We frequently joke around with the idea that the content factory that is Netflix uses an algorithm to create shows, but with the new Netflix series Ginny & Georgia, I think we might be on to something. The new show, which I gobbled up in just a few days in an all-too-easy binge and also have no problems admitting that (good job, algorithm), seems built with the idea of including so much that there will be something for everyone. "All of the above" is the preferred machine learning checked box here, resulting in a show that's immensely watchable but not always easy to deeply connect with on any level more than eagerly clicking "play next episode."
Ginny & Georgia is a comedy/drama/YA/thriller/mystery about 30-year-old Georgia (The Passage's Brianne Howey), her 15-year-old daughter Virginia/Ginny (Antonia Gentry), and nine-year-old son Austin (Diesel La Torraca) who relocate from the peering eyes and accusatory drawls of Texas to a small suburb of Boston for a fresh start after Georgia's husband -- who was not the father of Georgia's kids -- suddenly dies of a heart attack in the opening minutes of the first episode and leaves all of his money to Georgia. Moving is nothing new to this family -- the kids are named after places they were born in -- but the adorable, progressive town of Wellsbury is supposed to be the place they'll take root. The premise is a familiar blueprint for a light, spunky mother-daughter show, and Georgia acknowledges her forebears early on when she boasts, "We're like the Gilmore girls, only with bigger boobs," even though I don't remember Lorelai getting down with her vibrator and brandishing a gun in the same scene.
Then, things get thrown at you as much as possible over its 10 one-hour episodes. Some of it's organic, other things seem spit out of a ScriptTron 3000, but all of it is designed to keep you watching, which it does. This isn't a bad thing! This is entertainment. Flashbacks to Georgia's teen years depict a history of abuse, crime, and running from the law, peeling back layers of Georgia that she covers up with a smile and a Southern accent. Ginny's life at her new high school, where she befriends three girls who take her in with such gusto they all become attached at the hip, becomes the show's centerpiece. There are enough love triangles to rebuild the Great Pyramids, long-lost family members show up for a few episodes, and secrets literally under floorboards threaten to tear everyone apart. There's a mayoral election (Scott Porter sighting!), men from Georgia's past, and several boozy underage parties. Plus, there are storylines about race (Ginny is half-Black in a predominantly white community), sexuality, and sexism to fill in the spaces when the romance and scandalous pasts briefly fade.
But Ginny & Georgia is built on two pillars: One is Ginny as the new girl in a high school that barely seems to exist outside of this one small group of friends, and the other is decoding the mysterious past of Georgia, which is slowly revealed through dropped breadcrumbs throughout the season, and both do the trick provided you're able to multitask what is essentially watching two shows at once. If you're a fan of coming-of-age high school shows and scandalous small-town thrillers, you'll happily fall victim to the algorithm that smashed them together and created Ginny & Georgia. The drama is juicy, the romance is complicated, the dangerous game of secrets is constantly on the verge of blowing everything up, and many of the performers -- I'm singling out Howey, Gentry, and Sara Waisglass, who plays Ginny's friend Max -- are great. Howey, in particular, can charm her way out of what seems like an inescapable trap set for her character, whose decisions can border on the psychotic.
However, even though the busy-ness of the show creates a propulsive, bingeable momentum, the show zips through some plots faster than Lorelai Gilmore can drop a Cop Rock mention. One particular romance set in front of Georgia that everyone in their right mind will root for just dies. Ginny & Georgia goes out of its way to show that one of Ginny's friends has an eating disorder, but ignores it just when you think it will come up. Ginny's battles with race relations -- her English teacher is a racist jerk -- rarely materialize into meaningful conversation starters, yet they're shoehorned in there as if they were required to be. Most interestingly, Ginny's identity as someone of mixed race and caught between two worlds seemed most in need of a spotlight, but aside from one very good scene involving an essay in which she speaks her truth, her questions of where she belongs are confined to passing chats with one of the few Black students at her school.
There was obviously an effort to hit some of these hot-button topics, but it's not clear if they don't work because there's not enough room for them or if they were put in there out of a sense of obligation. On the bright side, there are already plenty of side stories ready to go for Season 2 if Netflix brings it back, which I think it will.
It isn't until the back half of the season that the real story becomes clear. It's a story of a mother doing whatever it takes to keep her children safe. It's a story of a daughter who realizes she doesn't know who her mother really is. And it's a story of how we unwittingly pick up some of our parents' worst habits. When that hits, Ginny & Georgia cuts through all the clutter to find focus and say what it really wants to say.
TV Guide rating: 3.5/5
Ginny & Georgia Season 1 is now available on Netflix.