At the outset of “Ginny & Georgia,” the Miller family (Brianne Howey as Georgia and Antonio Gentry and Diesel La Torraca as her son Austin) relocate to a small, idyllic New England village.
This is as good of a beginning as any show could hope for, especially given the abundance of audacity with which it approaches its attempts at attitude and sassiness.
The Millers’ new house, unfortunately, lacks character just like the Millers themselves.
In the end, “Ginny & Georgia” concludes its torturously long first season having shouted a great deal but saying almost nothing — about where Ginny and Georgia are and even who they are. The show’s plot is spiky and jerry-rigged, involving intimations of crime and trauma as well as teenage bumps in the road that only feel as seismic.
We’re told that Ginny is short for Virginia and that Austin is short for Texas.
Georgia’s nomadic lifestyle has also contributed to her daughter’s feeling that she is out of place in most social settings. It’s little wonder Ginny gets caught up in the dramas of her new high school classmates, what with their intense miasma of drugs and booze during their parties.
A little sidetracked by her efforts to seduce the local mayor (Scott Porter) and by the past that is only obliquely referenced, Georgia watches with benign pleasure. (Her provocateur character, who never goes as far as we’d expect her to, feels curiously serviced by the program, pushing against its edges as if she wants to be bigger or bolder than show creator Sarah Lampert and her team can conceive for her.)
Meanwhile, Austin, who is often ignored in the narrative, has occasional tantrums because he feels alienated from his family and underserved by authors who emphasize the love between a mother and her daughter.
However, the lines connecting them are vague and unclear. Georgia and Ginny don’t feel like they have a deep mutual understanding or even a shared history.
The similarities to “Gilmore Girls,” another program about a mother and daughter who are close in age and bonded together by affection, are striking, but so is the fact that the two women in that show clearly shared a sensibility.
Contrasting Ginny, a blunt realist, with Georgia, a dreamer always on the lookout for reinvention who appears more ambitious than the show around her, may have made for an interesting and potentially story-generating dynamic.
Instead, it appears like the show is trying to trick us into thinking these two have something in common when they clearly do not, and that notion is conveyed in everything from the title down.
As a result, the show places an unusual amount of attention on the characters’ emotional distance from one another.
For what it’s worth, Gentry is a compelling young performer, and Ginny’s story of feeling out of place in her own community in part because of her biracial identity (her father is Black) is a fascinating plot point. (Her fights with her racist English teacher, a major plot point as the show progresses, are somewhat underdeveloped because of how easily she wins; the fact that he is obviously and obnoxiously turned against her because of the color of her skin leaves unexamined more subtle ways in which the education system might be pitted against a girl like Ginny.)
This emotional depth is what gives “Ginny & Georgia” its sense of purpose and meaning. Unfortunately, the show’s focus frequently shifts erratically in tone to accommodate a high school nihilist and a mother plagued by an uncertain zaniness.
Considering the length of each episode (nearing an hour), it’s understandable if viewers who tuned in hoping to be entertained by a touching family saga decide to look elsewhere.
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