‘Emily in Paris’, Netflix’s fluffy new rom-com series, has taken social media by storm. Beloved by viewers, but panned by critics; what is it that has made this series such a hit?
Dreamt up by ‘Sex and the City’ creator Darren Star, the series follows the adventures of its namesake, plucky American Emily Cooper (played by Lily Collins) as she leaves her life in Chicago behind to work in a prestigious marketing firm in Paris. However, there’s one catch: she doesn’t speak a word of French. Culture shock, romance and hilarity ensue, as Emily tries to adapt to life in the French capital, encountering a host of Gallic clichés along the way.
Everything about the series is cheesy, from the campy one-liners, to the beret Emily wears to her French language classes. The French characters smoke like chimneys, are obsessed with sex, and they take long boozy lunches during work. The version of Paris that Emily lives in is straight out of an old movie: glamourous, sparkly, full of beautiful old buildings and rude waiters. The show’s depiction of Paris, heavily criticised by the French media, is nearly unrecognisable to anyone who has ever visited the city, with none of the feral pigeons or throngs of tourists that are so essential to the Parisian experience.
Despite its glaring flaws, or perhaps because of them, ‘Emily in Paris’ makes for a perfect binge watch, especially as we enter Lockdown 2.0 and the possibility of jetting off to France seems more unrealistic every day.
The series is pure escapism: exactly the kind of unrealistic fantasy we need when reality is bleaker than ever. Maybe the show’s version of Paris is nothing like the real thing, but who cares? Everyone has fantasised about living like Emily at some point: eating croissants in the morning and drinking wine with impossibly attractive Parisian suitors at night. It’s far from intellectual, but Emily says it best in episode 6, when her French co-workers lament the lack of tragedy in American rom-coms: “Don’t you want to go to the movies to escape life?”
‘Emily in Paris’ is the very best of guilty pleasure TV, like ‘Glee’, ‘Riverdale’, or ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’. These shows are criticised for being vapid, cheesy, or trashy, but they’ve each become popular and beloved in their own right. Even though ‘Glee’ is objectively ridiculous, there is something comforting about its specific brand of terrible television. The same is true of ‘Emily in Paris’. It’s light, fun, and not as mentally taxing as something more substantive like ‘Breaking Bad’. Its cringe-inducing moments are just part of its charm.
Emily has rightfully earned her place in the “so bad it’s good” hall of fame. An easy binge watch, with just 10 episodes; it’s a frothy feel-good show, with a side of romance and welcome escapism.
Isobel Dunne – Film & TV Writer