Despite the admirable uniqueness of every Netflix show, you know what to expect of a classic binge: Some soapy drama, a dash of the unrealistic, a charismatic cast, and a gaggle of twists. Netflix’s Ginny & Georgia has all of this, yet somehow manages to be almost boring even as it flies by.
Ginny & Georgia, created by Sarah Lampert, is about our titular daughter and mother — aged roughly 15 years apart — played respectively by Antonia Gentry and Brianne Howey. Episode 1 proclaims they are “the Gilmore girls, but with bigger boobs!” but the reference is only for show; Ginny and Georgia couldn’t be more different from their alliterative namesakes, and we learn that quick enough. The family (along with adorable little brother Austin, played by Diesel La Torraca) has just moved to a quaint little Massachusetts town in hopes of starting fresh and escaping the past.
What lies in the past, you ask? Well, only a handful of soapy plots pulled from a hat that you’ll see from a mile away. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Good TV can tell and retell the same stories, even the darker ones, without having to answer for why, but they should somehow feel new. There are no gasp-worthy twists in Ginny & Georgia. You know immediately, without question, who’s going to fall in love and break up and what’s going to happen when Ginny’s dad shows up and what happened to Georgia’s late husband. The characters should keep it all fresh, but they sometimes struggle.
The move to Massachusetts signifies a shift for Georgia and Ginny. Maybe they were like the Gilmores before, but part of why they were always best friends was that Ginny struggled to make others while moving rapidly across the country. As a result, Ginny & Georgia quickly becomes two parallel shows. Ginny sets about being a Normal Teen™, making friends and going to parties and having sex with a boy she’s known for five minutes (after a lengthy monologue about her mother’s frivolity). Georgia finds herself a fancy job at City Hall, visibly ogling both the charming mayor (Scott Porter) and the municipal budget.
It won’t all make sense in the moment, but it settles well enough after 10 episodes.
The adults are almost universally winsome. Howey puts Georgia’s charm on full display with a crackling undercurrent of danger and wit (no doubt the blueprint of what should’ve been Tully in Firefly Lane, but that show made its bed). Porter is ever the all-American small town crush, including a brief cosplay as Clark Kent — a moral compass that would make Steve Rogers proud. Any time Schitt’s Creek‘s Jennifer Robertson shows up for a suburban-mom-wine-down is top-notch, guaranteed, and Raymond Ablack’s take on aloof diner-owner-in-plaid adds a warmth that more scenes could benefit from.
Despite Gentry’s best efforts to endear her character to us, Ginny often comes across as a raging brat. All of the show’s teens are going through Something with a capital S: Proud lesbian Max (an effervescent Sara Weisglass) craves love; Abby (Katie Douglas) experiences body dysmorphia; and Ginny’s de facto Jess Mariano problematic crush Marcus (Felix Mallard) is still grieving his best friend and coping by acting out.
But the show does a disservice to all of them by sweeping these things under the rug, applying band-aids and distractions that leave the characters feeling incomplete. They do sound like real teens in that real teens sound bizarre to an outsider — jumping between feelings and energies, going out of their way to sound adult and cool even to each other. (They also explain social media a lot which feels like a lesson for older audience members more than anything.) Ginny addresses her confusing emotions by lashing out constantly at Georgia, ultimately amounting to a character whose side it’s tough to take.
Ginny misbehaves more or less because she thinks her mom is “psycho” (admittedly not a baseless accusation). But you get the sense that Ginny acts the part of nightmare teen because she thinks she’s supposed to, not because she wants to (the same goes for the sex). She also doesn’t learn. There’s nothing wrong with an unlikable lead character if you can make it work, but when Ginny’s lies and malice come to a head, she just doubles down instead of repenting. It takes 10 episodes for Georgia to declare in an argument that she doesn’t know her daughter — and the audience never did.
The show does consistently address Ginny’s racial identity, something prioritized early on by director and executive producer Anya Adams. Ginny is one of the only Black students in school, singled out overtly by some and more insidiously by others. Being biracial, she never feels completely at ease, including with her white mother. Surprisingly, she does not give Georgia too much grief about this, instead choosing to discuss it with her visiting father (Nathan Mitchell) and accepting what her shiny new friends can and cannot offer.
There’s a lot that feels off in a first viewing of Ginny & Georgia: The nonexistent chemistry between Ginny and Marcus, the forgettable interlude with Georgia’s secret sister (gasp!), the truth about Georgia’s ex (and other ex). But in between there is the magnetism of Georgia and anyone she meets, Max’s tenderness, the rollercoaster of adolescent female friendship. It won’t all make sense in the moment, but it settles well enough after 10 episodes. Even the predictability nets out to an enjoyable binge, and the finale has potential to actual surprise us in the future.
Ginny & Georgia is now streaming on Netflix.