The 1990s nostalgia train has long left the station.
Music, fashion and what seems like the entirety of Tumblr has been obsessed with reviving two-decades-ago trends for so long now that our collective cultural flashback has no choice but to finally, slowly creep into the dreaded early 2000s. Before we put a cork in the era that gave us Blind Melon and Beanie Babies, however, music-channel-turned-pop-time-machine VH1 is delivering unto us Hindsight, a new show that once again mines our seemingly neverending Nineties love by mixing throwback jams with a romcom fantasy scenario that could have been plucked from the grunge decade.
Hindsight is built on the premise that present-day fortysomething Becca (Laura Ramsey), on the eve of her second marriage to a sweet but boring man, is suddenly thrust back into 1995 — just before she made all the decisions that, over the decades, plunged her into mediocrity. In the present, she is stuck in a middle management job, full of regrets about her first marriage, and childless — which no doubt bothers her society-type mother more than it does Becca. In ’95, she was wild, she was free, she was wearing moto jackets and listening to the Spin Doctors.
After meeting a handsome stranger (Collins Pennie) at a newsstand who recites a Buddhist proverb about seizing the day, she wakes up on her wedding day — her first wedding day, in 1995, on which she is to marry hot artist type Sean (whose buff torso is perhaps the most interesting thing about him). Once Becca realizes she’s traveled back in time — her dad has not yet remarried a woman younger than her, for starters — she immediately begins altering her past/now-present decisions, letting her best friend Lolly (Sarah Goldberg) in on the whole time travel situation, as Lolly gawks in furry flip-flop slippers and a 90210 baby-doll tee.
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The first two episodes focus on Becca revising her past decisions in order to have a happier future life — making better choices about men, friends and her job, although mostly she’s focused on the men. Its home being VH1, a song from the era plays every five minutes, and while most of the voices are female — Liz Phair, Alanis Morrissette, Juliana Hatfield, the Cranberries — we also get unfortunate reminders of Nineties musical moments we’ve tried to forget, like the fact that Collective Soul was a multiplatinum-selling band. (Word to the wise: try to avoid revisiting “Shine.” Seriously.)
In a certain sense, Hindsight acts as an escapist vessel for former Nineties females who have felt the pressure of having it all, offering a chance to look back wistfully to their presumably more awesome origin story. In a culture that’s currently obsessed with arguing about whether women can have it all, it’s especially tempting to look back to a time when we didn’t have to debate it; we just did it. But the way Hindsight presents its case is somewhat grim for a comedy, reveling in Becca’s total meltdown and frantic freakout mode; its nostalgia feels a bit too much like midlife crisis, which is never a fun time unless you’re the person having it.
Still, the characters are mostly likable — especially Goldberg, who is very funny as Becca’s hapless best friend Lolly, played as a classic Clinton-era archetype of the impulsive smart-ditz. (Alicia Silverstone in Clueless comes to mind.) And there are funny moments, particularly when Becca, “from the future,” tries explaining future tech developments. (Of the wondrous iPhone, a calling device that is comprised of a screen entirely, Lolly wonders: “Is it in your eye?”) There are also knowing winks from Nineties woman to Nineties woman — like when Becca tries to find something to wear and settles on a pair of clogs, “the world’s most comfortable shoes, and you can walk all day in them!” Somehow that hideous ancestor of the Croc was super popular back then!
The strongest and most promising aspect of VH1’s show is the friendship between Becca and Lolly, which faltered sometime in the mid-2000s for as-yet-undisclosed reasons. As Becca spins herself into multiple tizzies, Lolly is the cool stoner babe who’s there to tell her to chill the hell out. When Lolly gets too drunk and barfs into the trash can, Becca is there to hold her hair. As a gesture, it’s all very in-your-twenties-glorifying and sweet, and exactly what Hindsight should hinge its future on as it fleshes out its thin 13 Going on 30-style plot. But if not…hey, there’s still an entire decade of throwback guitar jams to lean on. And the wistful memories of smoking in bars.