I was originally going to write that if Sex and the City and Younger had a baby, it would be Netflix’s new series Emily in Paris. But since the show takes place in France, it’s far more appropriate to tell you that if Sex and the City and Younger had a mistress it would be Emily in Paris.
What? You think I’m being too stereotypical? Well mon petit chous let me tell you, this little bon mot from executive producer Darren Star leans in hard to stereotypes we have about the French. They are very open with sex. They have very open marriages. They have utter disdain for Americans. They smoke a lot.
But this 10-episode series has such a joie de vivre it’s easy to ignore its faults and savor its deliciousness. It’s the TV equivalent of a buttery, flakey croissant that you devour. Each episode leaves you wanting more—even if its airy plots are quickly forgettable.
Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) is a young marketing executive who gets the dream gig of going to Paris for a year when her firm buys Savior, a Paris-based boutique marketing firm for luxury brands. This opportunity arrives when Emily’s boss (Kate Walsh in an inspired cameo) throws up and discovers she’s pregnant. “I thought she was too old to get pregnant,” Emily’s boyfriend says. See the show isn’t just stereotypical about the French!
Emily lands in Paris and much to the consternation of her boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy Beaulieu) she doesn’t speak a word of French. Oh mon dieu! She quickly befriends office mates Luc (Samuel Arnold ) and Julien (Bruno Gouery) and gorgeous neighbor Gabriel (Lucas Bravo), who just happens to be a chef at the café across the street. Never have omelets seemed so sexy. She also becomes friends with Mindy (Ashley Park), an extremely wealthy heiress who has been cut off by her family and is now a nanny, as well as Camille (Camille Razat), an art curator who happens to be Gabriel’s girlfriend. (If you’ve ever watch any TV you don’t need me to tell you that this will quickly turn into a love triangle).
Like Liza on Younger Emily’s ideas are consistently out-of-the-box and brilliant. She can get that designer of haute couture and the famous hotelier all while charming the parfumier and the mattress company. At the beginning of her stay, Emily only has 48 followers on Instagram but once she changes her profile to “Emily in Paris” and begins posting pics of her Parisian life her followers skyrocket, and soon she’s a major social media influencer. Emily leads a charmed, easy life. And right now, watching a charmed life is TV therapy for the soul.
The show’s major flaw though is that every man who crosses Emily’s path wants to sleep with her. From the man who shows her the apartment in the pilot to all her clients to, well, really everyone. Collins is a pure delight in the role—she is utterly beguiling and beautiful. Still, it becomes a little repetitive to have every man desire her. And, in one very unfortunate story line, the show makes light of statutory rape. The double standard that “teenage boys can sleep with older women and it’s okay” isn’t a good one—even in Paris.
Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field served as a costume consultant on the show and it is wonderfully evident. Emily’s outfits are terrific if sometimes a little too on-the-nose—she is very fond of berets, for example. Still, the combination of the show’s French costume designer Marylin Fitoussi with Fields is très magnifique. Emily’s outfits, and her fashion evolution on the show, deserve their own story arc. Though she makes a point of saying she only has one drawer for her things in her furnished apartment, the clothes just keep coming. And I don’t care how successful she is there’s no way she could afford Christian Louboutin shoes and Chanel purses on her salary. Emily’s outfits are a distinct part of the show’s fantasy.
Star has a blueprint for a successful TV show that is on full display here. Gabriel is a little like Charles on Younger: A good guy trying to do the right thing. He’s also unattainable like Mr. Big on Sex and the City. Sylvie is Diana from Younger: Often so frustrated with Emily, but willing to begrudgingly admit when she has been helpful. But the familiar story beats don’t make the show any less delightful to watch. (Of note, Emily in Paris has a sweetness to it that makes it seem like a better fit for Freeform than Netflix, which often seems to relish in pushing the boundaries of what people want to see in their TV shows.)
Perhaps the best part of the series is that it was filmed on location in Paris, allowing the City of Light to become a central character on the show. The beauty of Paris cannot be recreated on a Hollywood backlot. Especially now when we cannot travel to Paris, the series gives us a wistful glimpse to one of the world’s most romantic places. If for that reason alone, one should say “oui oui” to Emily in Paris.
All 10 episodes of Emily in Paris premiere October 2nd on Netflix.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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