New people keep jumping to the streaming side of television … including some who were doing just fine without it.
Now “Girls5Eva” (shown here) arrives Thursday (May 6) on Peacock, mixing brash comedy and bubbly songs. It’s produced by Tina Fey, whose previous shows have prospered on NBC, in movie theaters, even on Broadway.
Why switch to a streaming network? Some people do that so they can use adult material, but this show is “really pretty clean and watchable,” Fey said.
Better reasons? Streamers offer more flexibility in the length of episodes – “which, with music, is a huge help,” said Robert Carlock, Fey’s producing partner – and in the number of them. “You can make a boutique amount of episodes,” Fey said.
There’s no more need to do 22 episodes a year, each one 22 minutes long. The first “Girls5Eva” season has only eight episodes; its opener runs more than 31 minutes, without commercials.
There’s a lot to pack into that episode, introducing four people, some songs and lots of back story.
“I wanted to write a show about women in my age group,” said Meredith Scardino, who has been writing TV comedy for 17 years. She thought of having women create a pop group, soar briefly, then crash. Years later, with their lives in various states of shambles, they get a fresh shot when their hit song is sampled by a rapper.
Scardino has written for two Fey/Carlock shows, “Mr. Mayor” and “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” so she took them this idea.
For Fey, that meant a tricky search for the right actresses. “Worst-case scenario: If they don’t really sing,we could fake it,” she said.
She found two with major music credibility and two known for comedy. From left in this photo, they ares:
– Renee Elise Goldsberry, a Tony-winner from “Hamilton.”
– Sara Bareilles, an Emmy-winner who used both skills starring in “Waitress,” a Broadway musical that she wrote the songs for. “This series (is) like as dream fantasy,” Bareilles said.
– Paula Pell, who spent decades behind the scenes (writing for Saturday Night Live” and others), before her sudden surge – co-starring in “A.P. Bio” for NBC and Peacock … starring in “Mapleworth Murders,” on the short-lived Quibi … now starring in this comedy-with-music. “It’s just been an incredible fun time for a musical theater nerd, living out her fantasies” at 58, she said.
– Busy Philipps, known for comedy (from “Freaks and Geeks” to “Cougar Town”), not music.
They play women with a second chance at show-business … and a first chance to have a say. “When they were pop stars, they had no control over the words that were coming out of their mouths and the dance moves and the things they were wearing and the relationships they were put in,” Philipps said.
The show gives them pop-type songs that start with lame lyrics, then have composer Jeff Norman addy bouncy tunes. “We would hand him the weirdest, stupidest” words, Scardino saide, and he would make them sound like ‘90s pop hits.
The four women do the rest, often in a heightened style.
“You have an excuse to hold the notes a little bit longer than you’re supposed to,” Goldsberry said. “No one thinks you’re a jerk when you try to steal the show. It’s pretty nice.”