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MIKE HUGHES

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NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
A Florida Girl Brings 'Florida Girls' to Pop
July 10, 2019  | By Mike Hughes
 


This isn't your usual TV-comedy turf.

There's no supersized apartment, no super-fun job, no expectations. Florida Girls (Pop, Wednesday at 10 and 10:30 p.m. ET) has four women sharing a messy home and a messy life.
 
They're about twenty-five, almost a decade after dropping out of school. There used to be five of them, but Mandy went upscale. She got her GED, got a job, moved out, and now goes by Amanda.
Her changes have stirred daydreams for Shelby. Maybe she could get a GED, too.

Or not. She'd be crazy to "go to adult high school with a billion immigrants and a bunch of teen moms," her friend Kaitlin (Melanie Field, top) says. 

This is not a world of high expectations. Ask the convenience-store clerk how she is, and she answers, "I'm alive, I guess." Wish her a nice day, and she replies, "Yeah, that will be a first."

But it's a world that Laura Chinn (left, with Field) – who created Florida Girls and plays Shelby – knows well.

 
"Back in Florida, my friends and I grew up with literally nothing," Chinn, 33, told the Television Critics Association in January. "Like, none of us had money, none of us had high school diplomas, and none of us had dads. I've always wanted to tell those stories." 

Unlike Shelby, she broke away from her roots. She spent a decade as a waitress. She got her GED, took six years to get through junior college, then moved to California and worked with a comedy troupe; she had TV guest roles, then wrote for comedies, landing jobs with Fox's Grandfathered and The Mick.
 
Now comes what Brad Schwartz, head of the Pop cable channel, calls Chinn's "passion project." He also calls it "hilariously bold, ... outlandish, loud, and sometimes dirty."
 
Well, it is all of those things, in erratic ways. The first episode is exceptionally funny, the second merely OK. Others – we've screened eight of the first ten – are inconsistent, but addictive. 

At its worst, Florida Girls becomes monotone, with the women's constant self-sabotage. One character, Jayla (Laci Mosley, top), is especially annoying with her bad advice delivered in a ceaseless whine.
 
At its best, it offers a counterpoint to a world of phony facades and false pretenses.
 
There are a few TV characters – young Jake (Angus T. Jones) on Two and a Half Men, Bonnie (Allison Janney) on Mom, for example, both Chuck Lorre creations – who are delightful for their lack of guile.

They admit their flaws openly.
 

That's Erica (Patty Guggenheim, right, center with Field and Chinn), who dryly confirms that she steals. "But I don't steal from people. Just my mom and gas stations" plus Amazon packages on front porches, because "if I don't, someone else will."

 
At one extreme is Jayla, forever trying to be high-class. At the other is Kaitlin, big and booming and ready for a fight. And in between is Shelby, the voice of the viewer.
 
In real life, Chinn told one interviewer, "I grew up biracial, but I know I look white to most people." In the show, Shelby has to keep reminding people she's partly black.
 
Shelby occupies an in-between world: She's impressed by an upscale family. ("'Family dinner,' what's that?" someone asks. "Like Thanksgiving, but every night?") But she also marvels at a family far worse than her own. And she suspects it's possible for someone to be both a bad mom and a good friend. 

She's smart, but friends resent it when she quotes facts. "Oh God, we get it,” Kaitlin says. "You read." 
Shelby knows she should change her life, but she's reluctant to step away from the friends who are the only constants in her life – people she's been drinking with since they were twelve.
 
At times, that goes too far. Shelby and her friends keep piling up absurd, repetitive mistakes.

Still, we root for these characters even when they don't believe in themselves. These are, Chinn said, "stories about poor, diverse women who come from broken homes. Doesn't that sound hilarious?"
 
 
 
 
 
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