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Minx (Season Two)

Starz, July 21, 2023

Jul 20, 2023 Photography by Starz Web Exclusive
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If Minx had ended after last season — as it nearly did — its small, enthused fanbase would’ve called it a bittersweet but well crafted conclusion to a promising, underrated series. The period comedy set in the ‘70s is about the titular Minx, a scrappy feminist porn mag’s herky-jerk launch centered on Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond, Guardians of the Galaxy, Elementary).

Lovebond is ready for a leading role, playing feminist writer and theorist Joyce as obliviously uptight and pretentious. Her preconceptions about progressivism are challenged by pornographer Doug Renetti and his ragtag skin mag team. Doug is played with sleazy glee by Jake Johnson (The Mummy). He has a penchant for flashy suits and even more colorful innuendo. But just as Joyce dismissed him as a shallow misogynist, he proved himself to be a perfect partner for her magazine–partly because he was the only publisher who showed interest in it. But he balanced Joyce’s idealistic, haughty–and at times unreadable–magazine articles with an appreciation for sexy centerfolds.

Most essentially, Doug’s team also helped Joyce not be so buttoned up. The team: former centerfold turned centerfold coordinator Bambi (Jessica Lowe), photographer Richie (Oscar Montoya), and Joyce’s sister Shelly (Lennon Parham, who convincingly plays an unsatisfied housewife in every sense of the word) convince Joyce her essays are too highfalutin and judgmental. The fruits of those efforts are visible both in her professional and personal life in this meaningful new season.

At Season Two’s outset, Doug’s pride initially impedes him. His porn publishing company is swimming in debt without the best selling Minx in their midst, after he relinquished control of the magazine in last season’s finale. He’s advised to make good with Joyce by his far better professional and personal half Tina, a no-nonsense Idara Victor. (When will she finally dump Doug’s sorry ass and enroll in business school?)

Thankfully he listens, and just in time. Joyce is being courted by major publishers like Condé Nast early on in these new episodes. She’s not content with their offers, clearly missing the underdog nature and creative freedom of Minx as a startup. As she dithers between the snazzy offers, the team members she poached from Doug when his greed hit its nadir begin to lose their patience. Prime example: Richie astutely pads his income by accepting private photoshoot proposals. His offhand mention of a client catches Doug’s attention.

That client is Constance, a pioneering female mogul who Joyce has long idolized (played with poise but clearly latent ruthlessness by Elizabeth Perkins of Weeds and Big). When she tags along with Richie for the tantalizing shoot of Constance with her favorite boy toy for the millionaire’s private collection, Joyce bumbles to no end. Fortunately, Doug has a follow-up meeting, and a longer term plan to woo Constance as a benefactor who will give Minx more latitude than the stuffy established publishing houses. He includes Joyce in this wheeling and dealing, rather than running roughshod over the ideals they are supposed to be promoting in their publication. Whether Constance will be the partner either of them hopes for remains to be seen.

The newly successful Joyce is embracing a range of ideas. She is also living a rockstar lifestyle as Minx quickly grows a loyal (and hot under the collar) following Better still: she is courted by actual rock stars who aren’t only interested in being interviewed for a magazine with a soaring readership— they’re also keen on some pillow talk with the gorgeous, former holier-than-thou writer/editor. When her character is offered a bump of coke, Lovibond uses the body language that brought Joyce so vividly to life ever since the premiere episode, flinching rigidly, but instead of turning her nose up this time she flashes a smile and embraces her new lifestyle as the it girl.

Joyce isn’t the only character showing growth. Last season, Doug became blinded by the potential of the untapped horny housewife market. Doug recruited a sexist celebrity centerfold because he was famous, rather than a male model that aligned with the Minx ethos Joyce worked so hard to build. Then Doug all but erases Joyce’s credibility by hogging the limelight during an interview about the magazine on the then-ubiquitous Dick Cavett Show.

Many of the partnerships remain precariously flawed throughout these new episodes. Richie (who Montoya plays with a believable flamboyance that feels lived in and never goes insultingly over the top) has lofty photo concepts that would appeal to Minx’s queer readership– though Joyce has concerns about the magazine’s female targeting (and decidedly heteronormative) advertisers. To say she handles this issue poorly would be an understatement. Tina (understandably) gets fed up with Doug taking her for granted. When Shelly realized last season that her tepid marriage paled in comparison to trysts with her friend-turned-friend with benefits, Bambi, she was plagued with guilt about both adultery and the demands on a ‘70s housewife’s time, rushing home to tend to her kids and the cooking and cleaning. Her dynamic with Bambi, her husband, and her sexuality in general, remains one of Minx’s most compelling storylines this season.

Like the volatility of the sexual politics of the decade it is set, not to mention the crushing magazine production cycles that often give its plot suspense, Minx was nixed in the midst of the streaming age’s sea changes by HBO Max. Thankfully, Starz picked up the show and let the brilliantly socially conscious writers, period detail-oriented set and wardrobe designers, and this rollicking cast build on the first season’s promise. As Doug might put it, this was the right move, because Minx now has even more to say about the intersections, and clashes, between feminism and LGBTQ+ rights, the ability of toxically masculine shot callers to redeem themselves, and the competing demands that weigh mothers down. Let’s hope Starz treats this series better. (www.starz.com/us/en/series/minx/)

Author rating: 8/10

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