Though the title of Peacock's new comedy, Everything I Know About Love, hints that the series will be about romance, the twentysomething comedy contains surprising emotional depths, exploring the unique and formative bonds between women and the way those relationships grow and change over time.
Everything I Know About Love is, in many ways, precisely the show you think it will be: A tale of four millennials struggling to find jobs, love, and a sense of purpose in the immediate aftermath of life at university. And the series perfectly captures that strange, exhilarating, frequently overwhelming feeling of life in your early twenties, when the training wheels come off, and there are no class schedules or due dates to tell you how to organize your life or succeed in its trials. But although the marketing materials seem to want to brand the series as a sort of younger, brasher Sex and the City knockoff, the men in this story are secondary, and romantic relationships take a firm backseat to the friendships at its center.
Don't get me wrong; this show is a love story. But it's a love story about friendship and the way — especially for women — that these intense relationships can and do often mean more to the story of your life than any sexual or romantic partner you may have.
The story follows BFFs Maggie (Emma Appleton) and Birdy (Bel Powley), two young women who've been friends since childhood. They move into the first London house share with two chums from their university days, Nell (Marli Siu) and Amara (Aliyah Oddofin). In true television fashion, their house is almost ridiculously large. Still, their adventures inside it will feel familiar, from their willingness to find any reason to go out clubbing on a Monday to their stay-at-home self-care sessions and coordinated group dance routines. They try drugs, get drunk, and spend money they don't have.
Yes, most of the girls have relationships throughout the series that range from serious commitments to quick hook-ups. But the men of Everything I Know About Love only exist to further the stories of the women around them. Wannabe-bad-boy Street (Connor Finch) exists so Maggie can realize she deserves better. Birdy's decision to date the very safe (and incredibly dull) Nathan (Ryan Bown) is one kind of choice of how to "grow up." Meanwhile, Nell's realization that she wants to explore other romantic options besides Neil (Jordan Peters), the boy she's been with for years, is another.
But the heart of the story is, as these things usually are, about growing up. Maggie and Birdy have embarrassing temp gigs (that almost all seem to require wearing embarrassing outfits) while they look for real work. Amara wrestles with her choice to choose the stability of the corporate world over her dreams of becoming a dancer. Nell, a teacher, perhaps has the quartet's most professional and personal stability, but that means she's also the one who's most curious about what throwing it all away might mean.
The central friendship between Maggie and Birdy is the emotional engine that powers the bulk of the series. Both struggle to adjust to what their friendship looks like in a real-world full of grown-up obligations, and both women experience very different coming-of-age journies. Birdy must figure out who she is outside of the shadow of her more exuberant BFF. And when she gets into her first serious relationship, she's no longer constantly available to serve as Maggie's emotional crutch and general sounding board. And as a result, she begins to experience the world through a different friend group and starts to pursue more stereotypically adult leisure time activities like mini-breaks and camping.
Maggie, for her part, must figure out how to navigate the world independently. She's forced to confront the privilege she's enjoyed up until this point, how much she had come to rely on Birdy being there to listen, stroke her ego, and serve as an object to compare herself to favorably. Who is Maggie if she doesn't have Birdy in her corner? And who is Birdy if she's not Maggie's sidekick?
Watching the slow death spiral of the girls' relationship is deeply uncomfortable, if only because the show has done such a great job of making their ride-or-die, platonic soulmate bond feels genuine and realistic. They come complete with charming flashbacks to various adventures throughout a lifetime of being there for one another. And while Everything I Know About Love certainly leaves the door open for the pair to reconcile (I wonder what will happen when Birdy and Nathan's relationship ultimately ends), it's clear that their friendship can't go back to what it was before.
Appleton is pitch-perfect as Maggie, simultaneously brash and fearful, self-centered and genuine. She's a stereotypical hard-partying hot mess who never met a shot she wouldn't take or a man she's not at least considering hooking up with on some level. But Appleton's deft performance makes Maggie more likable than she has any right to b. The character walks a fine line between deeply relatable (her furious calculation of how much water Birdy's dull boyfriend uses) and incredibly annoying (her willful self-delusion regarding her dirtbag boyfriend, Street). Powley takes what could have been a largely thankless role (Birdy's dowdy straight-lacedness is often frustrating to watch within the larger group dynamic) and makes it work. She's a mix of sincerity and anxiety that is a hallmark of that particular time in your life. And though
I suspect this may be a series that generates a fairly different reaction from viewers along gender lines. The show feels deeply, painfully honest for those of us in our twenties in the mid-aughts (or not far out of them). Maybe you weren't a Maggie, but I guarantee you knew one and loved them despite all their apparent flaws. Siu and Oddofin don't get as much to do as their housemates, though the show takes tentative steps to flesh out Amara and Nell's lives toward the end of the season.
Amara's decision to abandon her safe job to chase her dream of becoming a dancer is particularly good, especially when contrasted with the betrayal she feels about Birdy's decision to move out. (The reasons for her anger are much more financially based than Maggie's, but given how much of your life in this period is balanced on a knife's edge of when your overdraft hits, it's understandable.)
In the end, Everything I Know About Love is worthwhile viewing for its supremely honest look at the often difficult and unspoken nuances of female friendship, a girl gang adventure that reminds us all that the bonds of friendship are as much a love story as any sexual romance. Here's hoping for Season 2.