Meredith Scardino's 'Girls5eva' gets a fresh start on Netflix: 'It feels like a brand new drop'

When the third season of the series “Girls5eva” premieres Thursday on Netflix, it will be debuting on the platform along with the other seasons of the show, which previously lived on Peacock, before that streamer canceled the uproarious comedy about a ’90s girl group vying for fame in middle age.

The unusual circumstances mean there’s a level of anticipation for creator Meredith Scardino that doesn’t usually accompany a new season.

“It feels like a brand new drop,” Scardino said. “It feels like we are dropping the whole series again.”

In some ways, another shot seems fitting for “Girls5eva,” a show that’s all about second chances. Executive produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the show follows Dawn (Sara Bareilles), Wickie (Renée Elise Goldsberry), Summer (Busy Philipps) and Gloria (Paula Pell), all of whom had a brush with fame as members of the eponymous pop act during the days of MTV’s “TRL” and low-cut jeans. When the show opens, the ladies, most of whom have left the spotlight, get another shot at fame when one of their extremely catchy yet very silly songs gets new life as a sample.

The show premiered in 2021 and was critically acclaimed, but after the second season arrived the following year, Peacock decided it was done. The choice was “heartbreaking,” according to Scardino, but Netflix ended up being the savior they needed. Fey, Carlock and Scardino had relationships with Netflix based on their previous work on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” a show that has a similarly wacky tone to “Girls5eva.” With Netflix, Carlock said they have a chance to start fresh.

“I watch a lot of English football on Peacock,” he said. “But Netflix is a bigger lens onto the viewership, let’s say, and they have a track record, whether it’s ‘Schitt’s Creek’ or ‘Cobra Kai,’ of things that were elsewhere getting a better shot [on Netflix]. It felt like this makes sense.”

Goldsberry, the Tony-winning “Hamilton” veteran who plays the vain and delusional diva Wickie Roy, celebrated the revival. “Have you ever been to a Pentecostal church and seen people get the spirit?” she said during a Zoom call. “That’s what was happening in this house. There was a dance with a lot of feet movement and a lot of praise to God. We were all absolutely thrilled.”

While the first two seasons, which tracked Girls5eva’s reunion and attempts to record a new album, each had eight episodes, Netflix wanted only six for the third season. “The six will be part of proof of concept,” Carlock said. “It felt like there was a really healthy pressure. They like what we’ve done, and these six better be really funny.”

For Scardino, the smaller episode order just meant hewing more closely to the arc she wanted to follow for the characters with fewer detours, and for Season 3 that meant sending the band out on the road. “There’s always more to explore about these characters and about what motivates them,” she said. “I felt like there was still room to tell this story of them being on tour in six episodes.”

At the start of the new season, the women are thriving during a stop in Fort Worth, thanks to the fact that they’ve written a highly specific song about the city called “Tap Into Your Fort Worth” featuring lyrics like, “13th biggest in the state, can a town be a soulmate?” The Texas city has turned them into mini-celebrities, but they are also stagnant there, staying in a “Marriott Divorced Dad Suitelets” that features a vending machine with wrapped kids’ birthday presents. (Goldsberry was wearing a hat with the logo of the fake hotel chain when we spoke.) To reignite their ambition, Wickie books them an improbable gig at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Thanksgiving.

A tour also provides Scardino and her team of writers new avenues to explore the challenges of trying to reach stardom while also maintaining adult lives. Bareilles’ Dawn, for instance, is pregnant with her second child. She’s enjoying the respite from family life that the adventure provides, though she also struggles to get adequate healthcare in parts of the country where women’s rights are under threat. Meanwhile, Gloria, who was deeply closeted when Girls5eva was first formed, is now trying to sow her oats with local women.

Along the way, the foursome is still wrestling with the toxicity of how they were sexualized and treated in their youth. It’s a subject that’s grown in relevance as fans and the culture at large wrestle with how such performers as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson were relentlessly scrutinized and harassed in the late ’90s and early aughts.

“We’re having fun in this territory, but I feel like we’re always on the side of the artists,” Scardino said. “Our ladies make plenty of mistakes that they should be on the hook for but there is an empathy, for sure, for any artist that was just churned through a machine.”

As for another topic that “Girls5eva” is having fun with this season? Netflix itself, which gets a couple of shout-outs, including a parody of “The Crown” focused entirely on the stuffed animal collection of Britain’s Prince Andrew. There is also a mention of how Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” got a bump after it was placed in “Stranger Things.” The jokes came first, and then they asked for permission later, Carlock said. Netflix even let them throw in an Easter egg to a fictional streaming service that appears in “Black Mirror.”

“In the culture right now, Netflix is the 800-pound gorilla, an expression I don’t care for,” Carlock said. “It’s natural we’re going to end up satirizing what they do.”

Even with Netflix behind them, “Girls5eva” remains scrappy. Although the characters are supposed to be traveling through states in a van, the actors did not. “The brilliance is in the production team,” Goldsberry said. “That’s the magic potion, and everything else is pretty much in a little studio somewhere or right outside it around the corner. We dream about ‘Girls5eva’ goes to Hawaii. We dream these things. They have not happened, and we’re not holding our breath.”

The hope right now is that the Netflix release will earn the show more fans and that in turn they’ll get to make more seasons. While the singers of Girls5eva gain insight as they roam America, the season also ends on a cliffhanger, giving them yet another shot at the big time. “I think the promise of fame and relevance is too tempting to turn down,” Scardino said.

The goal, according to Carlock, is that once viewers binge all three seasons, they’ll be clamoring for more. “Hopefully, it’ll feel like we’ve got to get back to work really soon,” he said.

Goldsberry didn’t want to make too many predictions, but she does think that the show, and its depiction of women pursuing their passions later in life, is “tremendously important,” even if its main goal is to make people laugh.

“You’re complicit in dreaming with a group of women about themselves,” she said. “It’s crazy to think that at this age you should dream about things that are seemingly frivolous and selfish. You would think that if you are going to make music at a certain age it better be inspirational and wise. Definitely not sweet bubble-gum pop. These are things you are not allowed to dream about, and definitely not together in a group with short dresses on.”

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