The breezy co-ed comedy from Mindy Kaling returns for more escapades
Since The Office ended, Mindy Kaling has made a career out of shows centered on emotionally messy lady horndogs presented with light-hearted humor and affection. So, it’s no surprise that The Sex Lives of College Girls, on HBO Max, continues her trajectory exploring the ins and outs (so to speak) of modern womanhood.
In season one of Sex Lives, earnest, cash-strapped Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet) moved from Arizona onto the posh New Englad Essex College campus, where she bonded with her seemingly disparate roommates—socialite Leighton (Renée Rapp), senator’s daughter Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), and enthusiastic comedy writer Bela (Amrit Kaur). Throughout the season, the four learned to respect and lean on each other through the wild foibles of young adulthood.
Kimberly was embarrassed to tears by her financially struggling parents, and ended up violating the university’s honor code. Leighton couldn’t come to terms with her sexuality, and ruined an otherwise promising relationship. Whitney had an affair with her soccer coach and suffered the consequences, and Bela gave all the dudes on the comedy paper hand jobs so she’d stand out as a writer, to disastrous results. Oops.
The second season of The Sex Lives of College Girls picks up at the start of Essex’s second trimester. The choice to make the fictional university run on a non-traditional trimester system feels off, as so much happened in the first season, crammed into a scant few calendar months. Apparently, the plotlines are as intense as the academics on this campus, and the consequences of everyone’s recent actions reverberate through the dorm.
Leighton is proudly out now, and revels in her status as the hottest lesbian on campus, though in her fervor to explore her sexy options, she wildly misunderstands the workings of her newly claimed community. Whitney’s disastrous soccer season has shaken her confidence and left her unsure about her future and her judgement. Bela gains momentum in her quest to create an all-female comedy magazine, while delighting in a variety of hookups. Meanwhile, Kimberly continues to hide her escalating financial woes from her family.
Perhaps the setup for The Sex Lives of College Girls sounds uncannily akin to HBO’s Girls. Both feature a female foursome, of-the-minute music and fashion, and never shy away from farcical sexcapades. The heroines are well-educated, privileged, and their problems are real but never dire. However, Girls focused on whiny, white, post-secondary educational malaise, while Sex Lives features a diverse group of young women baby-stepping into the world, Frankly, The Sex Lives of College Girls is flat-out, breezy fun in a way its soul-sister predecessor never was.
Sure, Kimberly is a doofus, but Chalamet revels in her naivete, and it’s hard not to root for her. Leighton is the billionth poor little rich girl we’ve seen, but Rapp infuses her with the perfect amount of softness. Whitney transforms from a typical jock into a lost, but always hopeful, soul in Scott’s assured hands. And in a show packed with solid performances, Kaur’s Bela manages to be the series standout, as a bright-eyed, sex-positive idealist with an unending case of the zoomies.
The Sex Lives of College Girls is an entirely unironic, free-spirited, fizzy soda pop of a show, featuring women who enjoy each other, have HBOMax-style sex with a string of hotties, and are solidly on the road to self-love and personal fulfillment. It’s modern, it’s sleek, and, most importantly, it’s funny. If only we all could score like these ladies do, what a world it would be.