'Ginny & Georgia': TV Review

Courtesy of Netflix
Winsome but uneven.

Brianne Howey and newcomer Antonia Gentry star as a former teen mom and her now 15-year-old daughter in a 'Gilmore Girls'-inspired Netflix dramedy.

By age 15, Georgia Miller (Brianne Howey) had run away from home, survived on the streets for a year and given birth to her daughter Ginny (Antonia Gentry). By the same age, Ginny had read a lot of books, but never kissed a boy or ever made a friend. No wonder Ginny looks at her gorgeous, confident mother with a mix of admiration, envy, exasperation and not a small amount of suspicion. Ginny’s right at that age, after all, when teens start to sniff out the secrets and shortcomings of their parents — and Georgia’s got more than most.

Set in a storybook New England town, Netflix’s Ginny & Georgia is never coy about its inspiration. “We’re like the Gilmore Girls, but with bigger boobs,” declares Georgia to her sulking teenage daughter, who’s understandably tired of always being the new girl in school as her mom bounces from place to place and from man to man, dragging along Ginny and her much-younger brother, Austin (Diesel La Torraca). After the unexpected death of her wealthy husband, Georgia uproots her Houston-raised children to settle in Wellsbury, Massachusetts, a tony suburb where Ginny can thrive both socially and academically — as long as the biracial teen quietly endures the steady stream of racial microaggressions from her new friends and teachers.

Creator Sarah Lampert inserts frequent flashbacks to Georgia’s grim past as a homeless teenage mother (with Nikki Roumel playing the character’s younger self), but the series is more whimsical dramedy than gritty melodrama. Episodes revolve around school functions, Halloween and, eventually, a mayoral race, in which Georgia’s new boss and love interest, Paul (Scott Porter), fights for a second term against her enemy. Ginny & Georgia doesn’t have a single subtext it doesn’t eventually make text via dialogue or the show’s dueling voiceovers, leading to lines like, “I love my mom, but I don’t want to be her.” But it’s still moving to see the central tension in the show play out: Georgia’s scrappy resourcefulness, however clever or charming in the short-term, ultimately can’t provide her children with the thing she wants most for them — a normal, stable childhood.

Ginny & Georgia is on sturdier footing in the high-school half of the series. Georgia is convinced that she knows everything there is to know about her bookish daughter, and Ginny is determined to prove her wrong. The snappy-bordering-on-manic banter that Gilmore Girls was known for is affectionately parodied via the character of theater-kid Maxine (an impressive Sara Waisglass), Ginny’s insta-bestie and lesbian neighbor. Ginny is soon swept up in a romance with Hunter (Mason Temple), the kind of corny but sincere good guy that Georgia wants her daughter to date. But Ginny also gets tangled in a secret kinda-sorta something with Maxine’s twin brother Marcus (Felix Mallard), the latest iteration of the Jordan Catalano-esque fuckboy with a wounded heart.

The series’ portrayal of the often unconscious but omnipresent nature of race-based microaggressions, especially in predominantly white institutions, is sensitive and bracing. But Ginny’s project of making Wellsbury home means understanding that even these kids, with their $300 jeans and organic school lunches, aren’t alright.

The show takes more tonal and narrative leaps with Georgia — and ends up with less consistent landings. There’s a lot to like about Georgia as a character, starting with Howey’s multi-layered performance. (She’s also given a terrific scene partner in the slyly funny Jennifer Robertson of Schitt’s Creek, who plays Georgia’s only friend, Marcus and Maxine’s flailing mom Ellen.) Georgia’s worries that she’s losing her cool-mom status underscore the fact that the age difference between mother and daughter is a perfect set-up for millennials-versus-Gen-Z jokes, as when Ginny sees Marcus enter her bedroom through a window unannounced and yells, “Who climbs through a window? This isn’t some rapey John Hughes movie.”

But during the course of the ten-part debut season, Ginny & Georgia becomes overstuffed with plot — and, more disappointingly, graduates Georgia from a small-time scammer to something resembling a criminal mastermind. Unfortunately, the show’s ambitions for bigger stakes mean trading in some of the character-based intimacy that is the series’ calling card. Go big or go home, they say — but Ginny & Georgia makes a strong case for staying cozy.

Cast: Brianne Howey, Antonia Gentry, Diesel La Torraca, Jennifer Robertson, Felix Mallard, Sara Waisglass, Scott Porter, Raymond Ablack, Mason Temple

Creator: Sarah Lampert

Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 24, on Netflix