One of the greatest leaps forward we’ve made as a society in the last decade or so has been adding televisions to dentists’ offices. It’s a simple formula: one of the most miserable things in the world (dental work) plus one of life’s great joys (television) equals an experience that doesn’t entirely make you want to dissociate for however long it takes to get a filling. But what should you watch while someone puts their hands inside of your mouth and drills? The answer is Emily in Paris. And so I watched Emily and her girlies traipse around St. Tropez and party at an art dealer’s house while two people worked on my bicuspids. Thanks to modern medicine and the paper-thin plot of Emily in Paris, I felt nothing physically, mentally, or emotionally. A 10/10 experience.
When it first debuted last year, Emily in Paris, the story of a plucky American girl who moves to Paris and works in “marketing” while refusing to learn French, quickly became one of those Netflix shows that millions of people watched so that they could be in on the joke. My own colleague George Civeris went viral with this tweet:
What Emily lacks in brain cells, she makes up for in… well, almost nothing. But that’s the point. As Kyle Chayka wrote in The New Yorker, “The purpose of Emily in Paris is to provide sympathetic background for staring at your phone, refreshing your own feeds – on which you’ll find Emily in Paris memes, including a whole genre of TikTok remakes.”
That certainly is one way to watch it, but here is my recommendation to you: watch it while doing something awful. You can watch it while scrolling, but it’s not just background noise: the show’s main function in my life is to make horrible things more tolerable. Has your winter depression turned every surface in your bedroom into a new place to keep a dish and/or seltzer can? Turn on E in P while you slowly migrate all of those bowls to their rightful places. You can watch it while you are, for some reason, working on the days before Christmas; you can watch it as you try not to get COVID in an airport terminal. In any situation in which you would rather die, the bright colors and meaningless dialogue of Emily in Paris feels like water in the desert.
Every episode follows the same basic formula (Emily gets herself into a mess, she finds her way out of said mess, a man falls in love with her along the way), which means that you never have to pay that much attention to it. Season two finds our heroine trying to avoid her hot chef neighbor Gabriel after finally having sex with him at the end of last season. Why is she avoiding him? Well, she’s become besties with his now-ex girlfriend Camille, whose family’s champagne business is one of Emily’s clients and who wants to get over her breakup by constantly hanging out with Emily.
Unfortunately for our gal, she is in love with Gabriel, who is so in love with her that he stayed in Paris to open a restaurant instead of moving back to his homeland of Normandy. This is the kind of sticky situation that in the real world requires a therapist and an uncomfortable conversation, but in the Emily in Paris world (which is not the same as ours) it forces Emily into an awkward girls trip where she runs into Jeremy O. Harris, playing the nemesis of one of her other clients.
If that all sounds stupid, that means it’s working. It’s a show designed for you to regain consciousness every 15 minutes and say aloud, “Wonder how she's gonna get out of this pickle?” While watching it at the dentist’s this morning, I couldn’t even hear most of the dialogue while the drill was going. However, I still found myself thinking, “Now why would Emily invite Gabriel to her birthday dinner if she knows Camille is going to be there?”
Those are the biggest kinds of problems in Emily’s life. There are never any real stakes (even when she got fired from her Parisian marketing firm in season one, she was rehired about seven minutes later), and never on the show do I feel bad for anyone. Emily in Paris has the same effect on the adult human brain as I imagine videos of birds have on cats: it is just enough stimulation to keep you distracted while your owner (the part of your brain with responsibilities) needs to do something else. I intend to watch the rest of season two while folding laundry and packing, because even if I miss a “crucial” plot detail, I know that in the next scene they will describe it again as if I am a child, and for that I am grateful.