If you studied teenagers just by watching television, you'd conclude they have only one thing on their minds. And it's not climate change.
So it's no surprise that HBO Max executives greenlit a series called "The Sex Lives of College Girls," the kind of title you used to linger over in the adults-only section of a video store.
The premise certainly sounds titillating enough: Four attractive coeds explore their newfound freedom at a prestigious school, with random hookups and naked parties. They spend more time scrolling Tinder than studying for their midterms.
Raging hormones is not a new subject for co-creator Mindy Kaling.
For "The Office," she helped create her character, Kelly Kapoor, who seemed to show up for work only to land a boyfriend. In "The Mindy Project," she played a doctor determined to model her life on a rom-com. In the series "Never Have I Ever," which she also co-created, the main protagonist is a teenager hung up on losing her virginity to the hottest boy in school.
"I guess I'm more interested in young women and their horny exploits than I would have thought," she said during a virtual news conference this past summer.
But Kaling is more ambitious than the people behind "Riverdale," "Sex Education" and other shows in which characters seem to be continuously on the prowl.
In "College Girls," which debuted Thursday on HBO Max, Bela (newcomer Amrit Kaur) celebrates the liberation from her strict parents by asking strangers to show her their abs. But she's also battling sexism at the school's humor magazine.
Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet, sister of Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet) is on the rebound after breaking up with her high school sweetheart, but she struggles just as hard with the realization that she's no longer the smartest cookie in the class.
Leighton (Renee Rapp, who was in the Broadway musical "Mean Girls") is a closeted lesbian who doesn't hide her desire to get accepted by the best sorority. Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) has a crush on her soccer coach but she also longs for respect from her teammates.
Their lives consist of more than emulating the Cosmo-sipping gang on "Sex and the City."
"I think one thing that a lot of my shows and projects have in common are young women who have big personalities and big ambitions, you know?" Kaling said. "I wanted to show four young women who come in with a really strong point of view. None of them is demure, standing in the shadows."
Scott, who graduated in 2019, said the show mirrors her own college experience.
"It's really about getting there and trying to figure out who you are," she said. "You're on your own for the first time. You're making your own decisions, therefore making your own mistakes. It's messy and it's silly and it's sort of this bubble where you can be safe to make all those mistakes."
It can also be traumatic. Perhaps the most riveting storyline involves Kimberly, a financial-aid student who has to take a part-time job. In the most heartbreaking scene of the first six episodes, she panics when the bill comes during a parents' dinner.
Of course, HBO Max might struggle getting viewers to tune in for a sitcom called "The Money Problems of College Girls." Kaling and her team put sex front and center, but it's merely a bait to lure you into deeper subjects. Go ahead and let yourself get hooked.
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