‘The Sex Live of College Girls’ fills gap in subgenre

New HBO Max show from the mind of Mindy Kaling focuses on female freshmen roommates and their adjustment to college life. PHOTO CREDIT: ign.com

When I started HBO Max’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” I was cautiously excited. As a college senior, I’ve been waiting far too long for a good television show that takes place in college, and, thankfully, this delivered.

The comedy-drama, set at the fictional Essex College in Vermont, dropped its first two episodes on Nov. 18, followed by another three on Nov. 25. Three more will be released today, and I simply cannot wait to watch them. 

From the brilliant comedic mind of Mindy Kaling, “College Girls” focuses on four female freshman roommates and their adjustment to college life. There’s Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet, and yes, she’s the older sister of Timothée), a work-study student from a small, predominantly white town in Arizona. Bela (Amrit Kaur), an Indian-American student with aspirations to be a comedy writer. Leighton (Reneé Rapp), a wealthy, legacy student and a closeted lesbian. Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), the final roommate, is the new star soccer player, whose mother is a highly-respected senator, though her affair with her assistant soccer coach is bound to complicate things.

I can wholeheartedly, and almost shockingly, say that I love all of these girls. There’s something so real and well-developed about each of them, which is an admirable feat when each episode (outside of the longer pilot) is about 27 minutes long. Usually, with a show like this, there’s one or two of the main characters that I just can’t stand. With “Gossip Girl” (2007), it was Chuck, and its recent reboot’s characters were so frustrating that I couldn’t get past episode two. In “One Tree Hill,” Lucas and Peyton felt like my enemies. “Euphoria” has a clear villain in Nate, and Kat and Maddy tend to test my nerves. These shows are also all set in high school––at least until they graduate in later seasons and then the show will turn to time jumps or dropouts–– anything to avoid accurately portraying their college years.

“College Girls” isn’t the first TV show to be set entirely in college; it’s just one of the few I’ve really enjoyed. Netflix’s “Dear White People” pales in comparison to the film of the same name. Similarly, “Grown-ish” had potential, but Zoey (Yara Shahidi) was far more likable on “Black-ish.” “A Different World” is iconic, but it’s set in the late 1980s/early 1990s, so it loses some of that relatability factor to my own college experience that I’ve been craving.

On the other hand, I feel as though we’re inundated with high school dramas that are often even more mediocre, with characters that never really look or feel as though they’re in high school. if they’re even shown in this setting. Instead, these 16-year-olds are shown as more likely to be seen frequenting bars and house parties and pursuing inappropriate relationships, so why set it in high school anyway?

“Euphoria” particularly has been criticized for this. It’s an incredibly adult show on the surface, with gratuitous nudity and themes of addiction, abuse and assault, yet all of the main characters are 17 or 18 and played by actors in their early-to-mid 20s. And I’m not even going to touch on “Riverdale,” which also took the time jump route last season, because I wouldn’t even know where to start.

In a tweet with 363,000 likes, user leebyyy asked, “Why couldn’t euphoria be about college students instead of high schoolers?” which they followed with, “Euphoria being centered around highschoolers just creates a weird feeling when you’re watching the show. You’re either fully aware that they’re highschoolers and don’t care or you’re hesitantly watching every moment of the show questioning the ethics of being shown to you.”

This can be also said for shows like “Pretty Little Liars,” which asks you to root for the relationship between a 15-year-old girl and her teacher from the pilot episode through the finale. While Whitney’s relationship with her married coach in “College Girls” makes me uncomfortable at times, it doesn’t feel as disgusting or immoral to watch as Aria and Ezra’s. 

I wouldn’t mind the oversaturation of high school shows if they didn’t insist on being so adult and there wasn’t such a lack of good shows set in college.

“The Sex Lives of College Girls” is funny, realistic, grounded and refreshing, with relatable, diverse characters you want to root for. Two of the four roommates are women of color, there are two lesbians in the main cast and multiple in the recurring, a minor nonbinary character and there’s even a Black girl in a wheelchair who owns her sexuality. On top of that, it doesn’t feel like they’re just there for diversity’s sake; it feels like what a college campus is and should be. With the final two episodes set to be released on Dec. 9, I’m already practically begging for its renewal, and hopefully, its success (it holds a strong 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer) will inspire more shows like it.