Wednesday, January 19, 2022

‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ Review: How Mindy Kaling Refreshes the Teen Show

Last month, Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble’s The Sex Live of College Girls premiered on HBO Max. The new comedy revolves around four friends and roommates – Whitney, Bela, Leighton, and Kimberly – as they begin their journey at New England Essex College. Throughout the show, the girls juggle academic, social, and personal challenges.

One of the first aspects that immediately stood out is this band of lovable characters – and the talented actresses behind them. What works so well about them is that they all have their own distinct personalities. They’re very much the kind of group you wouldn’t think meshes well. But they do. From the get-go, viewers get a clear picture of each girl. Amrit Kaur brings Bela’s confident, enthusiastic, and sex-positive nature. She sees her dream job in comedy and chases it but isn’t afraid to let loose and try new things. Reneé Rapp’s Leighton presents as an entitled legacy student. However, Rapp peels back so many layers of Leighton. Alyah Chanelle Scott portrays Whitney, an incredible athlete who’s making her own legacy and also learning to chase what she deserves. Pauline Chalamet brings a delightful character with Kimberly, who’s ready to face college head on, academically and socially.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (oh well), The Sex Lives of College Girls truly thrives with its characters. Not only does its core four find themselves forced together, but they also make a real attempt to form a friendship. (Well, it took Leighton a minute.) There’s no cattiness, no mean-spirited “ugh, my roommates are SO weird” comments, no disregard when they share their struggles with each other. Kaling and Noble bring the kind of friend group everyone should strive for. Meanwhile, the secondary characters continue to strengthen the show. Nico (Gavin Leatherwood) is Leighton’s attractive older brother who often provokes laughter (and some drooling on Kimberly’s part). Jocelyn, portrayed by Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, is a disabled student who’s provided the opportunity to show off her own confidence and personality, stereotypes be damned. Viewers meet queer characters like Willow (Renika Williams) and Alicia (Midori Francis), whose purpose lies beyond ticking another box. These are genuinely thoughtfully well-written characters.

sex lives of college girls review
HBO Max
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The Sex Lives of College Girls is exactly the kind of show we need. First and foremost, its core group have the chance to explore their sexuality. This show gives them room to have sexy escapades without shame. The characters are also able to grow beyond that, facing their fair share of challenges with academics and other social endeavors; they learn more about themselves beyond what they like in bed. Additionally, the show is absolutely unapologetic in every way, exuding that same sort of aplomb as its characters. Mindy Kaling reminds us why she’s a master of comedy, imbuing the show with that same witty and goofy humor present in all her work. Meanwhile, the comedy is not without its contrasting tension, providing serious examinations of several topics.

Sex Lives offers a teen show that’s not just another high school comedy (though Kaling’s Never Have I Ever shares much of the same charm) – it brings a setting that carries a similar awkwardness but in a way that arguably fills the coming-of-age category more easily. Overall, this wholesome show offers rounded storytelling that will leave viewers feeling better than they did going into it.

All episodes of The Sex Lives of College Girls are streaming now on HBO Max. Be sure to check out our interview with show cinematographer Chuck Ozeas! In the meantime, find our recaps and other coverage here. Stay tuned for season 2 news.

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