UNSPLASH / Léonard Cotte (https://unsplash.com/photos/R5scocnOOdM)

Many of our favourite shows simulate the hustle and bustle of the world, but only a heavily romanticised version of it. After all, TV is supposed to be an escape, right? Yet, even before its release, Emily in Paris was criticised for its romanticisation of Paris into a tacky cliché. The French men are passionate and the women are stylish, and we hardly ever see it rain unless it serves a romantic purpose. Emily makes no attempt to learn the French language and dresses like a clown yet has men falling at her feet and strangers inviting her to cool events out of the blue.

This reminds me of the criticism that many gave Sex and the City for its glamorisation of life in New York. Most of the show’s dialogue takes place over matcha tea or dinner in fancy restaurants, and we hardly see any of the main characters actually working. Carrie Bradshaw somehow affords this classy lifestyle, and, of course, her Manolo Blahnik shoes, on a columnist’s salary. But after all, the show is not about the reality of working life. As the name suggests, it’s about sex.

TV shows that make us dream of life in the big city will naturally address their poor claim to reality

Viewers today are more hostile toward such glossy, privileged depictions of city life. Perhaps this is down to our growing awareness of social problems and the traditional lack of diversity in mainstream television. Yet, the absolute horror show that was the first season of the Sex and the City reboot titled And Just Like That… proves that sometimes cheesy comfort shows should stay as they are. While the reboot had good intentions, for instance addressing some of the social issues the original show ignored, it in turn lost the warmth, style, and fun the original was renowned for. Its showy attempt at “wokeness” consisted of storylines in which the privileged white main characters find themselves at odds with the new faces of the city. The characters don’t seem to be having much fun, and the viewers certainly aren’t either. When Sex and the City loses so much of its spark and edge, we realise that it has little else to offer.

Let’s take a look at the second season of Emily in Paris, which clearly attempted to bring its controversial American portrayal of Paris closer to reality. We get a brief acknowledgement of the less magical, industrial side of Paris through Emily’s love interest, Alfie, whose apartment faces a London-style office block. There are fewer stereotypical comments about the French. Emily’s actions finally have consequences. Her dragged-out affair with her best friend’s boyfriend is finally unveiled. Her poor French skills finally cause a crossroads when Camille insists they hold a meeting in French. At the very least, Emily’s experience of Paris has begun to feel less like that of a tourist and more of an insider.

It is possible for a show to be over-the-top and still inoffensive

Yet, these so-called improvements are great because, unlike those in And Just Like That…, they don’t take away from how fun the series is; they’ve merely helped to give the series more solidity and silence the critics for a while. Paris is still just as over-the-top as in the first season. Mindy joins a band and becomes a drag queen busker, leading to a variety of musical numbers. Meanwhile, Emily finds herself navigating a feud between two designers and eventually staging a feverish fashion show for them in the Palace of Versailles.


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TV shows that make us dream of life in the big city will naturally address their poor claim to reality and at least some of their problematic elements as they develop. However, this doesn’t need to subtract from their glitz and glamour as it does in the Sex and the City revival. It is possible for a show to be over-the-top and still inoffensive: something that I hope Emily in Paris will continue to aspire to be in upcoming seasons.