As the holidays draw to a close, Netflix would make sure to deliver its own gift: A new season of the undeniably addictive Emily and Paris.
Last year, the silly-yet-effervescent series proved incredibly divisive. For some, the series’ obvious cheesiness was a much-needed respite from the hell picture of living through a pandemic. Others labeled it a love-to-hate viewing experience, which did not win the show any services, as it reportedly made its way to two Golden Globe nominations.
The show’s main character Emily (played by Lily Collins) stumbles her way through the City of Love, both romantically and professionally. Her seriousness and pep at the luxury marketing company Savoir somehow translates into her being a campaign guru for her remarkably groundbreaking ideas. To promote her friend’s family’s champagne brand, for example, her pitch was not to sell the (bad) bottles of bubbles to shake, but to get sticky sprayed on nightclubs.
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The eyeballs continued over the series’ touristy depiction of Paris and Emily’s very unrealistic life – a Carrie Bradshaw living in a spacious apartment on the Upper East Side and squandering designer shoes, while initially living off a meager newspaper columnist’s salary as a fantasy land. (But that’s probably because of the show’s executive producer Darren Star, who also acted as executive producer for Sex and the City.)
But the recent season has raised new complaints from viewers, and not just about Emily’s dubious wardrobe choices; rather, for the almost constant scenes of Emily’s best friend Mindy Chen (played by actress and Broadway star Ashley Park), who set off random ballads and pop songs in an attempt to start a music career – and perhaps one off-screen as well.
Before Emily and Paris, Park created an impressive career in the theater world, starring in The King and I, Mamma Mia!, and even garnered a coveted Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical in 2018 for her portrayal of Toaster Strudel heiress Gretchen Wieners in the production of Wild girls. She also starred in Tina Fey’s NBC comedy series about a girl group, Girls 5eva.
Star had seen Park singing chops on stage and called her to play Mindy. Originally, the character was not supposed to sing, Park explained in a recent W Magazine interview, but after the first few table readings, Star wanted to incorporate Park’s talents in a much bigger way.
“We talked about how we wanted it to be story-driven and not just sing for the song,” she said. Vulture. “So much of that background developed after the casting and is still evolving, you know? What was written from the beginning is that Mindy is an heir, and being the only child of a very wealthy family in any country, from any culture, is a great pressure. “
That made Park a little worried, worried that she was being put into another singing character, she explained to Harpers Bazaar. “I love to sing, but my first thing was, ‘Literally, Darren, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do. If you want me to amputate a pinky, I’ll think about it.’ But with the song, the one thing I said was that I did not want it to feel like, ‘Oh, they cast this Broadway girl, because she sings, and she has to sing in the karaoke bar.’
Park’s fears were eventually allayed, and her singing in season 1 was limited when viewers found out that the heiress, who became a nanny, had moved to Paris for a fresh start after slaughtering Sia’s “Chandelier” at China’s popular singing competition Pop star, leaves his family fortune. Park’s character Mindy talks about her past and confesses her dreams to Emily by singing Édith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” on a bench in the park.
“A lot of people thought, ‘Where is the recording of this? Why can’t we download it,'” Park said Vanity Fair. “I thought, ‘Well, it’s an a cappella version in a minute that she’s just singing in a park. I do not think you want a recording of it.”
She ended up releasing a streaming version of the song and an accompanying music video last year, which was directed by Emily and Paris producer Shihan Fé Blanca.
After some positive reactions to Mindy’s song, Star decided to make it a much bigger part of the story for season 2.
Unfortunately, the result is shocking and feels like it’s being forced down the viewers’ throats as Park’s character breaks into songs at every possible turn and appears six times in the season’s 10 episodes. The performances lie in the plotline that Mindy has dropped nanny to focus on making it big in France.
In the first episode, she performs a full version of BTS ‘huge hit “Dynamite” on a pull bar and is later recruited by a couple of bushmen to be their lead singer. (Park said she could not believe the production was able to get the rights to the song for the show as she is a massive K-Pop fan.) Later came a dramatic rendition of “All By Myself” (Celine Dion version) and “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, from the movie Once.
The introduction to Park’s song is clumsy, as in a bush-off with a Parisian mime; Other times, Collins’ character Emily has the (somewhat unprofessional) habit of hiring her close friends for professional matters, including hiring Mindy’s trio to perform “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” at a luxury launch party.
In the finale, Park even debuted an original song for the show, “Mon Soleil”, which can now be streamed on various platforms. “Darren had come to me and said, ‘I think we should do an original song,'” Park explained to British Vogue.
“I thought, ‘Fantastic.’ However, I do not read music. ‘ Luckily, my friend Freddy Wexler (who had just won a Grammy and wrote the song ‘Stuck with You’ for Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande) was available to collaborate … It’s Stevie Wonder vibes, but French, romantic and very pop . “
Park’s vocal prowess is undeniable (she’s been nominated for a Tony after all), but the constant interruptions in the act to accommodate the next karaoke number are more annoying than it’s charming. While the series will almost certainly be renewed after ending on to cliffhanger, hopefully season 3 will have more smart lines – and a more engaging story arc – for Park rather than just lyrics.
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