Darren Star can, by many standards, be considered the king of primetime soap-opera land. Of course, Aaron Spelling ran a production empire for decades alongside (and in conjunction with) Star, but Star’s proven that his magic touch knows few bounds as the creator and harnesser of zeitgeists with Beverly HIlls, 90210 and its spinoff, Melrose Place. Both shows ruled FOX for years and eventually inspired reboots, also involving Star, but he didn’t limit himself to drama. He comedically rode HBO’s first wave of original programming with Sex and the City (which still lives on through nightly E! syndication and HBO Max replays), and he wasn’t done yet.
Sprinkle in several seasons of TV Land’s Younger, and Star’s now firmly entrenched with not only Gen X and also Gen Z but those who land in between. He’s now advancing onto Netflix with his first streaming-platform show, Emily In Paris, which arrives this Friday. The series, starring Lily Collins, does in fact see its protagonist transplant to France, where she enjoys a much cheerier turn of events than Carrie Bradshaw’s disappointment in the City of Lights. Yet there’s more beneath the surface because this show is full of heart and humor, and it provides a respite from our current situation.
Yes, Emily In Paris wasn’t intended to provide pandemic escapism, but it sure gets that job done. For those of us who are sleeplessly dream-browsing travel websites at 1:00 AM, this show will hit the spot while also featuring an international cast who delivers punch lines and bittersweet lessons. Wanderlust and literal lust combine in this series, and Emily In Paris turns into a breezy, stress-free watch. Star was gracious enough to tell us how this show came to Netflix, and how he managed to captivate while steering clear of his previous brand of pretty-people-behaving-badly drama.
I’m delighted to see that Emily’s experience in Paris is very different than that of Carrie Bradshaw.
Oh yeah. Well, it’s two different shows, and two different people.
So, how did this show land at Netflix? That wasn’t the original plan.
Originally, it was based at Paramount Network, and after it was completed, we talked about why Netflix just might be a better fit for this series.
This does seems like an impossible fit for Paramount Network, which is known as Yellowstone territory.
Right, that’s exactly what I think of, too. They’re incredibly successful with Yellowstone. In light of that, I really felt that Netflix would work better for Emily because this show has such international appeal. Not only that, but the opportunity to have a live premiere in over 190 countries simultaneously was really fantastic and tempting.
You’re known for shows with longevity, going up to 10 consecutive seasons, with loads of episodes per season. How did you downshift with episode quantity?
Sex and the City was originally twelve episodes a season, then eighteen episodes per season, so coming from doing 34 hours of Melrose Place per season to Sex and the City, I loved it. I really felt like it gave me so much time to focus on scripts to kind-of gel it. I really enjoyed fewer episodes in the seasons, and that’s the case with this new show [which has 10 episodes per season].
This show’s something different than what people expect from you. And you like mixing it up, even avoiding some spinoffs, despite the success of Melrose Place. You said no to Models Inc. back in the day.
Yes, that one was one spinoff too many. Also, like in the case of Models Inc., it was the network’s idea. It wasn’t my idea, so it wasn’t a show that I felt connected to. Whereas Melrose Place was in many ways inspired by my own experiences of being in my 20s in an apartment building with a courtyard and a pool. Not unlike Melrose Place, everybody who lived there was in their 20s, straight out of college, and I understood what that show was, but when the idea of Models Inc. was presented, I thought it didn’t feel like a show that I was that interested in.
Your instincts were correct. It only lasted one season and ended on a cliffhanger. Now I’ll never know who the sniper killed at the altar.
Oh nooooo. [Laughs] And I wasn’t involved, so I don’t know either.
Emily In Paris also has a cliffhanger. It’s not literally explosive like Melrose Place, but you’re still dangling those carrots.
Right. There are definitely ideas at work for where we can go. I like the leave the door open to different complications for the characters, which I think we did at the end of this Emily In Paris season. There’s lots of places we can go.
And there are a lot of secret weapons in the cast, like Ashley Park and Kate Walsh.
Oh, thank you. Yeah, I really do think that there’s so much potential there and hope we can explore it with future seasons.
I keep saying that this show tastes “like a sugar cookie.” It could have gone sideways, easily. How did you bypass the ugly American stereotype with Emily?
Well, I wanted to create a character who was career-driven and self-confident but maybe overly self-confident, who had not really traveled overseas and was going to Paris for a career opportunity, not really because she was so excited to see Paris. Her life was really well mapped out for her in Chicago, so I think she comes in with a sense of naiveté, but she’s maybe a little too overenthusiastic, with a real sense of purpose and drive.
You don’t have to worry too much about spoilers with Netflix, but when you planned this with Paramount Network, was it going to be weekly?
Yes, it would have been weekly. I think I always think about an episodic format like we’re going weekly. You always wanna have that drive and keep the audience tuning in. The challenge is there when it’s a weekly series because it’s not necessarily going into the next show. You really have to sort-of give the audience something to wanna come back for. It certainly also suits the streaming mindset, but even when you do a show on a network now, and even cable, you should work around the idea and imagine that a lot of people will be finding the show on a streaming service and seeing the episodes in season-long chunks.
So, I’m talking to the guy who pitched the scene in Melrose Place where Kimberly whipped off her wig to reveal a surprise skull scar. How do you tone that tendency down but still keep people coming back for more episodes? This show’s addictive once you start watching.
I’m glad to hear you think that! I just focused here on becoming emotionally involved with the characters and not being as dramatic in Melrose Place. In this case, you know, just being involved in Emily’s journey and finding a character that you wanna stay with and find out what’s next.
In closing, if you could have Emily be best friends with any of your previous characters, who would it be?
Hmmmmm. I think she’d really enjoy hanging out with Carrie Bradshaw. I think Lily sort-of discussed with me that Emily was probably a fan of Sex and the City.
She certainly seems to have learned some of that show’s lessons.
For sure, she did. And I think Emily would love to step into that world.
Netflix’s ‘Emily In Paris’ streams on October 2.