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In season 2, ‘Sex Lives of College Girls’ continues to coast on characters’ appeal

From left: Amrit Kaur, Alyah Chanelle Scott, and Pauline Chalamet in HBO Max's "The Sex Lives of College Girls."HBO Max

There’s not a lot that’s new in “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” the HBO Max comedy series co-created by Mindy Kaling that just returned for its second season. It’s about another one of TV’s female foursomes, after “Sex and the City” and “Girls,” as they deal with the social challenges of their first year in college. Roommates and, gradually, friends, they experiment with sex and romance, they try to decide who they want to be, and they attend many theme parties on the Vermont campus.

But the show has enough charm and energy to make it easy to watch, if not compelling. The casting is good, so that the friends become both endearing and a bit more than the stereotypes they are written as. We watch them discover the freedoms of life after the horrors of high school, and we see their bonds tighten as they try to be there for one another now that there are no parents on the scene.


They are, of course, from very different backgrounds. Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet, Timothée’s sister) is a small-town naive work-study student surrounded by wealthy kids. Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) is a soccer star — her mother is a senator, played by Sherri Shepherd — who is recovering from a bad affair with her coach. Leighton (Reneé Rapp) is a recovering mean girl who’s negotiating coming out as a lesbian.

And Bela (Amrit Kaur) is a high-energy wannabe comedy writer with a complex relationship to the school’s humor magazine, a sexist institution with little tolerance for such a self-aware woman. Kaur is a kick, a perfect fourth as she uses humor to get through many awkward moments and to cheer up her friends. Bela is all about getting experience with boys, and she loves reminding everyone just how sex-positive she is — but Kaur makes it clear that she is a lot more than she seems.


Nothing you see on “The Sex Lives of College Girls” will surprise you, and I don’t expect the show to dig much deeper into any of the class and race issues it raises. Still, the coming-of-age comedy passes by pleasantly enough.

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