‘Minx’ Season 2 Review: Feminist Comedy Keeps The Fun Going On Starz

‘Minx’ Season 2 Review: Feminist Comedy Keeps The Fun Going On Starz

For “Minx,” the show, it’s been a rocky path. Despite strong reviews, good word of mouth and even a swift Season 2 renewal for the period porn comedy, the show became a casualty of upheaval at its parent company. Scrambling to pay down debt from the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, Inc., CEO David Zaslav took a series of drastic steps that alienated creatives and consumers alike. Entire back catalogs disappeared from streaming services; “Batgirl,” a big-name superhero project,  was scrapped for a tax break despite completing production; and “Minx” had its renewal rolled back while still shooting Season 2.

But for Minx, the fictional magazine within the show, things are looking up. We know this because, this week, the show makes a miraculous return on Starz, a network that’s capitalized on its competitors’ hot-and-cold decision making by picking up both “Minx” and “Three Women,” the limited series nixed by Showtime before it even premiered. The new episodes, all eight of which were shared with critics in advance, resolve some of the cliffhangers that could’ve left fans wanting if “Minx” were truly cut short: what editor Joyce Prigger (Ophelia Lovibond) will do with ownership of her ascendant publication, or whether Tina (Idara Victor) will choose business school over sleaze kingpin Doug Renetti (Jake Johnson), her boss-turned-boyfriend. Before long, however, the season starts to feel like wish fulfillment — a turn that sometimes saps the show of conflict, but also hits especially hard given how close “Minx” came to the brink. If our time with these characters is precious, why not see them happy?

Joyce and Doug ended last season on the outs as business partners, even though the fusion of her feminist intellect with his sensational instincts gave the magazine its ethos as the thinking woman’s erotica. (“Minx” is loosely inspired by the real-life magazine Viva, founded in 1973 by Penthouse magnate Bob Guccione.) Unsurprisingly, they patch things up pretty quickly in Season 2, but they’re soon joined by a third collaborator: Constance Papadopoulos (Elizabeth Perkins), the eccentric widow of a Greek shipping magnate. Joyce may take meetings with the likes of Hearst and Condé Nast, but when photographer Richie (Oscar Montoya) gets a gig shooting Constance and her boytoy, the Minx team realizes they can use a patron’s money to go independent.

With both an audience and financial backing finally in place, Minx and “Minx” alike are free to let their shag-cut hair down and enjoy themselves. Flush with success, the magazine’s staff become Forrest Gumps of the ‘70s counterculture. Joan Didion stops by a Minx screening of “Deep Throat,” which comes together with an assist from “Godfather” producer Bob Evans; Joyce has a fling with rocker Graham Nash and poses for the cover of Rolling Stone, turning her into a celebrity editor on par with Gloria Steinem. (Maybe she, too, will have a cameo on the next season of “And Just Like That.”) The tone is breezy, a more lighthearted take on the high season of second wave feminism than, say, “Mrs. America.” That show used historical figures to dramatize fissures in the women’s liberation movement that continue to affect the present day; “Minx” wants to celebrate what once was.

As Joyce takes to the spotlight and Doug questions his role in a company now run by women — in one amusing side quest, the publisher occupies himself with a new science periodical helmed by Carl Sagan — “Minx” leans on its ensemble, as comedies can do when given more time to deepen their bench. Jessica Lowe was a Season 1 standout as Bambi, a nude model turned jill-of-all-trades who gets Minx off the ground. This season, Bambi takes over Tina’s old job as Doug’s secretary, making Lowe’s performance even more central. Richie gets to anchor one of the season’s weightiest story lines, which explores the tension between the queer roots of Minx’s nude male aesthetic and a masthead reluctant to embrace its queer fanbase. And after hooking up with Bambi, Joyce’s older sister Shelly (Lennon Parham) continues to explore her sexuality, a subplot that leads to both goofy suburban key parties and a more serious dispute with Joyce, who’s too wrapped up in her own notoriety to notice Shelly going through changes of her own.

Such stories are the most obvious upside of “Minx” getting a new lease on life. These are characters we already liked; after an additional season spent watching their ups and downs, they’re closer to the parasocial friends that the strongest TV casts can evolve into over the course of a show. For now, though, it’s mostly ups. What obstacles there are remain in the distance until the closing stretch, to set up a potential (and welcome) Season 3. Before that bill comes due, “Minx” is here to have fun. The faux-celebrity cameos can get exhausting — did we really need impressions of Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne? — but for the series regulars, it’s a pleasure just to watch them thrive.

Season 2 of “Minx” will premiere July 21 on Starz, with new episodes airing weekly on Fridays.