Review: ‘Florida Girls’ Is Another Reason to Find the Pop Network

Review: ‘Florida Girls’ Is Another Reason to Find the Pop Network

Created by the actress and writer Laura Chinn (“The Mick”), the show features a quartet of high-school dropouts who all live together in a mobile home and mostly work together at a nearby dive, two behind the bar and one in the big fish tank in the middle of the room. (She puts on her mermaid costume at home and hops to the job.) The fourth, Jayla (Laci Mosley), is so determined to avoid work that she’s the devoted sugar baby of an Applebee’s franchise owner.

Like its crime-drama cousin, TNT’s “Claws,” “Florida Girls” is out to reclaim and redeem the tropes of “Florida man” Gulf Coast gothic. Chinn grew up in Clearwater, where the show is set, and the pawn shops, grow houses, “ghetto stores” and machine-gun shooting parties ring true (or true enough for comedy). So does the absence of a single entirely redeemable male character. Also refreshing, if not as believable, is the relative lack of references to Instagram.

Chinn plays Shelby, the aspiring adult of the group, whose continually frustrated attempts to study for the G.E.D. exam are one of the engines of the season’s plot. Another is the determination of the group’s enforcer, Kaitlin (Melanie Field), to continue a tradition of blowout bacchanals on a local island now that the previous party giver has passed away. (“Florida man eaten by alligator while hiding from police” is the headline in the newspaper displayed at his funeral.)

Life and a profound lack of funds keep getting in the way, though. Episodes are built around the suddenly felt, extremely important need to do something — go to a water park, borrow a rich acquaintance’s boat — and the near impossibility of accomplishing it. Money must be raised, usually through petty theft and pawning; bickering must be weathered; and focus must be achieved despite a rolling tide of bar shots, joints and acid. Standard sitcom mechanics, as previously noted. In the show’s most frequent gag, the friends’ progress is constantly interrupted while Shelby looks for someone sober to blow into the breathalyzer attached to her car’s ignition.

Chinn and her fellow writers (she’s credited with four of the first eight episodes) are observant and punchy, and they give the comedy flavor without, for the most part, resorting to sitcom gags. “She ain’t dead, she at the dollar store,” the friends are told of a woman who owes them money. When Jayla is told, approvingly, “You look like a really expensive prostitute,” Kaitlin yells, “No! No! Don’t compliment her!” Absent and abusive parents are a major theme — when Shelby hears of the foreign concept “family dinner,” she asks plaintively, “What is that, like Thanksgiving but every night?”

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