We've been telling stories as a culture for thousands of years, so it's hard to be completely original. Most TV shows aren't — there's probably a cave wall somewhere in Turkey with the entire plot of Breaking Bad on it. So we put spins on things, building on old formulas, twisting and turning old archetypes until, hopefully, a show stands on its own without us really recognizing its reference points. Netflix's new ten-episode dramedy Ginny & Georgia fails so miserably at this that it's next to impossible to not spot the familiar show lurking underneath. In fact, Ginny & Georgia is so indebted to Gilmore Girls and its mismatched mother/daughter pair that one of its Gilmore Girls-esque rapid fire pop culture references is actually ABOUT Gilmore Girls.
It's more than just that Ginny & Georgia is about a flighty irresponsible young mother and her more mature high-school-aged daughter. It's more than just that the show is packed to the gills with quick repartee between the pair, and pop culture references to everything from Stockard Channing in Grease to Trixie Mattel to Vanderpump Rules to the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Lady Gaga A Star Is Borns. It's all those things put together and put into a blender with a half-dozen other influences, from The Florida Project to Euphoria to the visual palettes of any of ABC's single-cam comedies. Only it doesn't really blend. Instead it comes out looking like a Gilmore Girls knock-off with chunks of other shows and styles floating about.
We kick things off with mom Georgia (Brianne Howey) and her daughter Ginny (Antonia Gentry), which is short for Virginia, which is where Ginny was born. Her brother, played by Diesel La Torraca, is named Austin. You get it. Georgia's husband — Ginny and Austin's stepfather — has just died, and with his family whispering about how much scandalous cleavage Georgia is showing at the wake, it's no surprise that she packs up the kids and skips town. We're told by the perpetually exasperated Ginny that she does this a lot, and if I weren't so busy tallying up all the Gilmore Girls similarities, I'd note that the whole "sour daughter/scandalous mom/precocious kid packing up yet again and moving to Massachusetts" thing was done much better in Mermaids.
Anyway, it's a new town, and Ginny's dealing with a whole bunch of high school business in the most Gen-Z ways possible, which in this case translates to challenging her teachers on their whitewashed curriculum (good on her) and engaging in a bunch of Instagram drama. Ginny's father was Black, but he's not in the picture, and she has to put up with some small-mindedness about that, but that's not really what the show is about. What is it about? Good question. It's about a mismatched mother and daughter, sure, but it's also about Georgia and her two kids being fish out of water in their new town. By the end of the first episode, we learn it's ALSO about a mystery, one that has to do with Georgia's dark, abusive, and violent past (and, yes, Ginny & Georgia is the latest series to follow the edict that all modern television needs to exist on multiple timelines).
Georgia had Ginny when she was 15, so obviously there's something of a story there, and it's one we get in bits and pieces at different stages in her life. We see her at home with an abusive father figure from whom she flees after some kind of violent incident. We see her meet Ginny's father and carry on some kind of quasi-Bonnie & Clyde situation. We see her with her recently deceased husband, where his death is revealed to be more than initially met the eye. We're meant to receive these as pieces of the puzzle that is Georgia, who seems like a well-meaning mom and a good person, but who may have also committed some pretty serious crimes. The flashes are so brief and elliptical that it's hard to ever settle in with young Georgia and get invested in where she's been, beyond the mystery of it all.
Ultimately Ginny & Georgia feels like far less than the sum of its many, many parts. Although there's promise in the mother/daughter bond as played by Howey and Gentry, and it's fun to see familiar faces like Friday Night Lights' Scott Porter and Schitt's Creek's Jennifer Robertson, a ten-episode season of 58-minute episodes feels like a long way to go for a show that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be.
Ginny & Georgia drops its complete first season Wednesday February 24th on Netflix.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.