Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Alison Herman

Promotional poster for Season 2 of GIRLS5EVA

Host Alison Herman talks to Meredith Scardino, the creator, showrunner, writer, and producer of GIRLS5EVA, about the show’s writing and songwriting process, what you learn from mentors like Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Robert Carlock, and why so much of this series is about having agency over your own life.

Meredith Scardino is a New York-based screenwriter, showrunner, and producer. After working on the LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN in the mid-2000s, she went on to write for television comedies such as THE COLBERT REPORT and UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT. She also served as a co-executive producer in the final two seasons of the latter show.

Her current project is the Peacock musical comedy series GIRLS5EVA. The series centers on four women who were part of a girl group named Girls5eva, which was briefly popular around the year 2000 before fading into one-hit-wonder status. Now unfulfilled in their various lives, the women are offered an unexpected chance at a comeback when their song is sampled by an up-and-coming rapper and decide to reunite to reclaim their prior success.

Host Alison Herman is a staff writer for The Ringer, where she writes about culture in general and television in specific. When not fighting a losing battle against Peak TV, she tweets at @aherman2006.

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OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, East. The series was created and produced by Jason Gordon. Associate Producer & Designer is Molly Beer. Mix, tech production, and original music by Stock Boy Creative.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


Alison Herman: Hello, I’m your host, Allison Herman. And on this episode of OnWriting, I’m thrilled to speak with Meredith Scardino. Meredith is the creator, showrunner, writer, and producer of Girls5eva, which is now in its second season on Peacock.

In this episode, I’m going to talk to Meredith about the writing and songwriting process of Girls5eva, what you learn from mentors like Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Robert Carlock, and why so much of this series is about having agency over your own life. A quick warning, this episode contains spoilers. So you really should watch Girls5eva before listening. Also, because it’s great. So here’s the interview. Meredith, how are you doing today?

Meredith Scardino: I’m good. It’s very hot in New York, but I’m very happy to be here. Thank you so much.

Alison Herman: You’re in your AC cocoon.

Meredith Scardino: I am. I just started it.

Alison Herman: Well, our producer, Jason had a suggestion for the first icebreaker question that I couldn’t pass up, which is, do you have a favorite girl group or boy band song that you like to sing at karaoke? And if so, what is it?

Meredith Scardino: Oh my gosh. What do I sing at karaoke? I like some of the older songs. I like old Dolly Parton or like… I have to say I have a terrible voice. It’s one of the worst, which is really ironic that I’m involved in a music show. So I don’t sing all that much. Although, I do send Jeff Richmond, our composer extraordinaire who’s amazing. I do send him voice memos of me singing the songs or just a bad version melody of our songs and then he makes it into something incredible. So I’m sorry. I come to that. That’s not a good answer because I don’t really sing girl group or boy band. I mean, I like Bye Bye Bye. That’s always a good one.

Alison Herman: That’s totally fair. We don’t want to pressure anyone into doing anything they don’t want to, karaoke included.

Meredith Scardino: I love karaoke. I just don’t necessarily sing those songs because I don’t think I would do them justice.

Alison Herman: I mean, I do like that you can send a voice note to Jeff Richmond and be like, “If you want to have Renée Elise Goldsberry sing for me, do my part, that would be great.”

Meredith Scardino: Yeah, exactly.

Alison Herman: Well, if you don’t do the in karaoke, I’m sure you certainly at least have like a very personal relationship with these kinds of groups because you’ve made a whole show about them and what it’s like to look back at them from right now. I guess maybe a more general place to start would just be, what is your personal relationship? How intensive a fan were you as a kid and how did that relationship change as you grew up?

Meredith Scardino: Well, I always used to watch that show Making the Band on MTV when they made assemble Danity Kane. I just watched every episode. I just felt it really interesting that they would kind of pluck people from relative obscurity and throw them into this crazy machine, which was just bananas at that particular age. So when I was thinking of ideas to develop a show and that kind of popped into my head and I thought, “Oh my gosh. That era around 2000, ’99 was very girl and boy group heavy.” And it just felt like the perfect kind of opportunity to just writing about women in their 40s and the present in New York was not a stretch for me because I’m a woman in the present in New York in my 40s.

And then just to be able to look back and unpack your past, even though I wasn’t in a girl group some of those experiences I feel like are universal for the way women existed in life back in the ’90s early on. So it just felt like when I came up with the idea, it’s one of those things when you are knocking around ideas in your head, “I had like an animated series idea. I had a bunch of different things and lights start going off.”

But then when I had this, it was just like ping, ping, ping. It was just the whole like, if you had hooked me up to one of those machines like in Ghostbusters that showed that Rick Moranis was hooked up to at the calendar on his head. I feel like it was very… Well, maybe not a monster inside hopefully, but it was very, just a lot happening at once and I just was writing a million ideas down and it felt super fertile. And just the fact that I had worked with Jeff Richmond on Kimmy Schmidt and he obviously did 30 Rock. And so it was the kind of thing that even though I’m not musical, I thought, “Oh, well, if we kind of approach it the way that they approached sketches in 30 Rock, maybe you don’t need to see so much of it and I don’t need to be the most talented songwriter.”

But then when we started getting this cast and putting this group together and started writing some of the snippets of things, it just started to get more and more fun. And those muscles went from atrophy to strong in a way that was really inspiring and fun creatively. But I love all those groups. I love Destiny’s Child. I was inspired also by groups like Dream and S Club 7. There were so many groups that were just assembled or created. Some started on their own, but then were like sort of a blip. But it made me wonder like, “Oh, what are they doing now?” Also, that show like, Where Are They Now? I remember that on VH1. It just felt like very fertile territory.

Alison Herman: Yeah. I mean, it’s funny, you mentioned looking back on 1999, 2000 era, because I feel like that moment has really come up for reexamination in a lot of pop culture recently, albeit mostly in like a true crimey way. That’s a little darker than Girls5eva, but had that moment kind of already started when you were percolating this idea? Were you looking at things like the OJ Simpson shows and thinking maybe this is similar or did that just kind of a coincidence?

Meredith Scardino: Honestly, it was very organic. I was not looking at anything in particular, but it did feel like it sort of hit at the same time that other people were reexamining the way maybe we treated pop stars in the past. Shortly after I came up with the idea for the show and I can’t remember exactly how long it was, but I had watched the Lance Bass documentary about Lou Pearlman called The Boy Band Con, which was on YouTube [inaudible 00:07:50] I believe because I subscribed to it. That’s how I saw it.

But it was just the level of exploitation that that guy committed on that group was just bananas. I mean, he had no business being in the music business. I mean, he had started like just… There was a whole story about how he was leasing jets and he didn’t even have his own fleet of jets. I think he saw New Kids On The Block maybe who flew one of his flights. And he was like, “Why are they rich? Oh, I can pick out boys.”

Then I believe he leased a blimp and took out a $3 million insurance policy on it knowing that it would crash. And it was like a Jordache blimp. And then he used that money from when it crashed to startup NSYNC, which is bananas.

Alison Herman: That’s so funny because as you were describing that, I was like that’s literally a Girls5eva gag. That sounds as heightened and ridiculous as any sick, calm joke, but apparently it was real.

Meredith Scardino: No, it was real. I mean, and he was such a creep. Another thing that was so common is just like, you could have a group that’s like number one in the world and they’re living off their per diem. They’ve never seen any of the money because they are promised the world and they’re young and their parents might not know enough about the business. They sign these really restrictive contracts.

So there’s a scene in that doc where it was like, “Okay, we’re going to have this big dinner party and we’re finally going to see a big check.” And I think the guys and their parents were invited and they were number one in the world, and selling millions and millions and millions of albums. And the check was for $10,000 each, which is like… Anyway, so just sadly, it felt like interesting territory to delve into for the show.

Alison Herman: Totally. I mean, you say sadly. Some of the things you’re describing and some of the real life stories that surrounded this industry are obviously, incredibly dark and bleak. When you were formulating the show, was the tone ever hard to balance of telling this funny story about something that is adjacent to a lot of unpleasant stuff?

Meredith Scardino: Yeah. I tried to always do a gut check on the tone, just to make sure it just feels correct. I mean, I come from writing for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which had a pretty dark premise about a girl who was kidnapped for 15 years by a so-called leader, reverend. And so it was the kind of thing like if Tina Fey and Robert Carlock could figure out that tone, I felt like I could figure this one out in a way that didn’t… But also like I try to give moments of pain there due in the show. And one of the nice things about being on streaming is that we don’t have to abide by 21 and a half minutes for network.

So you can give people a little bit more time. You can see what they’re going through on their face and use music, and just ground their stories in truth so that we can earn the absurdity that we write on top of it all.

Alison Herman: Sure. I mean, you mentioned Jeff Richmond in your collaboration earlier, which is in so many ways kind of the heart of the show. I’m just really curious about the process you guys use for songwriting. Are they developed in the writer’s room and then you go to the composers? Is it more of a parallel process? What’s that kind of step by step like?

Meredith Scardino: They’re typically born out of the writer’s room, born out of… They’re always story based. So I try not to have music that feels tacked on or not part of the story in a way that feels like we’re stepping out for a musical number for no reason. It always is part of the story. And some of those things were ideas that came to myself or some writers just like without it fully tied to a story, but it was like, “Oh, this felt like the kind of…” Like this season there’s a song called BPE, which stands for Big Pussy Energy, which I had had the idea to do that song last season and I really wanted to write that song because I felt like it was in real anthem for them. It felt like the kind of thing that they would be like, “This is our anthem. We were told to be small in the past and deferred to everybody else. And this is sort of like our anthem to say, ‘Hey, we’re here. We’re taking up space.'”

And there wasn’t really a good spot for it last season because we were kind of the inertia of season one was building towards this song that was very much born out of their character growth and written by Sarah Bareilles, and that was kind of what launched them into the big finale, a jingle ball.

So I didn’t do it last season, but I had it kind of earmarked in my head of like, “Oh, well, when they get in charge of their own album, that’s going to be on it.” But they all often originate from the writer’s room. So then basically we’ll write a bunch of lyrics and send them over to Jeff. And oftentimes it’s like, “Not that long before a table read.” And it’s like, “Hey, can you… What do you think about this? Maybe it sounds like a Lizzo song.” Maybe it sounds, whatever, the inspiration as we try to… Or it’s a voice memo from me trying to sing what I think it might sound like that he may or may not listen to, because I don’t know that he may not want to get pigeonholed into something from a non-musical person.

But he always makes better. So essentially, I’ll send him the idea for the song, lyrics. Oftentimes it’s sort of short or… It depends on what’s needed, but usually I try to send what we would use in the script. He might rearrange a couple things or say, “Hey, this doesn’t scan that great.” Or maybe, “Hey, the bridge should move earlier.” Or “Give me some feedback on it.” And he will basically create a demo with his voice that are all super, really enjoyable to hear him singing a lot of these girl band songs as a man in his 50s.

But that’s basically the process. It’s super collaborative, very back and forth. And then we have this wonderful thing that happens again because we’re on Peacock and we have this 92nd credit bed that we can put another piece of original music under. So what we often do is we’ll shoot the episode. The snippets that were in the show, we recorded when we shot. And then later when we’re in post, we’ll say, “Hey, oh, this song would be fun to kind of blow out and do an add to it.” So that’s how we ended up assembling the albums.

So in season one it would be like, “Oh, here’s more of that I’m afraid song from Sarah Bareilles or this season here’s more BPE or an abstinence song that summer and Kev sang.” So those all happen after the fact. And then I’ll often just send a bunch of lyrics to Jeff and the same sort of process plays out.

Alison Herman: Yeah. I think the abstinence song is my personal MVP from season two so far.

Meredith Scardino: Thank you. That was really fun. I worked on that with Michael Coleman who’s hilarious.

Alison Herman: The theme song itself has basically been stuck in my head since I first heard it. I danced to it in the shower. It’s great. But it made me think about how… These songs aren’t just funny. They’re often very good and effective pop songs. I was curious whether that was something you prioritized in terms of balancing the songs as funny spoofs versus songs that could convincingly be hits in this world.

Meredith Scardino: Well, so much of that credit goes to Jeff because oftentimes the lyrics have jokes in them and he sort of pulls off the magic trick of making it sound like a viable pop song. So I just am always amazed by the things that he comes up with when we send him things that sometimes don’t even scan well. Just to mention one song that he blew out and wrote a bunch of lyrics for was Famous 5eva, the original one, because I only had what was in the pilot where I had a bunch of the refrain and probably had like under 10 lines of it that was within the pilot.

And he was sort of like, “Hey, we have an opportunity here, I think to make a full version early on as sort of proof of concept of what this band really sounded like. And maybe we can make a music video.” Which he ended up directing at the end of the season.

But it’s also like one of those things that as a comedy writer, writing jokes, it’s this weird tone I feel like when you get into writing a song, you have to kind of like… It’s going to sound very vague, but the song tells you kind of how to write it because sometimes if you go too jokey, it takes you out of the song and it doesn’t work as well. So I feel like you kind of feel like what you can kind of get away with in a way that where the song itself can kind of like wash over you as a good song and then you might go, “Wait, what was that?” And listen to it and laugh. But maybe it operates as a piece of music first and then absurdity is sort of sneaky under the surface.

Alison Herman: Totally. I mean, speaking of joke writing, since this is the Writer’s Guild podcast, I figured maybe we can take a few minutes to go into the writer’s room and I wanted to ask you what kind of collaborators you tend to seek out and how you populated the room. I was like, “How many of these people are people who experienced the girl group, boy band era first hand? And how many are coming to this with fresher eyes to notice the absurdities?”

Meredith Scardino: Right. Well, it’s kind of interesting because even if you have, I feel like younger writers, there’s sort of this resurgence of pop culture obsession with the aughts and Y2K and stuff. So I was surprised by some of my younger writers having reference points that I was like, “Oh, you remember that? Oh, okay.” I feel like I try to pop… I mean, a room is a team. When I was in late night, when I worked at The Colbert Report, I feel like everyone did the same job in a way, so you had to have the same skill set, which was like just joke heavy, whatever it was or just taking in the news and satirizing it, spitting back out through Stephen Colbert’s character.

But once I got into the scripted world, I realized how much of a team a scripted room is. And people bring very different skill sets to the… I mean, everybody brings something amazing to the table. It’s just that they’re different. Some people have an amazing grasp of story structure. Some people are just joke machines. I mean, some people can do absolutely everything too, but it’s just nice to have also a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different perspectives because you’re writing for multiple characters and you want to bring in all those different voices and create a show from many different perspectives.

So we had a great room. And one of my writers, Ava Coleman was actually a manager, music manager and she worked for Scooter Braun or with him. And so she’s always like somebody that I was always like, “Did that happen? What happens? What do they do now? Would that happen?” And she was also great at writing lyrics too. So she wrote a lot of the lyrics of BPE and she wrote a lot of little stinkers, songs and stuff like that. But yeah, it’s very much a team. It’s definitely a group effort.

Alison Herman: Yeah. Collaborators are something I was also interested in because the show is obviously produced by Tina Fey. You came off of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. There’s really kind of a very consistent, seemingly very tight knit group of people who work on a lot of those projects. I mean, Jeff Richmond is responsible for the sound. I feel like that’s really key to what makes all those shows feel similar. I know Sam Means recently had a writing credit on Girls5eva. And I’ve seen his name across many IMDB pages of shows I’ve enjoyed.

I’m just very curious what characterizes that team in your experience and why do you think it’s proven so durable across all these different projects?

Meredith Scardino: Well, one of the things that I think where I work well with the group is that it is kind of the late night experience of not being precious with having a job to do and writing a tremendous amount of material on any given day. So nothing’s precious and you just are like, “What about this? Well, okay, what about this? What about this? What about this?” Just like [inaudible 00:21:18] all the time. So I am very at home in that environment.

Robert and Tina obviously came from SNL where they were churning out materials. Sam Means came from The Daily Show. So it’s like a shorthand that I feel like we’re all kind of speaking the same language of just taking in someone’s behavior. Oh my gosh that’s absurd. Maybe we can model it and heighten it these kinds of joke. Just being sort of like a joke cannon. We’re sort of all like that.

Tina is very good at, I feel like grounding it as well. She’s got an amazing sense of character and making sure you kind… She sometimes calls herself the fun bully a little bit, but she’s not. She’s hilarious and a genius. But she will often be like, “Okay, this might be like, guys, there’s too many ornaments on the tree. Let’s pull it back.” And she’s always right.

So it was such a great opportunity to learn from them coming from late night and just getting in there and learning story because that was something I was not… I had no idea how to write break episodes and chart someone’s growth. Like what? I don’t know. Talk about your own life and try to bring that into things. It was a learning curve and an exciting one. But yeah, I do think that we all do sort of like ping at a similar frequency when we’re pitching.

Alison Herman: For sure. I mean, you’ve touched on your experience in late night a few times now, and I certainly wanted to ask about how you transitioned from late night into narrative and just what that transition has been like. You’ve obviously talked about the learning curve, but I’m sure it was a big shift in a lot of ways.

Meredith Scardino: Yeah. So I’d written for some shows on late night and then I was really at The Colbert Report for the longest. I was there for six years and it was just the absolute best experience. Just so exciting and amazing people. And Stephen’s just the greatest person to work with. So it was incredibly hard to leave. I had a really, really hard time leaving, but I also wanted to creatively flex other muscles and learn other things. And so when I read, I’d always obviously… I mean, come on, who doesn’t admire Tina and Robert? They’re bananas, so incredible.

So when they had this pilot for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, it was called Tooken back then. I read it and I was… Similarly, when I came up with Girls5eva and light bulbs were just flying in my head, I felt so similar to that when I read Tooken. And I was just like, “I must work on this. I must work on this, if they’ll have me.” And so I somehow convinced them to hire me. And yeah, I guess it’s certainly a transition and it’s always… I feel like I’m… There’s no mastering anything with writing. You’re always just like, “Oh, do I have something great here? Is it terrible? Or is this…” There’s so much that goes into what it feels like to be a writer.

But yeah, when I first started, one of the things that struck me was the pace is so different because in late night you do a show the same day. So it’s like very like dopamine hit, like immediate. You write jokes in the morning, they end up on the show that night. Maybe there’s a little bit of lead time on certain pieces that end up like a couple days later. But it’s almost immediate.

And then you think to yourself, “Okay. If I didn’t get something in today, maybe I’ll… There’s always tomorrow.” And so when you work on an episodic show that’s like you might start writing in August and the thing doesn’t come out until the summer, it’s not only do you have to kind of delay some… You have to learn to work at a different pace. It’s just a longer… It’s a marathon. It’s much more of a marathon. And then you also have to think about, is everyone going to get to this joke by the time this airs?

Will it be picked… Will the Twitter vultures pick it dry? Or other shows. So you have to think about telling more evergreen jokes and references and things like that, that aren’t going to feel super old by the time your thing airs. But there’s a lot of different things about the experience.

It’s much more personal is the thing that I think is the biggest difference where you talk about your life. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my… I mean, I had friends at Colbert that I talk about life with and everything, but I didn’t get into it when you’re writing about what Lindsay Graham did that day. It doesn’t come up as much. But if you’re talking about the characters in Girls5eva, a lot of your personal life ends up in the show.

I mean, maybe a different version of it, but you use everything. You truly use everything as a writer, no matter what project you’re on, I feel like. And with scripted, you end up using a lot of your personal life I feel like.

Alison Herman: Definitely. Going from late night type writing to narrative writing is one transition, but I’m sure another huge transition was going from someone who’s working on shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to creating and running your own show. So what was that additional learning curve like?

Meredith Scardino: Well, I had had some baby glimpses of what it might be like. I mean, no one truly prepares you for how many things you end up doing as a showrunner. It’s a very all consuming job and it’s wonderful. But I’d had a couple… Tina and Robert were always really nice about letting me in the edit on Kimmy Schmidt. We did the Kimmy Schmidt interactive movie and Sam and I both got to be executive producers on that along Tina and Robert and that was like a really nice… Because Sam also has a show he’s working on with Robert, an animated series that comes out. I’m not sure when because animation takes forever, but we were in edit.

We were in the pitch meeting when they pitched Netflix. We were in meetings a lot. So we kind of were getting a glimpse of what are the things that go into creating a new thing. And also when you’re a writer, producer on a narrative show, you cover set. So I was very used to going to set for my episodes and being part of the props meeting and a million meetings you need to go to get a piece of television together. Production meetings and looking at wardrobe, all the things.

So I had a mini glimpse of what it might be like before I had my own show. But it’s truly, once you have your own thing, you’re kind of the filter that everything goes through. So all of the departments, you just… There’s like an amazing amount of things that you end up selecting. It can be overwhelming, but it’s pretty exciting.

You work with costumes, you work with props, you work with music, you just work with every single department to put the whole thing together. But yeah, it’s a lot more like I never got to see the budget before. I didn’t know. I didn’t have to deal with some of the production headaches that come from being at that level about like, “Oh, well we can’t get an RV because it’s too expensive. Or you can’t drive it on this street because the street is closed.” Like all those kind of things that I didn’t necessarily know about.

When I was in Kimmy Schmidt, I know about all that stuff now. I mean all of the stuff on Kimmy Schmidt, I did think prepared me in a way. So it wasn’t a complete surprise when I was finally show running. I knew all of the parts. It was just more like, “Oh, the volume is much higher.” I don’t have to just worry about one little episode. I have to worry about the whole thing, but it’s exciting. I feel like I buy more flowers than I bought as a writer for a variety of reasons. Just like, “Oh, it’s somebody’s birthday,” or whatever.

Alison Herman: You got more people to thank.

Meredith Scardino: I have more people to thank. I buy more cakes. I buy a tremendous amount of presents that I did not buy as a writer, producer on Kimmy Schmidt.

Alison Herman: It’s a good skill to buy presents for other people.

Meredith Scardino: Yeah.

Alison Herman: Yeah. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about behind the camera collaborators for good reason, but you’re also very lucky on the show to have people who are just incredibly talented, often improvisational performers, Dizzy, Paula, Renee, Sara, obviously. Are they at all involved in the writing process or is there much improvisation on set coming from them?

Meredith Scardino: They’re busy actually this year, I think throughout the idea of a thread lift, which we were like, “Oh, that’s interesting. And then we ran with that. And she also sometimes will do many takes and might throw in a different line at the end or something like that. Same with Paula. We don’t do a ton of improv on set just because the show is quite ambitious in how much we cram into our shoot schedule.

We have flashbacks, we have music, costume changes. There’s not a ton of time to play too much and come up with alternatives. Also, it’s very often that you would need to cross shoot when you do a lot of improv, because then you make sure you get to get the other person’s reactions and stuff like that.

And we do cross shoot sometimes, but a lot of times we shoot straight up single camera and then do the big turnaround. But they’re all just wildly capable performers and so inspirational. And they’re just a dream to work with. I can’t figure out if they have weaknesses as performers and humans. So it’s a real gift. And Sara actually is very involved in the writing process for the songs. Last season she wrote 4 Stars. We kind of gave her a very loose idea of what the meaning of the song is and she came back with that gorgeous song.

In this season, we have a song called Ben Not Break that we also talked about and how it kind of impacted the season and what it might roughly be about. And then she came back with another gorgeous song. But then also, she arranged the song set in episode two. So we gave her the lyrics and then she came back with a beautiful song. And same with the I’m Afraid song. We gave her lyrics and she was just… I remember when I heard that for the first time, I heard her demo of it before a table read and I was just like laughing and crying at the same time.

I don’t know what emotion centers were lighting up in my brain, but she has such a gorgeous voice. And then she can be saying the most absurd things and you still can feel emotion and then also laugh at the same day. It’s bananas.

Alison Herman: Yeah. I mean, the show just gives them so much latitude to show up all their talents, which is this amazing counterpoint to the fact that in the show they’ve been totally pigeonholed and not allowed to explore their whole selves through their work.

Meredith Scardino: I mean, that’s the whole evolution of it. It’s like here are these people that we’re kind of told to stay in their place, like just leave everything else to the people in charge. And they had no agency. And now they’re finding. They’re finding it in real time and in the present and it’s really exciting to watch them kind of evolve as performers and songwriters and dancers as well. Actually, there’s some good dancers in there.

Alison Herman: Yeah. I mean, just to give one example, Renée obviously has worried for a long time, but is maybe most famous for being a musical performer. And then I was just like, “Oh my God, she’s like the comedic centerpiece of the show. She’s the Jenna Maroney of this cast, which is such a big role and she adjusts to it so beautifully and I just wasn’t aware that was in her toolbox before.

Meredith Scardino: She commits so hard and it’s just incredible to watch. She’s so funny. God, she’s so funny.

Alison Herman: Yeah. Well, part of the reason I feel like the show, it has the ability to show all that off is, as you mentioned before, it’s not forced to say at 21 minutes and 20 seconds or whatever the allotted sitcom timestamp is, which is only possible because you’re on streaming. But I was curious as a writer who has worked on both linear television and streaming television, how that particular shift has been for you creatively.

Meredith Scardino: Well, I’ve only written on one season of a network sitcom that had to be cut to time and I was never in any of those edits. So I didn’t know what that felt like to be like, “Okay, we got to move 30 more seconds. We got to lose 20 more seconds,” or whatever. I just never had to have those sessions where you’re just trying so hard to get it into this perfect box. So it’s very liberating I feel like for this show in particular, just because of the music.

Because in order to do justice to the stories and have music, it starts to just get unwieldy and long. But also I don’t want to have episodes that are too crazy long because I do think you get fatigued. And especially this kind of show that has a bit of an onslaught of content coming at you that if you’re starting to get into minute 29, you’re looking at your watch a little or tired or need a break or whatever it is.

So you try to find what feels like the right amount of time to tell the stories and that’s always just like an organic process. Often, we still cut plenty out of each episode. We still write them fat because I can’t help myself and I don’t know any other way. And then once you’re an addict, you kind of are like okay. Tina is really good about being like, “This scene is great, but it might overstay its welcome. Maybe we lose this joke or that. You have to kill some of your darlings.” But it’s always in service of making the stories, having them be told in a way that feels like you’re invested in the story and not just having to listen to a thousand jokes that are strung together like light bulbs.

Alison Herman: You know, they’re great jokes.

Meredith Scardino: Thanks.

Alison Herman: Well, with the second season specifically, it’s partly about the girls trying to maintain momentum as documented in the song, Momentum. But I was wondering if there’s anything… Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it almost felt like a little meta like Girls5eva is a show that has to produce a second season after the first season was really well received. And it felt a little bit self-reflexive, but I didn’t know if that was just me making things up or if that was a factor for you guys as well.

Meredith Scardino: Well, it feels like it’s in the DNA of the show to have some good things happen and then life gets in the way because that’s really what life in your 40s is like. There’s just like a lot of things coming at you. And so when we first started the season, I always wanted them to remain underdogs because I just like underdoginess. Paula calls them… What does she call them? Joyful losers. I wouldn’t call them losers. They’re not losers, but I like that sentiment. Because I also just didn’t think after season one, after they storm the [inaudible 00:37:27] I didn’t think it would kind of anoint them at a very high status within the pop world.

I just didn’t think that would be how it would go down. So I tried to keep their momentum in scale. And then we also… Paula in real life had to have one of her knee replacements replaced right before the season started and she called me up and she’s like, “I think I’ll be fine by the time we’re shooting in two months, but I’ll be still out of rehab and doing a little bit of rehab. And I might be like a little ginger on it as we’re like going for the seasons. But don’t worry about it too much.” I’m like, “Wait a minute. No, that’s the exact kind of thing that would happen to this group. So do you mind if I write it into the show.” And she was like, “No, go for it.”

So we wrote it into the show and it does just feel like the exact kind of thing that would happen. So why wouldn’t we? Especially like her character was the one that was doing the most kicks, doing like sort of Sporty Spice moves and anyone who is hard on your body, like back then, I played sports in college and now my knee is all messed up too. It’s like, you just pay for it when you get older. So it felt like the kind of thing that would absolutely be thrown in there in front of them. And then they would have to kind of have a conversation about self-care that maybe didn’t ever come up back then because people were so disposable.

So it would be like a new way of looking at like, “Oh, okay, wow. We have to create some boundaries for ourselves while still trying to achieve the dreams that we have. How do we do that?” And so it felt like fertile ground to address it.

Alison Herman: Yeah. I love that because I feel like when most people hear people putting their personal lives into TV or movies, they think like you’re channeling your heartbreak. You’re talking about divorce. And it’s like, “Nope, knee replacement. That’s what we’re putting in there.”

Meredith Scardino: We’re putting it in. Yeah, totally.

Alison Herman: Well, I think we’re closing in on the end of our time, but since you mentioned Sporty Spice, I do have to ask about the Spice Girls and their very clear influence on Girls5eva and maybe the role they play in the show more than other girl groups.

Meredith Scardino: Well, I always thought that Larry Plum, their manager saw the Spice Girls and their dominance on the… I mean, they were the biggest group in the world and just thought like, “I can do that. I could pick out hot ladies or I could…” Whatever the worst version of thinking that you had talent from Larry Plum would be. So I always thought that they were what Girls5eva always aspired to be. So they were like, what does the Spice Girls look like if they didn’t become the Spice Girls? And that was kind of a little bit of the premise of Girls5eva. What if they flamed out after one hit? What would that look like?

But I love the Spice Girls. They’re wonderful. I mean, they’re all still around and doing cool stuff. I mean, I think they’re a model of something that this girl group would aspire to follow in their footsteps.

Alison Herman: Yeah. Maybe Victoria Beckham will guest star someday.

Meredith Scardino: Oh my god.

Alison Herman: It’s like the-

Meredith Scardino: I would love that. I would love if any of them wanted to be on the show. I would absolutely welcome it.

Alison Herman: I bet they would be down. I hope selfishly they would be down. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed.

Meredith Scardino: Yeah.

Alison Herman: All right. Well, I think that brings us to the end of our time, but thank you so, so much. And congratulations on the season, which everyone should stream on Peacock.

Speaker 1: OnWriting is a production of the Writers Guild Of America East. This series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Our associate producer and designer is Molly Beer. Tech production and original music by Taylor Bradshaw and Stock Boy Creative. You can learn more about the Writers Guild of America East online at You can follow the guild on all social media platforms @WGAEast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thank you for listening, and write on.

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