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Ginny & Georgia is nothing like Gilmore Girls, but it's proof that the Netflix algorithm is working

  • "A mother and daughter, fleeing their problems, settle down in a picturesque New England town," says Alison Herman. "The mother had the daughter when she was a teenager; now the daughter is a teenager herself. Sometimes, the two feel more like sisters than parent and child, a dynamic as charming as it is codependent. Their rapport is fast-paced and peppered with pop culture references, from Grease to Gone With the Wind, that only underscore the idea they’re working from the same shared pool of knowledge. Ginny & Georgia is not Gilmore Girls, but it’s all too aware you’ll make the connection. (See the trailer, where Georgia actually says 'We’re like the Gilmore Girls, but with bigger boobs.') A simple Google search of the new Netflix drama yields scores of headlines that draw the all-too-short line between A and B. Those headlines are the result of search engine optimization, a common practice to game the algorithms that help organize the infinite chaos of the internet into something more manageable. Which fits, because Ginny & Georgia itself feels like the result of a more targeted form of SEO: the way a streaming service built on volume and universal appeal organizes its vast catalog under arcane principles like 'taste clusters' and hyper-specific genres like 'Critically Acclaimed Feel-Good TV Shows' and 'Movies Based on Real Life.' Gilmore Girls proper has been a part of Netflix’s catalog since the fall of 2014. Through a licensing deal forged to stock Netflix’s digital shelves, the service introduced a new generation of fans to Rory and Lorelai. Two years later, Netflix capitalized on the show’s popularity in the most literal way possible: producing and hosting a sequel, the four-part miniseries A Year in the Life. Now, the service had a way to keep fans safely within its walled garden even after they had completed their binge—and make Gilmore Girls a permanent part of the Netflix brand, not one entirely contingent on contracts.... Once the viewer presses play, however, Ginny & Georgia doesn’t feel anything like Gilmore Girls."


    • Ginny & Georgia has so much more going on than just the tense dynamics between a mother and daughter who are unusually close in age: "Describing a TV show via comparison with all the other shows it’s most like is lazy, and it tends to underplay what’s most interesting and unique about a new series," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "It’s a shorthand way to illustrate familiar things. In Ginny & Georgia’s case, describing it by way of other TV shows feels inevitable, because the show does many things well, but is not great at sewing all those parts together into one big consistent world. It’s almost impossible to know what kind of a show it’s going to be from scene to scene. Will this next part with Georgia be more 'mom trying to be wholesome but failing,' or will it be more 'mom who doesn’t care at all about wholesomeness because she’s engaging in embezzlement right now'? Is the tone of this town council meeting going to be 'these suburban citizens are lovable kooks' or will it be 'this is soul-killing and dull'? It’s a wild and unpredictable mixture of so many genres and tones that watching it often feels like being shuttled from one TV show into another, with little warning and less explanation. It feels like a Frankenstein’s monster of so many other things, and if you look closely you can still see where all the individual parts came from. t’s an uneven and over-long show that shambles toward the last episode in fits and starts. And yet, if you ignore the large-scale structural problems and the question of why this tower of nachos had to be built in a can so big with so many different cheeses, Ginny & Georgia offers plenty of narrative threads to pull you along through the season."
    • Ginny & Georgia has considerable charms that'll make you nostalgic for The WB's heyday: "I had been skeptical of the series, whose premise (at first blush) seemed to be 'What if Lorelai Gilmore was a con artist, but the rest of Gilmore Girls was largely the same?' and whose mere existence seemed to be predicated on Netflix’s fears that it might lose Gilmore Girls from its streaming catalog someday," says Emily VanDerWerff. "(The algorithm has to recommend something in its 'complicated mother/daughter relationships' category.) But Ginny & Georgia’s second episode, which crams in so many stray plotlines it seems as though it’s casting about for a reason to exist, left me ready to abandon ship. I’m glad I stuck with it. By the end of the series’ 10-episode first season, I was ready for more. Heck, I was more or less hooked by episode six. There is no denying Ginny & Georgia suffers from growing pains, or that season one would be a lot better if its story were spread out over additional episodes. (The way this series accelerates its will-they/won’t-they relationships made me realize that TV romances are much better when they play out across 22 episodes instead of 10.) But its charms are considerable, and it riffs on Gilmore Girls without being beholden to it. It made me nostalgic for the heyday of the WB."
    • Ginny & Georgia is not just trash -- it's good trash: "It deserves not a single award, until and unless someone creates a category for Most Absurdly Entertaining Entertainment or Series Most Aptly Described as Desperate Housewives Meets Gilmore Girls," says Lucy Mangan. "Then it can walk off with a prize. Not before. It really is fun, especially when Howey stops chewing the scenery quite so much (or you just get used to it – I’m not quite sure which, but the overall result is thankfully, and less exhaustingly, the same) as southern belle, sex bomb and scam artist Georgia. And it is even more fun when Gentry gets slightly more to do than roll her eyes and be her mother’s uptight foil, at the end of the first episode. The differential diagnosis for trash/quality TV is how much self-referentiality it has and how much it thinks this allows it to get away with."
    • It's darker, riskier and more fun than Gilmore Girls: "Series creator Sarah Lampert plainly created Ginny and Georgia (Brianna Howey) as a film negative's version of Rory and Lorelei, inserting darkness in her characters where Gilmore embraced light," says Melanie McFarland. "She even namechecks that other show in the opening episode she wrote. People who click in and expect a hit of that old Gilmore froth may be disappointed though because Ginny & Georgia is not that show. It lacks the former's gymnastic dialogue and unapologetic sweetness. Aside from Ginny's defensive pride in her high academic achievements the writers don't bend over backwards to make intellectual viewers feel better about watching a coming-of-age drama. None of this is an argument against Ginny & Georgia. I'm simply explaining what one shouldn't expect from a show that blends teen angst, adult mystery, and soap opera twists into 10 episodes while also leaning into harsher realities rarely if ever confronted in Stars Hollow. The only things Lorelai and Georgia have in common is that each is lovable, easy to root for and fiercely loyal to her daughter. But where Lorelai is pure sunshine, Georgia's glow is purely cosmetic. Ginny loves her mom, and she also knows she's dishonest, curiously quiet about her past, and probably dangerous. Georgia makes promises she can't keep such as assuring her kids that she'll refrain from dating anyone to focus on them. But once she gets an eyeful of Wellsbury's mayor Paul Randolph (Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights) that assurance flies out the window. Wellsbury is the kind of town built for people who look like Georgia, which makes it ripe for conquest. For Ginny, whose father is Black, it is less welcoming. Still, the chameleonic Georgia sees the place for what it is and does what she has to do, changing her appearance to fit in with its class-conscious denizens."
    • Ginny & Georgia feels like more of a Shonda Rhimes show than something from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino: "However cynical the show’s origins may or may not have been — in the press notes, Lampert talks about growing up watching shows like Gilmore Girls and Buffy, but also says she drew inspiration from her own teenage years and family relationships — Ginny & Georgia is most interesting when viewed through the lens of how much television has changed in the 21 years since Gilmore Girls debuted," says Alan Sepinwall. "The new show ultimately has charms of its own, even as it suggests what shape its predecessor would have to take were it made today, and for a streamer in particular...Gilmore Girls was a cozy comforter of a series in which the appeal was less about the stories than the pleasing rhythms of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s quippy, rat-a-tat dialogue (and the way actors like Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop delivered it) and the chance to spend time in the company of so many lovably quirky characters. Precious little happened in many episodes — the biggest source of conflict was often about an unkind word said at a family dinner, or an obscure ordinance brought up at a town hall meeting — and relationships (both platonic and romantic) gradually built over each season, or sometimes across multiple seasons. As a show producing 22 episodes per season in a much less crowded viewing environment, Gilmore Girls could afford to meander. Ginny & Georgia has only 10 episodes to play with in its first season (Netflix’s standard length in recent years), and has to fight for the attention of viewers who have a near-limitless choice of shows, present and past. So it moves faster, and is more loaded with character, incident, and flash. If Lampert and her collaborators (including showrunner Debra J. Fisher) wanted to lean even more into the comparisons, they could have sold the show as: 'What if Gilmore Girls, but Lorelai is a ruthless con woman?' That’s essentially who Lorelai already was, but in exploring Georgia’s dark past (in flashbacks to her teen years, she’s played by Nikki Roumel), the new series is more overt and dramatic about it, weaving in a variety of mysteries and threats that feel more out of a Shonda Rhimes show than one from Sherman-Palladino."
    • Ginny & Georgia feels utterly unique yet wildly predictable: "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," says Proma Khosla. "Netflix's Ginny & Georgia has all of this, yet somehow manages to be almost boring even as it flies by." Khosla adds: "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 a weakly drawn mother-daughter story: "Ginny & Georgia begins with a change of scenery, as Georgia Miller (Brianne Howey) uproots her two kids (Antonia Gentry and Diesel La Torraca as Ginny and Austin) and heads to a bucolic town in New England to start anew," says Daniel D'Addario. "This is as promising a start as any for a show with no shortage of willingness to attempt voiciness and attitude. Unfortunately, though, the Miller family’s new home is as short on personality as the Millers are themselves. And staggering through a spiky, jerry-rigged plot involving intimations of crime and trauma as well as teenage bumps in the road that only feel as seismic, Ginny & Georgia winds down its punishingly long first season having shouted a great deal, but said — about where Ginny and Georgia are and even who they are — almost nothing at all."
    • Across 10 hour-long episodes, Ginny & Georgia never seems to find the thread connecting its many moving parts together: "Perhaps the strangest thing about this series is how little time our titular heroines actually spend together," says Laura Bradley. "Georgia might be fiercely devoted to her children, but she’s too busy covering up her criminal activities (past and present) and romancing the town’s mayor (Scott Porter, AKA Jason Street in Friday Night Lights) to schedule much quality time. It also doesn’t help that Georgia’s backstory unfolds in flashback, gobbling up runtime from each episode to unravel a mystery that’s far too easy to solve. It’s hard to understand what we’re meant to make of Georgia, but Ginny seems even more opaque. Her frustration with her mother makes sense; most teens would not relish the thought of being forced to change schools several times throughout their lives. But Ginny’s point of view is otherwise hard to discern. Unlike Rory Gilmore, whose lofty aspirations and ridiculously long reading list defined a great deal of who she was, Ginny’s trauma largely defines her. We don’t really know who or what she wants to be. Or why she sticks with a group of girls that pressured her into shoplifting and then tried to let her take the fall for them, and even shrugs off the Black student trying to welcome her to the school for so long in favor of hanging out with them. Or why she’s dating her boyfriend, with whom she has little to no chemistry. Or why she says nothing when one of her friends literally slaps her during an argument. Ginny & Georgia clearly wants to prove it’s more than just a Gilmore Girls knock-off, but creator Sarah Lampert and her writing team do not seem to have decided what they want it to be instead."
    • Here are all the ways Ginny & Georgia is a reminder of Gilmore Girls
    • Antonia Gentry and Brianne Howey discuss their on-screen mother-daughter chemistry: "I was graduating the same week that I got the audition, so I was very swamped with all of my finals and exams," says Gentry. "I was kind of stressed out, but then I got this really, really cool script and I thought, 'Okay, well, I'm just gonna do a tape and think nothing of it because I had all this other stuff going on. They ended up loving it and calling me back. Then they flew me out to L.A. and put me in this really cool, fancy hotel — it was just super fun. Walking into the chemistry read and just seeing a room filled with women, was just an added bonus. It really felt super special to be a part of it. I read with what, I don't know, 20-plus actresses for Georgia? And Brianne came in and she was it. She was the one. It's been such a pleasure working with her and getting to know her. She's so beautiful and talented. I love her."
    • Creator Sarah Lampert aimed to subvert tropes with Ginny & Georgia: "A lot of our show is about subverting tropes, and one of my least favorite tropes is the idea that virginity is — and only for women, really — something special to hold onto,” says Lampert. “What I love that we did — and everyone was on board with and wanted to do — was, right in the pilot, have Ginny lose her virginity, because this wasn’t going to be a show where that was something that was a part of her identity and protected throughout the season. We wanted to not have it be this thing.”

    TOPICS: Ginny & Georgia, Netflix, Gilmore Girls, Antonia Gentry, Brianne Howey, Sarah Lampert