“Fly Girls,” premiering Wednesday on the CW, is a reality series that follows five female flight attendants for Virgin America. Let me apologize in advance for the metaphor now arriving at Gate 8: It never gets off the ground.
Notwithstanding a few apparently real tears and a bleeped expletive spoken in possibly real anger, the show is made of clearly concocted crises nearly from takeoff to landing, with little to offer beyond a long, though not penetrating, look at its attractive leads.
It is not particularly enlightening as to the work they do -- all you will learn about that in the first two episodes is that the acronym IFB stands for "in-flight boyfriend" (the cute guy you flirt with to make the time pass) and that flight attendants are supposed to stop drinking 12 hours before their next shift. Nor is it exciting even on its own terms, except possibly to those who might find the statement "You stand on the red carpet in uniform -- it's pretty big" thrillingly true.
Dressed in crisp white shirts, tight black skirts and high heels, the Virgin "in-flight team members" are clearly meant to recall an earlier, nicer age of air travel. But unlike the stews of old, liberated (in the popular, male imagination at least) only in the sense that They Would Have Sex, we are meant to regard these modern air workers as icons of post-feminist empowerment, as their own women (yet, for purposes of the drama, not yet entirely finished or fulfilled).
That pitch is made right in the opening credits: Nikole describes flight attendants as "independent, confident successful women who are in control"; Mandalay, called Mandy, proclaims, "I was destined for the white-picket-fence life of settling down, getting married and having kids. I knew that wasn't me. . . . Now I'm in control of my own destiny."
Each has been assigned a character or conflict that might have something to do with their actual lives. Farrah, who is slightly older than the rest -- old enough to have been named Farrah, for Fawcett -- with several years on the job, wonders if life on Earth has been passing her by while she flew through the air. Tasha misses her son. Louise will apparently have to deal with her traditional, Chinese-Vietnamese family's disapproval in her choice of work. Mandy (sweet) and Nikole (salty) are former friends: "Hopefully she's grown up," M says of N. "I have."
Given the association not just with a brand, but with a company whose business -- sending people miles into the air in narrow metal tubes -- requires its employees to look intelligent and responsible, the train-wreck element that distinguishes most reality shows is absent here.
Even designated mean girl Nikole is only just a little bad -- as when, at a "promo event," she steals Mandy's place in order to stand next to Virgin America part-owner Richard Branson on a firetruck. Dare to dream, young girls of America, and that might one day be you.