Please God, Anyone Else in Paris

Frederick Robinson 24 October 2020
Image Credit: Carole Bethuel/Netflix

Paris: love, romance, light, beauty, passion and sex. The new Netflix show about Emily in Paris, called ‘Emily in Paris’, is anathema to all these. The strict literalism of the name gives an early insight into the level of inspiration and artistry one can expect from the writing. The copious sexual innuendos seem to be meticulously crafted in order to fit as disruptively and as unfunnily into conversations as any joke possibly could. In fact, the only instances where the writing is mildly acceptable are during the carefully crafted corporate spiels, during which Emily comes off as competent, or at least tolerable. According to some this is empowering. It seems to be an odd sort of feminism; the glorification of the wage-slave lifestyle backed by a rhetoric expressed in marketing jargon, all peddled through a bloody annoying American. I did not realise the revolution involved so many sales statistics, though I suppose I have become accustomed to the proliferation of lattés.

At some points during the first few episodes I remember hoping for something. I thought perhaps the French, the irreverent, charming, self-assured, dégagé attitude, might win through against the uninterested and uninteresting American; the long lunch against the 8am start; the frivolous against the efficient. If you asked people whether they want to view Paris through the lens of a boring American millennial’s Instagram, I would guess that they would probably answer no. But apparently if you put it on Netflix, they say yes.

Is there a saving grace? Well, I am as big a Francophobe as the next Englishman but the much complained about caricatures seemed to lack energy – I can, and do, do a lot better on a casual Saturday evening. Goeury’s Luc is quite funny – but maybe it is sexist to say so. Somehow some of the images of Paris retain their elegance – I suppose it is good to know the creators have not single-handedly ruined the most iconic city in the world. The show is, however, quite efficient in some ways: if you’re going to have a black character you might as well make him gay.

Oh, but it is so watchable! What does that mean? It follows a rough romantic narrative structure with the right plot points in the right places: ah, yes, silly me, I forgot that was the standard. “But”, they will say, “you watched it, you are a hypocrite!” This is where you fail. I have not finished it, and I will not, which is why I am the only reviewer qualified to give you an accurate account. Bored and frustrated, I have dispatched the show to that dark part of Netflix, where it will forever linger, never to return: “Continue Watching” – no, thanks.