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TV review: Sweet Magnolias

Corny: JoAnna Garcia Swisher and Justin Bruening


Sweet Magnolias

Netflix ★★✩✩✩

IMAGINE a cereal commercial — for argument’s sake, Corn Flakes — which doesn’t end with a catchphrase sign-off but instead spills out of the ad break and into an actual show.

If that sounds appealing (and deep in cabin fever, the strangest things can sound appealing) then you could hunker down with Sweet Magnolias.

Because, heavens to Betsy, this show spewed out by the Netflix algorithm is beyond corny. Set in a town called Serenity (no, they’re not having a laugh), here’s a small-town America where Donald Trump hasn’t happened and female empowerment is defined as opening a day spa.

If David Lynch got hold of this material you’d see the rot in the white picket fence; here it’s just a white picket fence. The story is told in hokey southern accents of wildly varying authenticity. It opens with doctor’s wife Maddie (JoAnna Garcia Swisher — an actual person, not a brand of curtains) going through a painful divorce from her high school sweetheart, supported by her successful lawyer chum and her successful chef chum, both of whom have crosses of their own to bear. Yes, everyone still goes to church.

To be fair, there is some sour milk in this Corn Flakes commercial, because the focus of Sweet Magnolias is overcoming personal adversity.

But it’s done in such a happy-clappy way it feels like putting a plaster on a broken leg. The dialogue seems to be constructed almost entirely from fortune cookies (‘watch your tone son, I’m your father and this is church’) — an interesting tactic for writing a script but one that pretty quickly rots the teeth.

The show could be tagged a guilty pleasure, but that’s an abuse of the term. Bingeing it will just make you feel guilty without the pleasure — unless hearing guff like ‘I truly, truly believe there’s not a problem in the world that can’t be solved with a drink and a talk with the two of you’ hits your spot. If only, love.