The holiday season is over, Hallmark Christmas movies no longer litter TV screens across the country and reality has set back in. However, the release of season two of “Sweet Magnolias” proves Netflix isn’t quite ready to put an end to the annual streams of those small-town warm and fuzzy feel-good shows.
Going into this season, my expectations weren’t particularly high or low. In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you much about what happened in the first season of “Sweet Magnolias”; I couldn’t tell you a single character’s name, the name of the town or any of the key events. The only thing I could remember was thinking how bizarre the ending was (even though I couldn’t exactly remember what happened in those last moments). Season one was released in that naively optimistic time right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when we all thought we were getting an extended spring break and would be back in a couple of weeks. With so much newfound time on my hands, I scrolled through Netflix, watching whatever would come up on my home page, and in May 2020 when season one of “Sweet Magnolias” was released, I tuned in to watch.
The show follows a trio of friends through their lives in the small town of Serenity, South Carolina (yes, you can make some correct assumptions about the show by the name of the town alone). In season one, the main protagonist, Maddie (Joanna Garcia Swisher, “Once Upon a Time”), was working through a recent divorce from her ex-husband Bill (Chris Klein, “The Flash”) after he cheated on her with his then-pregnant girlfriend Noreen (Jamie Lynn Spears, “Zoey 101”). She tries to balance her new status as a single mom of two teenage boys and one young daughter while also trying to open her own business with her two best friends — and fellow co-protagonists — Dana Sue (Brooke Elliott, “Drop Dead Diva”) and Helen (Heather Headley, “Respect”), all the while coming into a new romance. Dana Sue is busy as head chef of her restaurant and mother to her teenage daughter, in addition to also working through a separation from her husband. Helen is a successful attorney who is also dealing with a breakup, from her long-time boyfriend, after it comes to light that he doesn’t want children while she desperately does.
Season two of “Sweet Magnolias” picks up right after season one’s cliffhanger: the teenagers of the show are at a party after prom when Maddie’s children, Ty (Carson Rowland, “I am Frankie”) and Kyle (Logan Allen, “Bernie the Dolphin”), get into a fight that ends with Kyle and his friend (both of whom are only freshmen in high school and don’t know how to drive) taking off in Ty’s car. The final shot shows the car veering off the road with paramedics rushing to help.
Season two focuses much more on the individual relationships of the cast members: Ty and Kyle have a lot to work through as brothers, mainly since both are in somewhat of a complicated love triangle with Dana Sue’s daughter, Annie (Anneliese Judge, “Where’s Rose”); Helen struggles with a miscarriage and continues to make efforts to become a mother; Dana Sue finds herself in the middle of two men and must decide who to pick and how it will affect her and her daughter’s life. The characters have more realistic and emotional problems that make it a more engaging watch, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying I was on the edge of my seat.
There is also something charming about the small town they live in that feels very reminiscent of Stars Hollow from “Gilmore Girls,” and it is easy to get the same feel-good sense as you would from a Hallmark movie. However, that also comes along with its share of clichés and predictable plotlines that left me rolling my eyes far too often. The lessons the show wants you to take away are practically presented in flashing lights. It’s also hard to feel strongly attached to any of the characters. None are built or presented in a way that gives much insight into them, leaving a cast of relatively flat and mundane individuals. If you like overwhelming positivity and a guarantee that nothing will go wrong, or maybe if you just want to pretend our world is like that, “Sweet Magnolias” is a great watch; if you’re looking for interesting characters, a juicy plot and a show that goes beyond being good enough to watch but not quite good enough to remember, I would suggest looking elsewhere.
Daily Arts Writer Jenna Jaehnig can be reached at email@example.com.