This story of a life-long female friendship is the TV equivalent of kicking off those stilettos, wiggling your bare toes in a thick sheepskin rug and diving into a goldfish-bowl-sized glass of Merlot. It’s cosy, familiar and predictable for when that’s exactly what you need.
There are comedic moments, but nothing so rip-roaring it’ll make you spill the red. There are sad moments, but nothing to bring you down for long. There’s some earnest career stuff — you can glaze over at that point, or fetch more nibbles. The storyline is steeped in the sort of soft nostalgia that viewers can tap into even if they never lived through the original moment that’s being evoked. I imagine it will make most men want to withdraw to the garage.
Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl) is a famous Seattle-based TV host, famous enough to be invited to Los Angeles film premieres with George Clooney (“Blah blah blah, boring, whatever”). Kate Mularkey is her bashful best friend, married with a daughter, always on hand for those Merlot moments. They’ve been through all of life’s big moments together since they were teenage neighbours in semi-rural Firefly Lane. Tully arrived in a camper van with her hippie dropout mother. In contrast, Kate’s was a normal mom-and-pop set up, with regular meals and firm ground rules. Sheer proximity meant the school’s new hottie took up with the nerd.
Cultural signposts help us navigate the timeline, stretching from the 1970s to the early 2000s, whether it’s the introduction of the CD or the observation that Kurt Cobain’s been dead for nine years. One montage humorously charts the diminishing frames of Kate’s glasses from adolescence onwards. From the start, the story proposes a series of somewhat suspect binaries: beautiful/ordinary, ruthless/obliging, childless/fulfilled, sexy singleton versus homemaker, personal ambition versus selflessness. “Your family — that’s the real accomplishment,” coos Tully, not meaning to be annoying. The worst thing Kate can throw at her is “You’re not a mother, you wouldn’t understand.”
The storyline, fanned out like a shuffled pack of cards, sets up witty temporal juxtapositions, for example when Tully throws pebbles at Kate’s window in her teens and again 20-plus years later. While Heigl is the star of the show, flouncing, slinking and barnstorming to order, the emphasis lies with underdog Kate, in a subtle and winning performance from Sarah Chalke. Best of all, however, is Roan Curtis, utterly charming as young Kate, forever pushing huge glasses wistfully up her nose and wishing she was braver.
The loving envy that entwines the pair feels emotionally true; less so the repeated implication that women can eat doughnuts and ice cream at midnight and still have a 24-inch waist.
On Netflix from February 3