“Ginny & Georgia” Season 2 has it all: Troubled teens, rushed nuptials, bad exes, nonviolent murders (!), and so much more. The latest installment of this mother-daughter show, which debuted this week, is part of an ongoing trend with Netflix originals: series with heaps of drama, gasp-worthy twists, and genre-jumping storylines. They are soap operas in all but name, and they’ve become critical to Netflix’s viewership success.
Like the soap operas of yore, these shows are ostensibly targeted at women; mothers and daughters or adolescents or adult friends and the like. Viewers can expect a level of kitsch and below-average reviews even with high audience satisfaction. Most are dramas (“Emily in Paris” is just dramatic), with heavy-handed emotional beats hiding behind camera quality and picture resolution. Netflix has found one of its niches with compulsively watchable soap-y shows, where the stakes are never too high and romantic fulfillment is only one “watch next episode” away.
Season 2 of “Ginny & Georgia” leans into the darker side of its teen stories, with Ginny (Antonia Gentry) in therapy to stop herself from self harm, boyfriend Marcus (Felix Mallard) fighting depression, and Abby (Katie Douglas) once again struggling with disordered eating. Meanwhile, Ginny’s mom Georgia (Brianne Howey) tries to keep a level head with her abusive ex Gil (Aaron Ashmore) out on parole, a private detective trying to link her to her ex-husband’s death, and ongoing tension with Cynthia (Sabrina Grdevich), whose husband is in a coma. On paper, it’s a child and an adult facing various individual obstacles, but in execution it’s like simultaneously bingeing “Euphoria” and “Jane the Virgin.” The jumps in tone can be disorienting for a viewer expecting any singular story or genre, but that dissonance is part of the Netflix soap package as shows try (with debatable efficacy) to be all things to all people.
There’s a reason that network soaps have been as popular as they have for as long as they have: There’s always a demand. There will always be an audience for fantasy, for drama, for stories by and for women, for juicy twists and turns. “Emily in Paris” may not be a soapy drama, but it strikes many of the same chords and leans in to the things that make it outlandish and compulsively watchable. There is nothing quite so alluring as the fantasy of unremarkable white womanhood peddled by this particular comedy, which suggests that the right clothes and job relocation are all that’s standing between any average American and being lauded as remarkable.
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And a Netflix soap hits differently in the same way that all Netflix shows do: the binge model. You can seek out and tear through all of “General Hospital” easily these days (it’s available on Hulu), but that wasn’t always the case, or the way it was originally experienced and meant to be. The Netflix soap does not demand going back to work or life after an allocated break, but encourages and invites the viewer to tune out and tune in for as long as it takes for the chaotic outside world to disappear. Network soaps, once ubiquitous, are now a rare species, with only a handful of major players still on the air.
And the numbers don’t lie. When “Ginny & Georgia” premiered in 2021, it shot to the top spot in Netflix’s U.S. Top 10 chart and became the longest-running show to hold that spot at the time. “Firefly Lane” Season 2 Part 1 cracked the Netflix Top 10 in 69 countries, staying in the U.S. rankings for five weeks straight since its Dec. 2 premiere. “Emily in Paris” Season 3 only premiered Dec. 23 and made the Top 10 in 93 countries and counting. And though all the shows star conventionally attractive white women, “Ginny & Georgia” boasts a particularly diverse cast, and features multiple storylines around Ginny’s biracial identity and how it affects her relationship with both parents.
Beyond garish plot twists, there doesn’t appear to be a secret sauce among these shows apart from being female-driven, but you easily know these programs when you spot them. “Bridgerton” may scratch a similar itch, but it rises above the pack in crucial ways, carrying the Shonda Rhimes stamp, massive production values, and garners attention from critics and awards voters. A typical Netflix soap is all-consuming but ultimately forgettable. The second viewers rise from their couch all plot points will be forgotten until the next season premieres and reminds viewers that these characters exist, and their tumultuous lives are but one easy click away.
“Ginny & Georgia” is now streaming on Netflix.