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Like Its ’90s Girl Group Cast, ‘Girls5Eva’ Deserves to Be a Star

The Peacock original from executive producer Tina Fey is a hilarious and satirical take on women in the music industry

Scott Laven/NBCU

It may be a bit early to call this, but the song of the post-pandemic summer is the theme to Girls5Eva, the latest original to premiere on Peacock. If the sitcom gets the shine it deserves, you’ll hear the tune everywhere soon enough—on the TV; in the car; in the shower, where, if my experience is any judge, you’ll find yourself humming the chorus. Best to get a head start and get well acquainted with the lyrics:

Gonna be famous 5Eva
’Cause 4Eva’s 2 short
Gonna be famous 3getha
’Cause that’s 1 more than 2getha
Gonna be famous 5Eva
’Cause 4Eva’s too short
So what are you waiting 5?
Girls5Eva!

Like all good themes, Girls5Eva’s is a perfect capsule of the show it introduces. Deceptively silly and loose, the tune also has an airtight grip on its satirical subject: late-’90s girl groups and what happens to their members, and all women in show business, when they reach middle age. A Spice Girls–type quintet who peaked in the last millennium, Girls5Eva gets an unexpected boost when their biggest (read: only) hit is sampled by the Gen Z rapper Lil Stinker. Sensing opportunity, the surviving members of the group—the “fun one” swam off the edge of an infinity pool back in the aughts—resolve to turn their second wind into a full-fledged comeback.

The premise of Girls5Eva is compelling enough, but its backers’ CV is what sells it. Created by Meredith Scardino, Girls5Eva is executive produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, a creative alliance forged at Saturday Night Live that hit its stride with 30 Rock 15 years ago. Fey and Carlock also cocreated Mr. Mayor, the NBC political farce that was paused halfway through its first season after a COVID-19 breakout on set (the season finale aired in February). But the pair also presides over a rapidly growing portfolio of creative offspring. Take Tracey Wigfield, who revived Saved by the Bell with unexpected wit and charm after writing on 30 Rock (she also helmed the tragically canceled Great News). Scardino, for her part, has worked on Mr. Mayor, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and the 2015 Golden Globes. The credits for Girls5Eva are filled with other Fey-world mainstays: actor Dean Winters, forever known as Dennis Duffy; producer Eric Gurian; and composer Jeff Richmond, whose scores are as much a part of the series’ sensibility as the writing.

30 Rock is rightly remembered as a towering achievement. (Just this week, Rolling Stone proclaimed it the 18th-best sitcom of all time—better than Roseanne!) But it’s not entirely unequaled. Fey’s consistency in collaborators has also come with a consistency of output from those peers. Great News, Saved by the Bell, and now Girls5Eva can each stand on their own merits. Grouped together, though, the shows clearly share some DNA. The sheer quantity of jokes, the fondness for cutaway gags and breaking the fourth wall, and the telltale mix of sharp observation and wacky abstraction all adds up to a legacy that’s outlived 30 Rock, even if this brand of razor-sharp comedy feels endangered everywhere else on television. There are also more obvious clues: The pilot of Girls5Eva name-checks the Saved by the Bell revival as evidence that ’90s nostalgia can be a path to success.

The Girls5Eva themselves are a mix of familiar and fresh, at least in terms of their experience with the Fey house style. After NBC passed on the Fey-produced The Sackett Sisters in 2017, Busy Philipps gets an overdue spotlight as Summer, the “hot one” still married to her boy-band sweetheart turned correspondent for Tampa’s WTIT. (He still wears his hair in a classic swoop, even though it “caused one of his eyes to shrivel and turn inward.”) SNL vet Paula Pell plays Gloria, a workaholic dentist once forced into the closet by pop’s relentless heteronormativity. Pell could make the phone book funny, but lines like “I started self-medicating with spaniels” give her more than enough to work with.

Pell previously showcased her musical chops in “Original Cast Album: Co-Op,” Documentary Now!’s proudly niche take on D.A. Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: Company. (Do check out “I Gotta Go,” the funniest song ever recorded about needing to leave for the optometrist.) There, she costarred with Girls5Eva’s most inspired casting choice: Renée Elise Goldsberry, who puts all her theater-kid energy to self-aware use as insufferable diva Wickie. After ditching the group to go solo, Wickie squandered her fame on tire fires like The Maskical: The Musical and a Mrs. Doubtfire rip-off starring José Canseco. She’s a worthy successor to Jenna Maroney down to her core fan base of gay men. Singer Sara Bareilles rounds out the foursome as the downtrodden Dawn, who first hears the Lil Stinker sample while she’s getting a mammogram.

Bareilles and Goldsberry, best known for her work in Hamilton, help burnish Girls5Eva’s musical bona fides. They’re helped by songs, costumes, and production design that collectively nail the show’s pop cultural sweet spot. In addition to the title track, there are additional bangers like “Dream Girlfriends” (sample lyric: “’Cause our dads are dead”) and “Zoom Zoom Boom Boom” (“Carma”). Flashbacks deliver a convincing replica of peak MTV, complete with crop tops and sequins; the group’s skeezy former manager takes after Lou Pearlman. In the present day, our heroines visit with a Swedish sage à la Max Martin, who doubles as a spoof of the music industry’s misogyny. “Typically when I write songs about women, I take a BuzzFeed quiz about Disney princesses,” he laments.

Like all the best satires, Girls5Eva has a moral compass that never drowns out its humor, but amplifies it instead. The show is, in a fundamental sense, about the indignities of aging, especially for women fed through the meat grinder of the pop machine in their youth. Arriving so soon after the New York Times documentary about Britney Spears, it’s also well timed to a larger cultural reckoning with how ’90s media mistreated women. But Girls5Eva isn’t a lecture—it’s just a joke-forward comedy whose clarity of purpose gives it a sharp edge and, before long, emotional resonance. A midseason plot about the group’s members learning to outgrow their assigned roles is authentically sweet.

After Mike Schur’s Rutherford Falls, Girls5Eva is the second Peacock show in as many weeks to bring a seasoned network hand onto the new streaming service. Fey’s work on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt already signaled the potential of this approach: Kimmy was bright and efficient, still a relative rarity for streaming, but also took on surprisingly dark themes. For all the show’s cringeworthy takes on race and identity, it also addressed sexual trauma in a way impossible to imagine on NBC. With Peacock, the service’s parent company can keep valued voices in the family while also letting them stretch their wings. It was hard enough to sell broadcast audiences on a meta-sitcom about the inner workings of its own network. But as the Girls5Eva can attest, new platforms mean new ways to build on a dedicated following. If you sing it, they will come.