Review: Netflix's Firefly Lane is a 'guilty pleasure' without the pleasure

Anthony O'Connor
·Contributor
·4-min read

Streamer: Netflix

Length: 10 x episodes (47-53 minutes each)

Score: 2.5/5

Tully (Katherine Heigl) and Kate (Sarah Chalke) are besties through the years in Firefly Lane. Photo: Netflix
Tully (Katherine Heigl) and Kate (Sarah Chalke) are besties through the years in Firefly Lane. Photo: Netflix

Quality drama about friendships between women is in depressingly short supply. Oh sure, everyone references Beaches – the apparent gold standard of the lady pal flicks – but have you actually watched that film recently?

The friendship between CC Bloom (Bette Midler) and Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey) is frequently troubling and borderline toxic. And [SPOILER ALERT for a film from 1988!] after Hillary carks it, and CC sings “it must have been cold there in my shadow”, doesn’t that kind of seem like she’s making Hillary’s death all about her?

Hillary was more than just a prop for your sooky bloody song, CC!

Comedies have fared a little better, with classics like Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997), Bridesmaids (2011) and Booksmart (2019) bringing the quality platonic pairings. But where are the drama versions?

Well, Netflix is throwing its hat in the ring with the Beaches and Steel Magnolias-esque Firefly Lane, and the result is… a mixed bag. And there’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get cracking.

Firefly Lane is the story of two friends, Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl) and Kate Mularkey (Sarah Chalke). These unlikely besties meet as teenagers in the 1970s, and the show skips back and forth in time, showing their lives and loves through to the early 2000s.

Sarah Chalke, Katherine Heigl and Aussie actor Ben Lawson don't look particularly impressed with what happens on Firefly Lane. We're 100% with you, guys. Photo: Netflix
Sarah Chalke, Katherine Heigl and Aussie actor Ben Lawson don't look particularly impressed with what happens on Firefly Lane. We're 100% with you, guys. Photo: Netflix

Tully is a wild child who uses her good looks and attitude to mask a deep insecurity. As time goes on, she becomes the wildly popular host of daytime talk show, The Girlfriend Hour. Despite her frequent hunky lovers and jet-setting lifestyle, Tully doesn’t have a family and sometimes feels lonely.

Kate Mularkey is a straight-laced good girl, and a bit of a bookworm. Despite this, she ends up being a housewife going through a messy divorce and trying to reenter the workforce at a time of life when she’s ill suited to do so. She envies Tully’s spontaneous nature and fearlessness, but sometimes feels used and taken for granted by her larger-than-life friend.

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Honestly, this is a great premise for a show and in other hands this could have been a classic. Or, at the very least, a bit of decent drama to watch with your mum on a rainy Sunday arvo.

Sadly, the writers of Firefly Lane have yet to meet a cliché they didn’t immediately want to adopt, and the result is a spectacularly uneven show that never seems entirely sure what it wants to be.

Tully (Katherine Heigl) demonstrates the best (only?) way to enjoy Firefly Lane: half cut. Photo: Netflix
Tully (Katherine Heigl) demonstrates the best (only?) way to enjoy Firefly Lane: half cut. Photo: Netflix

On the plus side, the cast is great. Heigl and Chalke are both very effective as the adult versions of the characters, but so too are the younger versions of Tully – Ali Skovbye, London Robertson – and Kate – Roan Curtis.

The problem is, nothing feels authentic, nothing reads as true. We leap through time and watch Tully being endlessly popular and fabulous in a cartoonish version of celebrity, and then cut to Kate who appears to be a housewife in some weird, laugh-free sitcom version of reality.

The performances are good, yes, but the dialogue is mawkish and woeful, the plot lines goofy as hell and some of the reveals are deeply eye-rolling.

Look, there’s a decent show buried in here, somewhere, and there are moments when Firefly Lane is oddly compulsive. However, if Netflix’s plan was to make a Beaches-esque TV show that has something to say about female friendships? This ain’t it.

Not terrible, but also not very good, Firefly Lane will just as likely have you reaching for the vino as the tissues.

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