a renewal announcement, but in the meantime I’ll keep humming “Famous5Eva”.


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