One of the magical things about television is how, through the power of drama and / or comedy, it can take on someone who, in almost any other setting, would be the worst person than you know and make it fun to watch. That’s not to say that Emily Cooper (Lily Collins), the eponymous star of Emily in Paris, is a terrible person. She’s just someone you diplomatically describe in text messages as “a lot”, and in the new Netflix series you can see her inflicted on an entire nation.
Emily in Paris is one of the most watchable new shows on Netflix this fall, ridiculous as the best romantic comedies are, albeit a bit lacking in charm. It starts with a dream job: When Emily’s boss of Chicago-based marketing firm Savoir finds out she is pregnant, she abandons her plan to move to the company’s Paris office. Instead, she inexplicably sends (you have to get used to that word, there isn’t a lot going on in this series for good reason) sends Emily. And that’s how Emily Cooper takes on the mission of a lifetime, moving to France to help bring “an American perspective” to Savoir’s Parisian staff.
In equal parts, a classic fish-out-of-water premise and a perfect synthesis of why the show is hilarious (as everyone needs help figuring out what Americans are thinking), Emily in Paris spends its 10-episode first season maintaining a tension between seriousness and absurdity under which lesser shows would give way. It helps that Emily is surrounded by all the pitfalls of big TV: laid back scripts, a charming cast of pretty people, and the lifestyle porn that any good, ambitious show has: lavish outfits, glamorous parties, and picturesque views.
Emily has an extremely warm and kind neighbor, Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), a pair of funny and self-effacing coworkers, a hard-to-convince boss Sylvie (Phillippine Leroy-Beaulieu), and a rotating cast of clients and other acquaintances who provide the kindling for romantic and professional misadventures. Sometimes both.
It is often difficult to know if Emily in Paris mock Emily or not. Her funniest moments are when Emily’s privilege is unleashed and she checked it out; the show’s charm does a lot of work to keep it from being squeaky. She arrives in an office full of people she has never worked with and immediately tries to impose new rules, is often bewildered by cultural differences and stubbornly insists on doing things her own way. Things are always going well for her because Paris is there for her, it’s there for you, puff pastry and a bite of wine to wish your troubles away.
Emily in Paris is light television destined to be devoured and above all forgotten. But it also comes from Darren Star, a creator who has made a name for himself and specializes in ambitious television, primarily aimed at white women. Gender and city defined the idea of an entire generation to do so in their career and personal life, and while not so monumental, their Younger is a savvy update with a twist, where a middle aged woman lies about her age to try to be successful with all the young people to come.
Each had a very different perspective on work – on the first show it hardly mattered, on the second it’s half of your life threatening to get tangled up in the other. In Emily in Paris, work is the goal of… well, everything.
When you think about it Emily in Paris starts to look dark. In an attempt to be of the moment, Emily in Paris reveals how demoralizing our moment is. Almost all of Emily’s waking hours are spent on her job, and her job isn’t to help people be successful, but to help. brands. His courageous American go-getter demeanor means that every romantic night or friendly getaway is an impromptu pitch reunion that awaits, every glimpse of Parisian charm is an opportunity to strengthen his following on social media, and each friendship a little more networking.
Emily is the one person you need to bully into taking a vacation, and who, when she finally gives in, sends out daily emails with “useful” ideas on how to keep crushing her while she is away. In fact, she would probably come back with “good news” from three meetings she was having anyway. Emily has a dream job and loves it, it sucks that her job – like many of our modern, less glamorous jobs – is simply to be a vessel for brands.
It is a brake, because Emily in Paris is an infinitely watchable rom-com. (In this regard, it looks a lot like Younger, a romantic comedy split into a half-hour TV show.) Emily has a sweet and hot French neighbor, but instead of running away with him to get away from work for a weekend, Emily in Paris cannot imagine a world where the real the stakes of this escapade are professional.
The goal of the dream job was supposed to be a check that allowed us to vacation in Paris whenever we wanted. But now the only way it’s happening is if Paris East work.