From Darren Star, producer of “Sex and the City” and “Beverly Hills, 90210,” comes “Emily in Paris,” a Netflix original cooked up with the same ingredients of its predecessors: fashion, love interests and friends to talk about said love interests with — but now with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
The protagonist is Emily Cooper (Lily Collins), a recent college grad from Chicago who manages to land a gig as a marketing consultant at a French firm after her boss turns the position down at the last minute when she becomes pregnant. Now, of course, Emily’s qualifications as an assistant whose French vocabulary consists of breakfast orders put her first in line for the job. She arrives in Paris to a fully furnished apartment and a new cushy job that starts at 10:30 a.m.
The plot contains cycles of mishaps that Emily encounters and solves by the end of each episode. Through her heartfelt speeches and small-town charm that win over all of the seemingly cold Parisians, the only real hardship she seems to experience is the five-story walk up to her new apartment.
Emily’s “troubles” begin after she is labeled “the hick” by her co-workers and struggles with being completely alone in a new city. That quickly changes when she finds a best friend in a park and has a meet-cute with the guy a floor below her. She even manages to make every other worker at the firm seem obsolete because of how many clients and connections she wins over.
The biggest rift she has with another character is with her boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), who disapproves of Emily’s social media account and subsequently fires her in the last episode, but ultimately decides to reverse her decision because Emily has “potential,” but lacks “polish.”
Every character featured on screen was a caricature. A pretty, small-town girl falling into a big job, a comedic relief POC best friend, a French Miranda Priestley-esque (“The Devil Wears Prada”) boss, the irrelevant boyfriend who gets tossed into three episodes max, the hot neighbor love interest, an eccentric old fashion designer — “Emily in Paris” touches every base of a Hallmark movie. The difference is, no one is rooting for the protagonist. Emily is portrayed as the sweet ingenue even with all the evidence stacked against this claim. Take the accidental hookup with Camille’s teenage brother, cheating with Camille’s boyfriend, and the very shallow life lessons. Emily is far from innocent.
Emily quickly befriends another foreigner, Mindy (Ashley Park), a nanny and singer who was cut off from her rich family. She also becomes close with Camille (Camille Razat), a sweet Champagne heiress, and quickly finds her main love interest, Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), Emily’s neighbor who is a chef and also happens to be Camille’s boyfriend.
Between the love triangles and work drama, the show seemed like it could be a contemporary of “Gossip Girl” from the early 2010s. The difference between the two is that Emily is labeled as an influencer. This concept has slowly started slipping into mainstream media, and as Emily put it, “influencing” is now the most effective form of marketing. Emily’s Instagram account grows from about 200 followers to about 30 thousand and while it did anger her boss, it brought the firm new clients and as Emily claims, is a part of her identity.
Beyond the one-dimensional characters and outdated plotlines, one of the biggest concerns about the show came from the many French critics who deemed the show’s portrayal of Paris and its people as too stereotypical.
“The clichés are so many and so concentrated that they pile up like a collection of little stories that become comical in their exaggeration,” Philippe Thoreau-Dangin, an owner of a French publishing firm, said in The New York Times.
The last episode ends predictably. But with a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, critics are not exactly raving for a second season. Despite this, the sense of escapism the show provides has garnered “Emily in Paris” a lot of attention, especially on TikTok, where there are about 2.8 billion hashtags, #EmilyInParis.
Overall, “Emily in Paris” is worth watching in some capacity. Viewers can live vicariously through Lily Collins taking selfies in Paris, or put it on as background noise when their Netflix queue dries up and they are pretending to study. Although the plot might be lackluster in more ways than one, viewers should take the time to decide for themselves.