“Ginny & Georgia” begins with a change of scenery, as Georgia Miller (Brianne Howey) uproots her two kids (Antonia Gentry and Diesel La Torraca as Ginny and Austin) and heads to a bucolic town in New England to start anew. This is as promising a start as any for a show with no shortage of willingness to attempt voiciness and attitude. Unfortunately, though, the Miller family’s new home is as short on personality as the Millers are themselves. And staggering through a spiky, jerry-rigged plot involving intimations of crime and trauma as well as teenage bumps in the road that only feel as seismic, “Ginny & Georgia” winds down its punishingly long first season having shouted a great deal, but said — about where Ginny and Georgia are and even who they are — almost nothing at all.
Ginny and Austin are named for the places of their birth, we’re told, with “Ginny” short for Virginia. And Georgia’s peripatetic lifestyle has helped convince her daughter that she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Little wonder that Ginny is so easily absorbed into the dramas of her new friends in high school, getting up to a sort of ongoing swirl of parties whose intense miasma of drugs and drink is likely to raise some eyebrows among parents watching with their kids. Georgia, somewhat distracted by her campaign to woo local mayor (Scott Porter) as well as by the occasionally-alluded-to past, looks on with benevolent amusement. (Her character, a provocateur who always seems to stop short of where we might expect, seems oddly served by this show, pushing up against its edges as if wanting to be bigger or bolder than show creator Sarah Lampert and her team can envision for her.) Meanwhile, Austin, neglected by the story at least, acts out from time to time but feels disconnected from the life of his family and underserved by writers focused on the mother-daughter bond.
But that bond is hazily, uncertainly drawn. Ginny and Georgia don’t feel as if they share a real history or any kind of mutual understanding other than of the most cursory sort. The comparison to “Gilmore Girls” — another show about a close-in-age mother and daughter bound together by love — is obvious, but that show also made clear that its two women shared a sensibility. Ginny, a frank realist, and Georgia, a dreamer perpetually in search of reinvention who seems more ambitious than the show around her, could perhaps have had a contrast that was interesting and that generated story. Instead, the show seems, from its title on down, to want to convince us that these two share something they simply don’t. The result is a sort of emphasis on their disconnection, a show that feels, in the main, alienating.
It’s worth noting, if nothing else, that Gentry is a compelling young actor and that her Ginny’s story of feeling isolated from her peers in part because of her biracial identity — her father is Black — is an intriguing character beat. (Her battles with her racist English teacher, a major plot point as the show goes on, suffer somewhat for being too easily won: That he’s obviously and noxiously turned against her because of the color of her skin leaves unexamined more insidious ways that the education system might be pitted against a girl like Ginny.) It’s in that expression of feeling that “Ginny & Georgia” feels thought-through and genuinely trying to say something. Too often, though, the show’s attention skitters unsteadily around, shifting wildly in tone in order to accommodate both a high-school nihilist and a mom possessed by an unsteady zaniness. And with each episode pushing the 60-minute mark, it wouldn’t be hard to blame anyone who had expected a story of family connection well-told to seek a change of scenery themselves.
“Ginny & Georgia” debuts on Netflix Feb. 24.