The first two episodes will premiere on HBO Max on Thursday, November 18th.
Following in the HBO tradition of green light series that reveal the sexual habits of the current generation of young women to the masses – Girls, Unsure, Euphoria – HBO Max’s College Girls Sex Lives aims to do the same by mapping the campus achievements of four different rooms attending the fictional Essex College in Vermont. What follows is perfectly warm and fun, though a little less convincing than its predecessors.
Created by Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) and Justin Noble (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), the duo also wrote the opening episode, “Welcome to Essex,” which spritely features a quarter of freshmen companions as they meet on a housing day. Kim (Pauline Chalamet), Bella (Amrit Kaur), and Whitney (Alyah). Chanelle Scott) are the ethnically, racially and economically diverse strangers feeling each other, while Leighton (Reneé Rapp) makes her best Karen impression as the heritage placement that is sad when she doesn’t live with her high school “good guys” as planned.
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As with most good comedies, it’s all about trope-breaking, so all four girls have their unexpected background turns. Beautiful is the horny, Indian maiden who is beyond ready to explore outside of her conservative family; Kim is the poor, naive working-class scholar with much to learn, and Whitney is the daughter of a Black senator seeking her own attention as an exceptional football player, while also secretly sleeping with her coach. And Leighton’s many restraining issues are at least partially uncovered and contextualized by episode-ending revelation.
With exteriors filmed on location at Vassar’s campus, the show captures the atmosphere of life on a venerable campus that is now inhabited by a melting pot of faces and experiences. Each of the four leaders has as much charisma and chemistry as those test friends, each carrying out Kaling and Noble’s quick dialogue with their own sharp timing. Thankfully, the women play characters who all have interesting, messy lives outside of the series. Kim recklessly works with non-white students in the coffee bar, while Bella desperately tries to secure a place in the campus comedy magazine by giving sexual favors, and Leighton reunites with her hottie brother, Nico (Gavin Leatherwood), which is hers. a reliable ear and a brutal speaker. All of them expand the campus world, creating an ensemble of common characters that make the world richer and just as realistically connected as any university campus ends up being.
However, if you appeared for the sex in the title, expect a lot of talk about it and the pretty tasty fulfillment of it when it happens. Bella is clearly the most sexually sincere of the four, which means she gets many of the most selectable lines about it. But it is clear that this series is more interested in the comedic side of the deed rather than the explicit side of it, unlike Girls and Euphoria. Those series came out of the gate with full HBO shock and respect, showing viewers exactly how the younger generation does the dirty, explicitly. They use the portrayal of sex to test boundaries with the older audiences watching, and to serve as a litmus test for exploring changing moral boundaries, feminism, and taboos. The Sex Lives of College Girls are almost tame by comparison, but it certainly gives the four ladies somewhere to go as they test their limits on all fronts.