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Girls5Eva Does Callbacks Better Than Any Show on TV

Eagle-eyed viewers of the Peacock comedy keep getting rewarded with sneakily brilliant jokes.
  • Busy Philipps, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sara Bareilles and Paula Pell star in Girls5Eva. (Photo NBC)
    Busy Philipps, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sara Bareilles and Paula Pell star in Girls5Eva. (Photo NBC)

    Girls5Eva returned for its second season this spring with its titular Girls in album mode and the comedy — from creator Meredith Scardino and her talented team of writers — firing on all cylinders. But among the show's many virtues, our very favorite may be its insane muscle memory when it comes to referencing itself. Callbacks, Easter eggs, and inside jokes were plentiful in the first season, but season two has truly cemented the show's status as TV's premier callback comedy.

    This shouldn't come as a surprise given, that the Tina Fey/Robert Carlock family of shows have always known their way around a callback. Just think of how much mileage 30 Rock got out of Jenna Maroney's sketchy past with Mickey Rourke, or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's recurring C.H.E.R.Y.L. the robot. Girls5Eva similarly rewards viewers who pay close attention. Sometimes it's as simple as an inside joke about the label asking Dawn to include a love song on the album and getting to hear Sara Bareilles say "I'm not gonna write them a love song 'cause they ask for it." Sometimes it's the way the show will thread a minor-key motif callback to a song from episodes ago (keep your ears peeled for the "Rekindling" melody whenever Gloria and Caroline are onscreen together).

    With that in mind, let's take a tour through some of our favorite Girls5Eva callbacks

    The Negroni: One of the best jokes in the stellar Girls5Eva pilot involved Dawn, in the middle of an argument with Wickie, whispering the word "negroni" because she wasn't sure whether the origins of the cocktail's name were racist or not. Cut to four episodes later, where Dawn is again arguing with Wickie, but this time she says "negroni" with her whole chest ("It's fine, I looked it up, it's named after Count Camino Negroni").

    The TSA Agent: Another pilot-episode callback, this one to the sympathetic TSA agent named Derby who tells Wickie she can't board her flight with a water bra containing more than three ounces of liquid, but then fans out over seeing Girls5Eva on The Tonight Show. In the first season finale, Derby is in the audience at Jingle Ball, making out to the group's performance of "Four Stars."

    Summer and Salads: In the season one epsiode "Catskills," Dawn and Wickie send Summer off to make a salad while they write a song, which is a pretty crappy thing to do, and it leads to a fight, but it also sends Summer on an episode-long quest to learn how to "cook" a salad. And yes, she ultimately picks up a salad from Chili's, but the frequent callbacks to Summer's salad odyssey tell us she stuck with it and has mastered the art of salading. Evidence: Summer's verse in "Four Stars" references having "already graduated salad school"; and in the second-season episode "Can't Wait 2 Wait," Summer shows off her new salad-making skills to her visiting parents. Look for another Summer salad callback in the second-season finale.

    "Cease and Desist": In the first season episode "Cease and Desist," we learn that Wickie was in a regional production of Maskical: The Musical, a pastiche of the Jim Carrey oeuvre. What we learn later is that Wickie was infamously recorded delivering a Patti LuPone-esque tirade to an audience member taking her photograph during the production. Her "cease and desist!" outburst ended up getting lip-synced on TikTok by Xander (Bowen Yang), turning Wickie into an unwitting gay icon. In the second season episode "Who U Know," the group attempts an Instagram Live performance, before realizing that no one's watching, and Wickie shuts it down with her venerable catch phrase.

    Enrique Iglesias: In the first-season finale, we learn that Girls5Eva were bumped from the Jingle Ball in 2001 for Enrique Iglesias, something that the Girls are still sore about (Gloria: "Daddy's boy"; Dawn: "Fake mole"). This season, in the "Who U Know" episode, we learn that Summer once sent Enrique a ticking piggy bank as revenge.

    Carson Daly: Season two's strongest recurring callback has been about Carson Daly. In the very first scene of the season, a news report refers to Girls5Eva as "the one-hit wonders best known for each having been engaged to Carson Daly." That joke kicked off a season of Carson callbacks, including finding out all that the Girls are still blocked by Daly, and that the band's former manager Larry once offered "a set of steak knives to whoever lands Carson Daly."

    "Shanked It": This one's dumb, funny, and simple, with the phrase "I shanked it" used as a stand-in for messing up. It began when Summer's ex, Kev, bemoans how he "shanked it" during the pair's intended divorce announcement on Instagram Live. Later in the season, Gloria talks about her tendency to "shank it" when trying to hit on women. And in a barely audible throwaway, Summer's parents (Neil Flynn and Amy Sedaris) are heard using "shanked it" too.

    Cara: In the second-season premiere, Cara (Heidi Gardner) is one of the moms at Dawn and Scott's kid's school who initially won't email anyone but the other moms about child-care plans. When Dawn points out the sexism in that, Cara darkly wonders if she's secretly worried that if she had the dads' email addresses, she might end up bedding all of them. Turns out, that was a valid concern ("there's always hiccups with progress"), and then in the season's fourth episode, Scott tells Dawn he did something weird, and she snaps, "Did you fuck Cara?" (He didn't.)

    With two episodes yet to go in this season of Girls5Eva, there are plenty more callbacks to come, including one in the season finale that may be the best Easter egg in the show's short but hilarious history. Here's hoping Peacock does the right thing and gives us a third season so that Girls5Eva can continue to mine its own joke-dense history for humor.

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    Joe Reid is the senior writer 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.

    TOPICS: Girls5eva, Busy Philipps, Meredith Scardino, Paula Pell, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sara Bareilles