Pop Culturing: Netflix's 'Emily in Paris,' Starring Lilly Collins, is an Ode to Being Basic

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Saturday October 3, 2020

William Abadie, left, and Lily Collins in a scene from "Emily in Paris."
William Abadie, left, and Lily Collins in a scene from "Emily in Paris."  (Source:Carole Bethuel/Netflix)

It took some time but "Younger," the TV Land comedy starring Broadway's Sutton Foster who poses as a 20-something to get ahead in the world of New York City publishing, became a critical hit over the last few seasons. Created by out writer Darren Star his newest show "Emily in Paris" lands on Netflix Friday and is similar in approach to "Younger" as it follows a young woman (Lily Collins in the titular role) who suddenly drops everything and moves to Paris for her job. But unlike "Younger," and "Sex in the City," which Star also created, the driving force behind "Emily in Paris" is not close friendships and that is deeply missed here.

"Emily in Paris" is an enjoyable enough; 10 bingeable, breezy half-hour episodes. Collins is front and center here as Emily, a happy-go-lucky Chicagoan who brings her social media expertise and American point of view to a Parisian marketing firm that her company now owns. Of course, her American mentality causes a lot of friction with her new coworkers, who are snooty, curt and rude, especially her boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), who has absolutely no time for Emily or any desire to get to know her. The "Devil Wears Prada" boss from hell is something we've seen from Star before. In "Younger," the wonderful Miriam Shor plays a similar role but over the six seasons of that show, her character is greatly developed into something much richer than Meryl Streep's iconic performance. Only time will tell if Leroy-Beaulieu's Sylvie, who is thinly drawn and exists to serve as a foil for Emily (in one episode, Sylvie tells Emily she is not a feminist), gets a similar treatment but not much change comes with Season 1.

Emily Collins, left, and Ashley Park, right, in a scene from "Emily in Paris." Photo credit: Carole Bethuel/Netflix

Emily does have a few friends though, but it takes a few episodes before she meets Mindy (Ashley Park), a nanny from China who is looking to start over as a singer in Paris. Park (who earned a Tony nod for her role in the "Mean Girls" musical) is wonderful in the role and though she does get some time devoted to her story, Mindy mostly exists to support Emily; with so much charisma there are many times where the show may have been a bit more interesting had Park been the lead. Emily also befriends Camille (Camille Razat), who happens to be dating Emily's handsome and kind downstairs neighbor Gabriel (Lucas Bravo). Things get complicated, to say the least.

An American in Paris is a well-told story and Star's new fish-out-of-water show doesn't find much to make this tale worth re-telling. "Emily in Paris" stars off slow with a sulking and lonely Emily exploring the city on her own. She's left her boyfriend in America and is trying to figure things out. About halfway through the season, Emily meets a fashion designer who initially refuses to work with her because she's...basic. And that's when things start to come together. "Emily in Paris" feels like a show Carrie Bradshaw would write, celebrating the cliched dream of moving to the City of Lights, wearing fabulous clothes, seeing the stunning sites and eating the incredible food. That's exactly what Emily does, and of course posts about it on social media, slowly cultivating a huge following of her own.

Speaking with The New York Times, Star said he moved to Paris a few years ago despite not being able to speak the language (Emily is often dragged by her coworkers for not knowing how to speak French when she arrives).

Lily Collins and Lucas Bravo in a scene from "Emily in Paris." Photo credit: STEPHANIE BRANCHU/NETFLIX

"I know how French people look at me, when they look at Americans, I can see some of their prejudices, and I can see some of my prejudices," he said.

As if "Emily in Paris" was really created by Carrie Bradshaw, the show looks amazing and the outfits are stunning. All the women in the show effortlessly pull off several looks, ranging from office wear to drop-dead black-tie event gowns and, of course couture. The show really captures the glitz and romance of Paris and the new comedy is best served as a bit of escapism TV.

"Darren wanted to take full advantage of what he considered the beauty of the city — the promise, the sparkle, you could say the superficial dream idea of New York," Sarah Jessica Parker told The Times.

Untimely, "Emily in Paris" is about dream fulfillment. What it means to actually do something bold and scary with a lot of risk and high reward. It's not always the most cutting-edge show, but Star's new comedy honors even your most basic instincts.

Pop Culturing

This story is part of our special report titled Pop Culturing. Want to read more? Here's the full list.