TV: The Sex Lives of College Girls (Seasons 1 & 2)

Having enjoyed previous Mindy Kaling projects…well, I still wasn’t particularly interested in The Sex Lives of College Girls, the comedy series she co-created with Justin Noble for HBO Max. But on Jenn’s recommendation, I gave it a go, and was glad I did: it’s a fun series with a winning cast and a rare woman’s-eye take on the raunchy sex comedy genre.

The series takes place at Vermont’s fictional Essex College, an elite educational institution where four unlikely roommates come together. Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) is a bright but poor kid from Arizona, whose financial situation is constantly in doubt. Bela (Amrit Kaur) is an ambitious, aspiring comedy writer of Indian-American descent. Then there’s Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), a star soccer player who is the daughter of a Democratic Senator. And finally, there’s Leighton (Reneé Rapp), the privileged daughter of a wealthy Republican family from New York City. Thrown together by the vagaries of college bureacracy, the girls become close friends, sharing formative experiences while chasing boys, girls, and life lessons, and struggling to balance their educational dreams and expectations with the unpredictable tugs of their heartstrings and hormones.

The Sex Lives of College Girls lives and dies on the chemistry of its four stars, and fortunately Chalamet, Kaur, Rapp, and Scott have that to burn. While Kaur is clearly the scene-stealing Mindy Kaling analog, it’s Chalamet who serves as the nominal protagonist, and she’s increasingly adept essaying a Leslie Knopian goody-two-shoes role. Rapp and Scott are also terrific, with Rapp getting the smarter, meatier material as she copes with being a closeted lesbian from a conservative family. The group chemistry builds nicely in the confident, nicely clocked first season. The second season seems to be trying too hard at times, and while the theme of the season is strong—focusing on the bad romantic choices people inevitably make at this age—the humor is more scattershot. Still, I’m enjoying the series quite a bit and look forward to seeing it continue.

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