Firefly Lane TV Series 2021 - Review, Cast list, Storyline
Photo: NPR

Firefly Lane - Netflix's Drama, Romance series

Firefly Lane is an American drama streaming television series created by Maggie Friedman for Netflix. The series is based on the novel of the same name by Kristin Hannah. The series premiered on February 3, 2021. On February 22, 2019, it was announced that Netflix had given the production a series order for a first season consisting of ten episodes. The series was created by Maggie Friedman who was also expected to executive produce alongside Stephanie Germain, Katherine Heigl, and Lee Rose.

On July 10, 2019, Katherine Heigl was cast in a lead role. In August 2019, Ben Lawson, Sarah Chalke, Beau Garrett had been cast in starring roles. In September 2019, Ali Skovbye and Roan Curtis were cast to play the teenage versions of Heigl's and Chalke's characters, Tully and Kate, respectively. In the same month, Yael Yurman was cast as a series regular while Jon Ecker and Brandon Jay McLaren were cast in recurring capacities. On December 17, 2019, Patrick Sabongui and Brendan Taylor joined the cast in recurring roles. On February 11, 2020, Jenna Rosenow was cast in a recurring role.

Principal photography for the series began on September 17, 2019, and ended on January 21, 2020, in Burnaby, British Columbia. Vincent De Paula is the cinematographer for the series. On October 14, 2020, an official teaser was released as well as first look images. For the series, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 40% based on 15 critic reviews, with an average rating of 5.48/10. Metacritic gave the series a weighted average score of 59 out of 100 based on 18 critic reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Firefly Lane TV Series 2021 - Review, Cast list, Storyline
Photo: USA Today

Shapeless friendship story

As of this writing, as its Netflix adaptation is about to premiere, the 2008 Kristin Hannah novel Firefly Lane sits at #1 in the Amazon Kindle Store category called "Women's Sagas." And indeed, it is written and presented as a women's saga: the friendship of Kate and Tully, played as adults by Sarah Chalke and Katherine Heigl, as observed over several decades, beginning when they're teenagers and continuing into their forties (at least in these ten episodes), according to

Much of the story, in broad strokes, is familiar: Tully is the rebellious and sparkling one with a past that is difficult in more visible and explicit ways; Kate is the quieter and more cautious one with a past that is difficult in less obvious ways. Tully's life is more focused on her career (as a television talk-show host); Kate's life, although she is a TV producer, is more focused on domesticity (she ultimately has a teenage daughter). There is a man named Johnny who is important to both of them, who winds up being Kate's husband. They are there for each other in times good and bad, in loss and in table-dancing, in sharing their tales of both disastrous boyfriends and promising ones.

The first problem is structural. While the book proceeds decade by decade through the friendship of these two characters, the series scrambles the sections of Tully and Kate's lives so that it's forever hopping between 1970s teenagers (played by Ali Skovbye as Tully and Roan Curtis as Kate), 1980s twentysomethings getting their start, and early-21st-century fortysomethings coping with midlife. And it scrambles the stories not from episode to episode, but from scene to scene, according to NPR.

But the bigger issue, exacerbated by the timeline choices but not entirely the result of them, is that the series as a whole lacks narrative purpose. It treats these women's lives as a series of disconnected emotional vignettes — someone's wedding, someone's professional disappointment, someone's new romantic entanglement — and many of those scenes are lovely and, in isolation, effective.

Firefly Lane TV Series 2021 - Review, Cast list, Storyline
Photo: Guardian

Interesting timeline, disappointing wardrobe

Based on the 2013 novel by Kristin Hannah, "Firefly" follows Tully (Katherine Heigl) and Kate (Sarah Chalke), two opposites-attract best friends who meet as teens in the 1970s and form an intensely close relationship into adulthood.

While there is an appetite for emotional melodramas about women, "Firefly," created by Maggie Friedman ("Witches of East End"), is by no means the champion of the genre. It is confusing and often maddeningly boring; it lacks a cohesive identity other than as a vehicle for Heigl and Chalke to shout and cry. Its time-hopping device, clashing emotional tones, and baffling plot twists add up to something far less than the sum of its parts.

"Firefly" jumps between eras, including the girls' teen years in the '70s (where they're played by Ali Skovbye and Roan Curtis); their time as young TV journalists in the 1980s (where Heigl and Chalke are airbrushed and filtered to the point of looking plasticine); and as 43-year-olds in 2003. In that most recent timeline, Kate is struggling through a divorce and re-entry into the workforce after raising her daughter, and Tully is a full-blown celebrity talk-show host seemingly on par with Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. She is single but battling her fear of commitment. Early on, a funeral takes place in 2005, a puzzling plot point that is wholly unsatisfying, even as some answers to that mystery are revealed throughout the 10-episode first season.

The costuming, production design, and makeup choices are downright distracting, no matter what the time period. Kate and Tully don garish, Halloween-costume style outfits and makeup in the '70s and '80s, but the series sees no real difference, stylistically, between 2003 and what a show set in the present would look like. Other than not-so-casual mentions of MySpace, "American Idol" and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it would be impossible to view that part of the series as a period piece.

Firefly Lane TV Series 2021 - Review, Cast list, Storyline
Photo: USA Today

Firefly Lane's smart cast

If there is one good thing that can be said about "Firefly," it is that Heigl is smartly cast, and a more streamlined show might have been able to do more with her character. Tully fits squarely in Heigl's wheelhouse, a boisterous and driven woman who is always the leader, never the follower, according to USA Today.

Firefly Lane's main cast is headlined by Heigl and Chalke, who are known for past TV roles from the 2000s. In supporting appearances, two young actresses deliver breakthrough performances after previously developing their resumes on popular TV programs.

Katherine Heigl as Tully Hart: Katherine Heigl stars as Tully Hart, a Washington native who is raised by a single mother, Cloud. As a young woman, she dreams of becoming the next Jean Enersen and eventually becomes a famous talk show host. In the 2003 timeline, Tully must decide if she wants to be a mother. On TV, Heigl is best known for starring as Dr. Izzie Stevens in Grey's Anatomy, Charleston Tucker in State of Affairs, and Sadie Ellis in Doubt. During the late 2000s, she headlined the movies Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, and The Ugly Truth.

Ali Skovbye as Young Tully Hart: Ali Skovbye portrays Young Tully in Firefly Lane. During the '70s timeline, Tully befriends Kate and claims that her mother, Cloud, is dying from cancer. She also gains a new life perspective after experiencing a sexual assault. Skovbye portrayed Becky in When Calls the Heart and Annie Sanders in The Man in the High Castle. She also appeared as Emma in the 2019 film Breakthrough and Abigail in the TV series The Gourmet Detective.

Firefly Lane TV Series 2021 - Review, Cast list, Storyline
Photo: Screen Rant

Sarah Chalke as Kate Mularkey: Sarah Chalke co-stars as Kate Mularkey, a kind-hearted Washington native who works as a writer. In the '70s and '80s timelines, she climbs the professional ladder and eventually marries her colleague, Johnny Ryan. As an adult, Kate experiences conflict with Tully over past issues, but they mostly maintain a healthy relationship. Chalke starred as Becky Conner in Roseanne and Dr. Elliot Reid in Scrubs. She also appeared as Stella Zinman in How I Met Your Mother and voices, Beth Smith, in Ricky and Morty.

Roan Curtis As Young Kate Mularkey: Roan Curtis portrays Young Kate Mularkey. In the '70s timeline, she's a quiet character who realizes that her parent's marriage could be crumbling. Young Kate also doesn't realize that her brother is gay, and she has a crush on his best friend, Robbie. Curtis portrayed Emma Gilbert in Shut Eye and Sylvia in The Magicians. She also appeared as Angel Cupid/Marion in the 2017 film Before I Fall.

Ben Lawson as Johnny Ryan: Ben Lawson co-stars as Johnny Ryan, a former war correspondent who has a sexual fling with Tully and ultimately marries Kate. He produces Tully's TV show but feels drawn to return to his former profession. Lawson portrayed DA Peter Garrett in Doubt, Damian Rennett in Designated Survivor, and Rick Wlodimierz in 13 Reasons Why. He also appeared as Larry Hemsworth in A Good Place and Lachlan Murdoch in the 2019 film Bombshell.

Beau Garrett as Cloud: Beau Garrett appears as Cloud, Tully's hippie mother who struggles with addiction problems in the '70s and '80s timelines. She's a so-called "free spirit" with strong opinions about political matters. Garrett portrayed Captain Raye in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Gem in TRON: Legacy. Previously, she appeared as Fiona in Entourage season 1 and Amy in the 2006 film Turistas.

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