Girls5eva Creator Meredith Scardino Talks Season 3, Netflix Move 5

Returning from an almost two-year break in March, all three seasons of Girls5eva are currently on Netflix. And while the show didn’t manage to crack the streamer’s desirable (albeit kind of mysterious) Top 10, creator and showrunner Meredith Scardino says she’s thrilled with opening up her cult comedy to a massive global subscriber base — even if there’s still no official word on a potential fourth season.

Speaking from her home in New York at the end of May, the Colbert Report and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt alum chatted with The Hollywood Reporter about the show’s performance, the shared sensibility of executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlocks comedy roster and her recent debut as a Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! panelist.

You recently dropped the third season on Netflix, along with the first two seasons. Do you feel like the show has found a new audience?  

Just being able to reach such a massive audience now is great. It’s definitely easier for people to discover it, now that it’s on Netflix. I feel like people knew about the show, but just didn’t [have Peacock]. Most people only have what — two or three streamers? But everybody has Netflix. 

Have you gotten the executive download on how the show’s performing? 

We’ve had a couple check-ins with where they give you a sense of how it’s doing. There’s one around the 10-day mark and then after 28 days. What’s been interesting is seeing, now that it’s around the world, where people are watching and what percentage of people are finishing it. 

What’s the news? Do you think that you’re going to get another season? 

I think that it’s doing great. (Laughs.) But the barometer for a hit on a global platform is pretty high, so you want to see it gain love over time. I’m hopeful that it finds the comedy nerds and continues to grow. 

There is a certain patina to the shows Tina Fey and Robert Carlock produce that I don’t think I can articulate. Having worked on three of them now, how would you describe it? 

There is a shared tone, for sure. But what is also a unifier is the score. You can hear a show created under the umbrella. Part of that is obviously because of Jeff Richmond. He has his sort of signature sound. Because even when he’s putting together a library for a whole new show, there’s a certain quality to it. It’s this jazzy, boppy score — though I’m not sure that’s the way he’d describe it. Has better music vocabulary than I do.

The humor also has a particular sensibility. 

I was drawn to them because I love a slightly hyperbolic world — one foot in the real world, but one foot out. And the volume is turned up on the jokes. There are a lot of jokes per minute. I was a fan of that from 30 Rock. When I read their pilot for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I was working at The Colbert Report at the time. I’d been a writer there for six years, another very fast-paced environment. I was used to writing a million jokes a day about any possible subject. But that pilot, which was called Tooken at the time, I thought it was amazing. I was like, “I’ll do anything to work on this show.” I was drawn to that language, and I certainly contributed my voice to it. By extension, Girls5Eva does feel like it lives in the same universe [as] their other shows. 

In terms of that hyperbolic world, do you have guardrails for how far you can step out of reality — be it Paula Pell’s character brawling with the Property Brothers or nursing a sick fox puppet in a tour bus? 

Well, I wouldn’t put it past Paula Pell to nurse a dying fox. 

Fair.

Maybe the people I know live in a slightly different reality. We try to always earn the absurd by grounding it [in] something real and relatable. We take something grounded and just heighten it a bit. For example, during season two, I couldn’t get my husband put on emails about my son at school. It was impossible. Everything kept defaulting to me. If he fell, the school would call me, and I was working a zillion hours while my husband was the primary caregiver. But the school just kept defaulting, “Mom, mom, mom, mom!” So, we ended up writing that speech that Heidi Gardner gives. Of course, it has a weird ending where she’s worried she’s going to fuck all the dads.

(L to R) Busy Philipps as Summer, Paula Pell as Gloria, Renee Elise Goldsberry as Wickie, and Sara Bareilles as Dawn in ‘Girls5eva.’

Emily V Aragones/Netflix

Back to the music — was it always intended to be a big part of this show or did that evolve given who you ended up making it with? 

I went into the pitch with a fake CD that had a track list on the back, and I had a snippet from their “Famous 5eva” in the pilot script. But I always thought that we’d keep the music real small, almost as small as 30 Rock kept the sketches, and just focus on the story and the jokes. We had these flashbacks with these bits of songs, but we all started to enjoy the songs as more than just snippets. It just kept evolving. So when we realized we had this 90-second credit bed [at the end of the episode], and we were already bringing the cast in to do their ADR, we thought, “Why don’t we just grab more from them and complete some of these songs?” By the end of that first one, we were like, “Should we just make an album?” We ended up making three albums, one for every season. 

The Colbert Report ended in 2014 and you left late night. In hindsight, you really got out at the right time.

I really loved late night. I never dragged myself to work. But, yeah, the tonnage of our current political situation would be a little more taxing if I was dealing with that day in, day out. But, for me, it was like the move was more about wanting to write for other characters from other perspectives. Women! I knew I wanted to write female characters. That was the draw for me to leave, even though I really loved working there. 

Is there an episode, scene or joke you’re most proud of this season? 

The scene between Richard Kind and Dawn (Sara Bareilles), because funny and has some real-life advice in it about where happiness lies as an artist. It’s in the medium time, not necessarily a-list fame. Working but never famous enough that you’re bugged in a deli. I really love that scene. I also love “Home Alone Doorknob.” If that entered the lexicon, I feel like I could retire.

You were a panelist on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! recently, which, for me, feels like an acknowledgment that you’ve really made it. 

I felt that way too. I had never done it before! Yeah. But I do feel like I could have done better. I hadn’t paid enough attention to the news that week because I had all these things going on that week and had done Colbert the day before. I didn’t get a chance to be the news hound that I normally am, so I really shanked the quiz at the end. But everyone was so nice. Peter Gwinn, who I worked with at the Colbert Report, has been a writer there for years. 

Demystify something for me. Do you write the “Bluff The Listener” story or do they hand that to you?

So I had to pitch an idea, and then I wrote it up. I was really anal about wanting it to seem real. They don’t really care, but I wanted it to seem real! Then one of the other panelists read something that was like the fakest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It doesn’t matter at all!

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