Hollywood Darlings premieres April 12, 8pm on Pop.
At some point in time, every generation sees an idealized version of their past come
back and permeate pop culture. In the 1970s, the baby-boomers saw the revival of the ‘50s with shows and movies like Happy Days and Grease. In the ‘90s, we saw the return of the 1970s. Now it’s time for us millennials to have our childhoods resurrected. On April 12th, the Pop network (formerly known to “‘90s Kids” as the TV Guide Channel) is debuting Hollywood Darlings—a new show starring grown-up versions of child stars from the ‘90s. Can the show stand on its own, or is it merely cashing in on nostalgia?
Hollywood Darlings is a single-camera sitcom that combines the raunchiness of Curb Your Enthusiasm with the mockumentary stylings of Modern Family. The basic premise is that ‘90s sitcom middle kids Jodie Sweetin (Full House’s Stephanie Tanner), Christine Lakin (Step By Step’s Al Lambert), and Beverly Mitchell (7th Heaven’s Lucy Camden) are all friends in real life and find themselves in various predicaments, often involving guest
appearances by other former-child stars of the ‘90s. I am not sure if these ladies are actually friends in real life, but their chemistry on screen is where this show shines the
When Darlings focuses on the interaction between its stars, it can truly be delightful. In the show’s pilot “How Christine Got Her Groove Back”, Christine drags Beverly to a new age “cleanse” studio ran by Party of Five’s Andrew Keegan (sure, why not?). Christine is a regular whose lifestyle frequently dabbles in yoga and eating organic, whereas Beverly seems generally uninterested in the mere idea of relaxation. In attempt to get Bev to let loose a little, Christine drops this gem, “Touch yourself if you want. I don’t care. HE doesn’t care!” It’s moments and little zingers like this where the series shows potential. Then it shifts its focus away from the Com(edy) and focuses on the Sit(uation).
Don’t get me wrong. The situations and premises in this show are truly inspired. In
the episode “Got Milk?”, the fourth in the series, Beverly takes a job at a furniture store so that she can work there for two weeks, get the employee discount on a bedroom set for her daughter, and then quit. This is a premise that would do great on Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, but flounders on Hollywood Darlings. This is due to the primary issue plaguing this show: nothing is at stake, and nothing is of any consequence.
On Seinfeld, it is said that the show was made with the concept of, “No hugging, and
no learning.” George Costanza never became a better person and never learned a lesson,
but he did suffer the consequences of his self-centered ways. When George’s reluctance to spend money led to choosing the cheap wedding invitations, the glue from the envelopes killed his fiancé Susan. To contrast, when Beverly loses her job at the furniture store due to deterring other potential buyers (including TV’s Steve Urkel) from buying her desired bedroom set, Jodie is given a discount and buys it for her. In episode two (“My So-Called Prom”), Jodie sells her Mr. Bear prop from Full House to an online auction shop. After she realizes she has some sentimentality for it, she rushes online to buy it back, but as soon as she sees the price, those feelings immediately vanish, rendering her sudden change of heart pointless. Every time a potential conflict arises on this show, it is almost immediately mitigated.
This problem is only exacerbated by its format. The single-camera, mockumentary
style of shows like Modern Family and The Office work because they allow their characters to be vulnerable. The characters end up in tricky situations, and the humor is derived from how they navigate out of it. They use interview segments to help the viewer either understand the plot better or to get a better glimpse inside the mind of the character. On Hollywood Darlings, the plots are so paper thin that the interview segments serve only as a means of padding out the runtime.
Were this show shot in the multi-camera style of Full House and Step By Step, the
lack of any real story arc would be far less noticeable. It could utilize its barebones plot
devices as a means by which to deliver competently written one-liners—an area where its principle cast actually excels. Well, when they are given the opportunity to do so.
Whether or not I would recommend this show depends. If you’re looking for a sitcom
with memorable characters or funny storylines, this show is not for you. If you just want to see people from the ‘90s coexisting in some sort of weird televised purgatory, then by all means, tune in.
I give Hollywood Darlings a C-.