When late '90s girl group Girls5eva unexpectedly returns to relevancy after their first (and only) hit single is sampled by an up-and-coming rapper, the ladies (now in middle age) reunite in the hopes of making a comeback. Now they must navigate a music industry that's very different from how it was in the Y2K era, fight the mentality that they are past their prime, and deal with their own personal dramas.
The titular group is comprised of timid sweetheart Dawn Solano (Sara Bareilles), vapid non-singer Summer Dutkowsky (Busy Philipps), workaholic "tomboy" Gloria McManus (Paula Pell), and glamorous diva Wickie Roy (Renée Elise Goldsberry). Ashley Park also appears in flashbacks as Ashley Gold, the deceased member of the group.
- Actor Allusion:
- Wickie mentions that she had a "Henrietta Lacks situation with HPV cells". Her actress Renée Elise Goldsberry played Lacks in the biopic The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks.
- In "Can't Wait 2 Wait," the group is asked to write a love song. Dawn grumbles, "I'm not gonna write them a love song 'cause they asked for it."
- Adam Westing: In "Tour Mode," the Property Brothers parody their Nice Guy image when they finally show up. They both act like jerks, Drew gets into a brawl with Gloria, and Jonathan begs for her to kill him from the sidelines.
- Adorably Precocious Child: Parodied with the concept of the "New York lonely boy": a young boy who, because he's an only child living in NYC, makes friends with doormen, enjoys going to the bookstore, watches documentaries, listens to NPR every day, and gets niche hobbies.
- Age Cut: In the first episode, the members are introduced by cutting from an interview of them from the '90s to their present-day selves.
- Age-Gap Romance: In the fourth episode, Nick and Wickie discuss the nuances of dating someone younger. Nick is in disbelief that Wickie's current boytoy Cray is apparently so devoted to her. He's actually two people setting her up for a TikTok prank, though.
- And the Adventure Continues: Season 2 ends with the group heading out to tour on their own, with Percy as their driver.
- Artifact Name: The group's name came from the fact that there were originally five members. They keep the name even when they become a quartet.
- Bad Influencer: Wickie enters into a relationship with a devoted younger man... who promptly reveals himself to be two different guys with followings on TikTok. They continuously switched out as part of an online prank, and Wickie didn't notice because of her narcissism.
- Bait-and-Switch: Lil Stinker lays down what sounds like gun noises for his latest single, only to reveal that he's actually making bird calls.
- Blame the Paramour: In Alf Musik, it's shown one of the group's older songs is about this, with them even saying the cheating was her fault only.
- Bury Your Gays: Discussed after Summer binges queer theory. At the gay rave the girls attend in the sixth episode, she mentions that gay characters on TV are much more likely to die compared to straight characters.
- The Cameo: John Slattery and his family pop up to briefly reassure Dawn that Max will be fine as an only child — or, more specifically, a "New York lonely boy".
- Career Resurrection: In-Universe, a group of One Hit Wonders reunite and try to become successful.
- Celebrity Lie: As part of her Mock Millionaire act Wickie pretended to be friends with the Dalai Lama.
- Dance Sensation: "The Splingee" is Dawn's attempt at creating a dance sensation: the lyrics list out the choreography. Their one attempt at performing it live bumbles, but Dawn eventually sells it to Nance Trace, who diverts it to popular TikTokers who perform it at Jingle Ball, indicating it will go viral after all."First you grab your ear like
What's that noise? Shimmy, shimmy
Shake it down to the ground, two-handed salute
Then back it up, back it up, back it up, back it up!"
- A Day in the Limelight: "Leave A Message If You Love Me" finally returns to the question of whether Ashley is alive or not. So far, it seems like she's not, but the group processes their loss by recording a tribute song.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Problematic lyrics in pop music from the early 2000s are discussed in "Alf Musik", when Dawn notes how sexist a lot of their songs were but never noticed until now.
- Double-Meaning Title: In-Universe, Dawn's song for the group, "Four Stars", has two meanings. There are four of them in the girl group, and the title refers to being less than perfect (ie. four out of five stars).
- Fan Community Nickname: In-Universe, Zander's army of followers call themselves "Zander Fanders".
- Fake Shemp:
- The pilot features a flashback of Girls5eva on TRL. While Carson Daly voices himself, he is portrayed on screen by a body double seen from the back.
- The second episode features a flashback of the girls on Larry King Live, while actual footage of King is used to make it seem like he was interviewing them.
- Fear Song: Played for Laughs with Dawn's "I'm Afraid", which she wrote over an all-nighter. It starts out sincerely but then derails into outlandish fears."I'm afraid that during high winds
The stop sign will uproot and decapitate me
Or that I might thrive on to Scientology
I'm afraid that after I die
Someone will have sex with my dead body
And be like, "Not worth it"!"
- Foil: The women of Girls5eva contrast each other in varying ways.
- Dawn and Summer. Summer is the next to be introduced after Dawn, which highlights their contrasting family lives. Dawn lives in a New York apartment, has a stable marriage and a good relationship with her son. Summer lives in a large New Jersey home, but her husband Kev is never home and her daughter Stevia is a disaffected influencer.
- Dawn and Wickie. Both are the two most musically talented members of the group, but Wickie is selfish, ambitious, and likes to live large, while Dawn is a kind doormat who is for the most part fine with her cozy, normal life. Over the course of the eight episodes Wickie helps Dawn become more assertive while Dawn helps Wickie become a team player.
- Gloria and Summer, the most overtly masculine and feminine members of the group. Gloria is a successful doctor; Summer is a ditzy housewife. Neither's marriage turned out well, but Gloria has been through divorce and is the only one to tell Summer (who is still putting up a Happy Marriage Charade) that her marriage is not long for this world and help her through the process.
- Follow the Leader: An In-Universe tactic employed by Larry, to no success:
- In the first episode, he's trying to get a young moody wannabe singer to become "the next Billie Eilish" by setting up a streaming farm for her music.
- In "A.I.R.P.I.G.", he's trying to emulate the success of K-Pop by starting BPop (Bulgarian Pop) by throwing his weight behind some random Bulgarian boys he found.
- Four-Girl Ensemble: The modern day lineup of Girls5eva as follows — Dawn (admirable leader), Summer (sweet & naive), Wickie (sexy one), and Gloria (snarky tomboy).
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: The modern day lineup of Girls5eva as follows — Dawn (phlegmatic), Gloria (melancholic), Summer (sanguine), and Wickie (choleric).
- Friend-or-Idol Decision: In "Separ8 Ways" the foursome take the financially stable but unfulfilling jobs offered to them by megaproducer Nance Trace...for a while. When presented with the opportunity to reunite and perform music with each other, they take it, even if it means destroying their fledgling careers.
- Fun with Acronyms:
- The women used to invoke "D'wasg", a term comprised of their initials (Dawn, Wickie, Ashley, Summer, and Gloria) to hype themselves up. Two decades later, Scott wonders why they didn't use "D'swag".
- The Association of Integrated Radio Programmers International Group (AIRPIG).
- When Dawn starts tripping on percocets, she sings a song where the lyrics are an acrostic for "percocet," similarly to the urban legend about how "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" was about LSD.
- Fun with Homophones: Specifically Fun with Homonymsnote . Dawn writes a song that uses multiple meanings of the word "set". What results is an exhausting monstrosity that bores the life out of everyone who listens.
- Give Me a Sign: In the first episode, Gloria, Dawn, and Summer sit on the park bench dedicated to their deceased member Ashley and ask for a sign that they should continue with the reunion show. The construction workers across the street then proclaim that they can do a five-person job with four people, inspiring Dawn and Gloria. Summer doesn't quite understand what the sign was.
- The Glasses Gotta Go: In "Catskills" Summer expresses her desire to learn more by discussing this trope.Summer: I don't want to just be the hot one. I wanna know stuff, read about stuff in books, and then, when I take my glasses off, people will say, "Oh, my God. Wow. She's also hot."
- Helpful Hallucination: In the fourth episode, Dawn hallucinates Dolly Parton while trying to write a breakthrough hit. While the song she writes with "Dolly's" help is lyrically a mess, Dolly does say that it's important Dawn wrote that bad first one, because better ones are on the way.
- Hidden Depths: In "Catskills", the kooky owner of the AirBnb the girls stay at is a former American Idol winner with a killer voice.
- History with Celebrity: As a Girl Group in the late '90s and early '00s, the girls mingled with several celebrities. Dawn once hooked up with Derek Jeter.
- Immoral Reality Show: Wickie becomes a judge on the reality show American Warrior Singer, where contestants have to sing and fight off an opponent at the same time. Some are seen exiting the stage with gruesome injuries.
- Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Exploited. After learning that a young man named Zander has been profiting off of lip syncing to one of Wickie's diva tirades, she and Gloria strike a deal with him. Wickie will pretend to have a meltdown onstage, and Zander's following will make his lip sync of it go viral.
- Letters 2 Numbers: Girls5eva has one of these names, which were popular at the time they were created.
- LGBT Fanbase: Discussed In-Universe. While at a gay party, Summer comments on "gay icons" being women who often aren't gay themselves, as well as the attendees' "diva worship" towards Wickie, telling the others that they are drawn to divas and figures like Judy Garland because of their ability to project strength and vulnerability.
- Long-Distance Relationship: Kev works in Tampa and only sees his wife Summer one weekend a month. Gloria comments that this is barely a relationship and Kev is clearly uninterested in her.
- The Mall: The nearby mall was once thriving but has now crumbled due to being abandoned for e-commerce.Gloria: I bought Skechers here, like, a month ago. Oh, my God.
- Memetic Mutation: "Cease and desist, bitch!", a line from one of Wickie's tirades, has become an In-Universe meme after Zander's lipsync of the moment went viral. Gay men come up to Wickie to say it, and Zander has been selling merchandise with the line.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Kev's suspicious behavior leads the girls to believe that he's cheating on Summer (and almost certainly with another man). His actual secret is that he's quit his job to start a hermit crab rescue shelter, which mollifies Summer for a second before Gloria points out the obvious (that Kev is still hiding from Summer whatever the reason, that their relationship has collapsed and that the shelter is a clear expression of Kev's anxiety over his true sexuality).
- Mock Millionaire: Wickie is actually doing much worse than the successful entrepreneur/influencer she presents herself as and her former band members who at least have relatively stable lives and careers while she works shooting geese at the airport.
- The Musical: In-Universe; Wickie once led a short-lived musical adaptation of The Mask.
- Musical Pastiche: "New York Lonely Boy" is a folksy ballad that intentionally evokes Simon & Garfunkel.
- N-Word Privileges: Dawn (who is white) is hesitant to say the drink negroni in front of the black Wickie. Gets a Call-Back in "Catskills" when she says she looked it up and she can say it because it was named for a real person (Count Camillo Negroni).Wickie: Did you just whisper negronis?
Dawn: I don't know the history of the word!
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: As a satire of the music industry, it's no surprise that several characters are meant as spoofs of popular figures:
- Once More, with Clarity: Played for laughs in "Catskills". We initially see Gloria and Caroline's reconnection through Gloria's eyes and they both appear to be having a good time. Later, however, we see the same events through Caroline's point of view, and Gloria is high-strung and unpleasant.
- One-Hit Wonder: In-Universe "Famous 5eva" was the group's only hit single in their short time together.
- One-Steve Limit: Summer's real name is actually Ashley, but she was advised to change it by Larry to avoid conflicting with the other member named Ashley.
- Only Child Syndrome: Scott worries about his and Dawn's son Max being an only child, fearing he'll be weird.
- Poor Communication Kills: The plot of the eighth episode happens because Wickie saw Dawn leave Nance Trace's room and assumed she sold out. Wickie then takes Nance's job offer as well. It turned out that Dawn sold her songwriting scraps to Nance for money to invest in Girls5eva.
- The Precious, Precious Car: Invoked. Taking a cue from one of their old songs "Carma", about destroying a boyfriend's beloved car in revenge, Summer wrecks Kev's car after she suspects him of cheating on her.
- Publicity Stunt Relationship: Girl group member Summer was initially set up with boy band member Kev by their respective teams to advertise Noxzema. They ended up with a long-running but mutually unhappy marriage.
- Putting the Band Back Together: The protagonists were once a Girl Group, and reunite twenty or so years after their breakup for a second shot at pop stardom.
- Reboot Snark: When Dawn and the others discuss getting their original 1990s One-Hit Wonder Girl Group back together for a 2020s Career Resurrection, their ex-manager Larry scoffs at the idea, saying they only got a little bit of airtime "because [people] have a boner for nostalgia."
- Red Herring: In "Leave a Message If You Love Me," Dawn becomes convinced that Ashley is alive and performing as the mysterious TK. It turns out that's not true, and TK is a completely different person who complains that everyone uses her to fuel conspiracies that their missing loved ones are alive.
- Rooftop Concert: Parodied. The group try to stage one in season 2 to drum up publicity for their album drop. Wickie gets the idea from the "lunch lord" she's dating, though she protests that it's been done a million times before. It doesn't go well.Reporter: In feel bad news, reunited girl group Girls5eva violated several FAA regulations attempting to be like the Beatles from the Beatles documentary. Now, I don't like to editorialize, so I'll just reserve my opinions about just how basic that is.
- Running Gag: The soda fountain in the Solano restaurant dispenses red wine, which gets used multiple times throughout the series.
- Sampling: The plot of the series is set into motion when Girls5eva's hit song is sampled by a young rapper who invites them to perform with him on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
- Self-Parody: The songs Dawn initially writes sound a lot like her actress Sara Bareilles's music (sweeping, piano-based ballads), except with totally ridiculous lyrics.
- Sequel Hook: In the last moments of the season finale, Gloria brings up her suspicion that Ashley faked her death.
- Sex with the Ex: In one episode Gloria hooks up with her ex-wife Caroline, who admits the sex was great but she has no desire to get back together with her.
- Shout-Out: The series has many references to 1990s, 2010s and 2020s pop culture due to being about women who were briefly famous in the '90s and are trying to make it again in the 2020s. So many that it's got its own page.
- Show Within a Show: Dawn and Scott regularly watch Business Throne, a drama about a dysfunctional rich corporation family. Details include a blustering Scottish patriarch (like Logan) and a son who "always goes rogue" (like Kendall).
- Sitcom Archnemesis: Larry eventually becomes this to the group. Girls 5 Eva's goal is to succeed without him, and when he shows up, it's usually to present an obstacle for them to overcome. In the second season, he starts managing a boy band called Collab on the same label.
- Spit Take: Invoked by Wickie and lampshaded by Dawn:Wickie: Dawn, please spit take on my behalf.
Dawn: (does a spit take) How did I do that? I'm not drinking anything.
- Stylistic Suck: Most of the girls' old songs. They are generally good singers but the songs have basic production standards and lyrics that range from generic to problematic. Justified as Larry never saw them as anything but a cynical cash grab and so didn't care about anything else with flashbacks showing that some of the songs didn't even have proper spelling for lyrics.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: the full length version of "Famous 5eva" includes the lines:Playing with our brand new flip phonesTexting with our friendsSee the new ink on our hip bonesThat's where our story begins
- Unfortunate Names: Wickie's beloved transparent piano is named Ghislaine. She refuses to rename it even after the name became tied to Ghislaine Maxwellnote .
- WPUN: Kev works as a host on the ridiculous-sounding WTIT.