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ASK MATTHEW

An ‘Emily in Paris’ faux pas?

No, the Netflix rom-com isn’t for everyone, but this critic stands by his opinion

Lily Collins stars in "Emily in Paris."
Lily Collins stars in "Emily in Paris."Stephanie Branchu/Associated Press

Q. I’m a little shocked that you liked “Emily in Paris” enough to recommend it. It is simply awful. What were you thinking?!

NON, NON, ET NON

A. Let me be clear (as all the politicians say), I don’t think “Emily in Paris” on Netflix is particularly good. It’s a collection of rom-com clichés that have been redeployed without much enthusiasm. It’s as if show creator Darren Star (“Sex and the City”) and the writers didn’t try to add in any twists for spice, or to keep viewers guessing about the plot; he just went for the most obvious choices, for the most part.

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And the show, which has gorgeous and fashionable Emily (Lily Collins) moving to Paris for her job and dating très handsome men, isn’t just built on rom-com clichés. It’s also filled with stock fish-out-of-water situations and tons of familiar jokes about how snooty the French are. Also, Emily’s full-on obsession with social media is presented without irony, as part of her charm. Also, she is so spunky and self-involved you might want to mute her. Also, also, also.

But here’s the thing. At this moment, as the days end earlier, as the pandemic does not abate, as the election continues to stress us out, a little bit of pretty piffle is justifiable. It helps push back the darkness for a few hours (it’s 10 half-hour episodes), even if there’s a little hate-watching mixed in with the escapism. The show is a visual holiday as it tours the cafes and restaurants of Paris and takes us to Emily’s walk-up and her office. It’s travel porn (with a plot), and it includes one most excellent character — Emily’s boss, Sylvie — who can’t stand Emily. Played by Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, she is a bit like Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada,” and her sighs and groans about Emily are irresistible.

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There are mediocre series that I just can’t watch, beyond my professional duties, and then there are some, like “Emily in Paris,” that I can gobble up without caring. So I do recommend it, but only if you find it soothing in a nice-looking, brainless kind of way.

MATTHEW GILBERT


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.