Sweet Magnolias

Heather Headley as Helen Decatur in 'Sweet Magnolias'.
Heather Headley as Helen Decatur in 'Sweet Magnolias'.
Photo: Eliza Morse/Netflix

OUR RATING

3/5 Stars

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

Lifelong friends Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue lift each other up as they juggle relationships, family and careers in the small Southern town of Serenity.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

When I started watching Sweet Magnolias, for some reason I thought this was a TV remake of Steel Magnolias. Anyway, after waiting for someone to die in the first episode, I quickly realised it was in fact not. Moving swiftly along, Sweet Magnolias focuses on a group of three friends in the fictional Southern town of Serenity and all the drama that comes with small-town living.

Sweet Magnolias is the kind of drama where everything and nothing happens at the same time. The drama is low-stakes, it's not Grey's Anatomy where every episode is literally life or death. I'd compare it more to a Gilmore Girls kind of drama where it's a lot of small-town scandals and gossip but nowhere near as good as Gilmore Girls.

TV has changed in this age of streaming that we live in, where all the episodes of a show are dropped at once. When it comes to Netflix shows, we're expecting that there will be a sort of cliffhanger at the end of each episode. Why else would you click "next episode" or, if you're lazy like me, let Netflix play the next one? There's this need to know what happens next. But Sweet Magnolias is not that show, which is surprising for a Netflix show. It's a gentle amble through the lives of these three women and how they support each other through life's ups and downs.

I wouldn't call it boring, but it is saccharine in its sweetness, so it might be entirely unpalatable to some but just what you need in these dark times we live in.

Dana Sue (Brooke Elliott) primarily is a character that is trying very hard to portray that classic Southern charm, but it comes off as just too much. As one of the three main characters, Dana Sue is the least likeable. She's high strung, a boss who dismisses her black pastry chef when he wants to be promoted to sous chef, and her staff and friends keep having to reassure her that she's a good boss and friend. I've seen Brooke Elliott in Drop Dead Diva, and I really enjoyed her in that. So I really think this is more of a writer/director problem than her acting.

One of the few black characters in this show, Helen Decatur (Heather Headley) gets it right though. Helen is strong because she had to be; she's a fierce lawyer and loves her found family and would do anything to protect them. She leads the way and is the glue that holds this trio together.

This show is not one with universal appeal. It's aimed at a very particular type of woman (the working mom, the single mom, the career woman) and I think that's where it falls flat. I think the thing I love most about this show, and it's a trope that I am an absolute sucker for, is that of found family. That family you build for yourself, that is stronger than any blood relation. Dana Sue, Helen and Maddie (JoAnna Garcia) have made that for themselves, and the whole town knows how tight their bond is.

So if you're looking for something easy, light-hearted and heart-warming to take your mind off the darkness of the world, Sweet Magnolias is it.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

WATCH IT NOW ON NETFLIX