The risks of watching Tina Fey’s newest comedy Girls5eva may include having the theme song stuck in your head on a continuous loop and wanting to create an all-girls music group. And if you are anything like me, you might also have a smile stuck on your face from the show’s postive queer representation and Sara Bareilles in all her glory.
Premiering May 6 on Peacock, Girls5eva is a musical comedy from Fey and Meredith Scardino (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) that follows a one-hit wonder girl group from the 90s, as they reunite during the present day. The show stars Bareilles (Waitress), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton), Paula Pell (Saturday Night Live), and Busy Philipps (Freaks and Geeks), as four of the group’s original five members.
Pell plays Gloria, a divorced lesbian dentist who jokes about being the first gay divorcée in the state of New York. Pell herself is openly gay, and recently played a queer character in Amy Poehler’s feature directorial debut, Wine Country. Gloria’s arc throughout Girls5eva is well-done. Her sexuality does not define her character nor does it fall into the trope of being a surprise or conflict for the rest of the group.
About halfway through the season, we meet Gloria’s ex-wife Caroline, played by Janine Brito, who is married to Pell in real life. From the minute the two characters run into each other, it’s obvious that Gloria is not over their separation. Gloria and Caroline make small talk, and a musical montage called “Rekindling” follows. It’s equal parts endearing and reminiscent of a sketch from Saturday Night Live, where Pell worked as a writer for eighteen years.
While Pell is excellent in her role as Gloria, the standout of the show is Bareilles, who plays Dawn, the de facto leader of the group who works at her family’s Italian restaurant and is raising a son with her husband, Scott. Bareilles’ ability to integrate physical comedy is a knockout; in one of the show’s first scenes, Bareilles attempts to disengage from a mammogram machine to record a song on the radio that sampled Girls5eva.
Alongside Bareilles is Goldsberry, who brings a powerful belt as Wickie, and Phillips, who is hysterical as the clueless Summer. Girls5eva also features appearances from well-known actors and comedians such as Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Andrew Rannells, Vanessa Williams, Bowen Yang, and Fey (albeit dressed as Dolly Parton).
The most unique aspect of Girls5eva is its entertaining soundtrack of humorous original songs, including “4 Stars,” which was written by Bareilles. Several comedic songs are also featured in mini flashbacks to the 90s, at a time when the band had five members.
While the music of Girls5eva is exceptional, what brings the whole show together is the running thread of female empowerment. All four of the members are dedicated to making it, no matter how hard it is to write an original song or what hijinks they might encounter.
The queer representation, too, is equally as compelling. In episode six, the group performs at a pride party called Y2Gay, where Gloria is forced to ponder why Wickie is a gay icon instead of her. And whoever crafted Gloria’s character is definitely in tune with the queer experience. On a relatable note, when the group seeks assistance from a male songwriter, Gloria shares: “I’ve never been this excited to meet a man.”
Like Gloria, it’s possible that I’ve never been this excited for a musical comedy series. All eight episodes of Girls5eva will be released May 6 on Peacock.