Has a television channel ever gotten more traction from fewer shows than Pop? Beginning life as Prevue, the rolling grid of localized TV listings, and eventually becoming Pop in 2015, the cable channel has been banking goodwill in the younger demographics with its one significant scripted original series, the cult Canadian comedy “Schitt’s Creek.” Recently it earned praise for picking up the canceled Netflix sitcom “One Day at a Time.”
It’s the American home of the British shows “Flack” (with Anna Paquin) and “Clique.”
On Wednesday, Pop expanded its inventory with the addition of the American-made, 10-episode “Florida Girls,” a female buddy comedy set on the Gulf Coast.
Created by actress and writer Laura Chinn (“The Mick”), the show features a quartet of high school dropouts who live together in a mobile home and mostly work together at a nearby dive, two behind the bar and one in the big fish tank in the middle of the room. (She puts on her mermaid costume at home and hops to the job.) The fourth, Jayla (Laci Mosley), is so determined to avoid work that she’s the devoted sugar baby of an Applebee’s franchise owner.
Chinn grew up in Clearwater, where the show is set, and the pawnshops, grow houses, “ghetto stores” and machine-gun shooting parties ring true (or true enough). So does the absence of a single entirely redeemable male character.
Chinn plays Shelby, the aspiring adult of the group, whose continually frustrated attempts to study for the GED exam are one of the engines of the season’s plot. Another is the determination of the group’s enforcer, Kaitlin (Melanie Field), to continue a tradition of blowout bacchanals on a local island now that the previous party giver has died. (“Florida man eaten by alligator while hiding from police” is the headline in the newspaper displayed at his funeral.)
Life and a profound lack of funds keep getting in the way, though. Episodes are built around the suddenly felt, extremely important need to do something — go to a water park, borrow a rich acquaintance’s boat — and the near impossibility of accomplishing it. Money must be raised, usually through petty theft and pawning; bickering must be weathered; and focus must be achieved despite a rolling tide of bar shots, joints and acid.
In the show’s most frequent gag, the friends’ progress is interrupted while Shelby looks for someone sober to blow into the breathalyzer attached to her car’s ignition.
Chinn’s given herself the bum character in the self-righteous, uptight Shelby — playing the impatient mother figure, she doesn’t get her share of the laughs. But she’s been good to the other actresses.
Mosley is touching and hilarious as the loudly self-absorbed Jayla, and Patty Guggenheim underplays adroitly as Erica, an amiable stoner and apologetic kleptomaniac. Best of all is Field, a star of the ill-fated Paramount Network series “Heathers,” who makes Kaitlin — physically imposing, brutally honest, with an absolute incomprehension of why anyone would want a mainstream existence — feel like an original.
“Florida Girls” runs on the tension between the characters’ realization that life could be better — Shelby is determined that the four will figure out how to “fix” their lives — and their acceptance that there’s everything to be said for hanging out together and getting high. As comedies of economic decline and arrested development go, it’s refreshingly optimistic.