Nestled in the coastal hollow between Tampa and St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Fla., is known as a family vacation destination. There are pristine beaches, dolphin-watching cruises, a world-class aquarium. But you won’t find a trace of tourism porn in the new sitcom Florida Girls, whose creator-star Laura Chinn (The Mick, Childrens Hospital) grew up on the state’s West Coast. Premiering July 10 on Pop TV, it combines elements of Claws, Trailer Park Boys and the immortal Florida Man meme to send up working-class womanhood in the other Clearwater.
Though it spotlights four single girlfriends, there’s not a Carrie or a Miranda—or even a Hannah Horvath—to be found among the show’s central clique. Neither strivers nor sophisticates, these chronically broke 20-somethings dropped out of high school the minute they were legally permitted to do so. Pugnacious Kaitlin (Melanie Field, a hilarious up-and-comer who made last year’s disastrous Heathers TV reboot worth watching) is the queen bee. Jayla (Laci Mosley, also stellar) is scheming to make her rich older boyfriend put a ring on it. Chinn’s Shelby, the grounded one, has been questioning her life choices since their secretly ambitious fifth friend got her GED and fled Florida. Flighty wild card Erica (Patty Guggenheim), who now occupies the empty room in her pals’ trailer, is just relieved to be out of her scammer mom’s clutches.
From their double-wide to jobs that barely cover the rent on it—at a mostly empty beach bar where women in mermaid costumes swim around in a tank—the foursome shares everything. And though the setting is vastly different, their wild adventures have the same raunchy, kinetic, exuberant, often drug-fueled energy as Broad City’s capers; these women are always either in hot pursuit of something ridiculous (in one episode it’s a Craigslist “curb alert” chair in the shape of a leopard-print stiletto) or running away from someone they’ve pissed off. When Shelby goes on a self-improvement kick, her insistence on working hard, reading books and saving money destabilizes the group—and puts her in constant conflict with Kaitlin, an unapologetic hedonist for whom partying with her girls and stirring up drama in Clearwater is living the dream.
Chinn effortlessly navigates the sensitive politics of class, gender and race in America’s most-mocked swing state. Her characters may be poor, but they’re not miserable. Details like the in-progress “Florida Forever” tattoo Kaitlin can’t afford to get finished and Jayla’s thirst for “that fresh lemonade life” are funny, in large part, because they feel lived-in. Like her character, Chinn is biracial but looks white—an identity that lends her an unusually nuanced perspective on race. An episode that takes the crew to a predominantly black cookout smartly explores both the commonalities and the tensions between white and black working-class cultures; when Shelby complains about the invisibility of her blackness, her black mom (the wonderful Kym Whitley, in a recurring role) gives her a reality check: “I got thrown in jail for falling asleep in the library.”
Florida Girls might be sharpest on gender. There’s gallows humor in the show’s cataloging of the many indignities women in the service industry face: a boss who expects kisses in return for paychecks, a regular who’s always flashing the bikini-clad bartenders (though he’s extremely polite otherwise), the necessity of ingratiating oneself to gross male customers for tips. It’s not that the characters are ignorant of feminism; it’s 2019, and even their worthless boyfriends know how to deploy terms like “slut-shaming.” Shelby has a momentary crisis about singing along to misogynistic rap lyrics, but her friends refuse to let her spoil their fun. Chinn’s jokes about the irrelevance of middle-class corporate feminism in the lives of underprivileged women cut deepest. When Shelby follows some Lean In-style advice and seeks work through a female-positive employment service, she finds that the only job for a woman without a high-school diploma is one giant, gross step down from her bar gig. So maybe it’s more practical to behave like Kaitlin, who just shouts down any man who tries to take advantage of her.
But for all its smart social commentary, the show is first and foremost a madcap comedy—one that makes a shrewd addition to the lineup of fresh, funny talent on Pop TV, an up-and-coming cable channel that Schitt’s Creek put on the map and that recently announced it was reviving Netflix’s excellent-but-canceled One Day at a Time. Packed with improv vets, the cast has the energy, physicality and timing of a well-oiled troupe. With its raunchy, inventive humor and commitment to laughing with its characters more than at them, Florida Girls may well turn out to be the most enjoyable new show of the summer.
Correction, July 9
The original version of this story misidentified the actor who plays Shelby’s mother. She is Kym Whitley, not Jackée Harry.