February 24, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce”


THE GIRLFRIENDS’ GUIDE TO DIVORCE has made its way, at least somewhat, past a very shaky start–not so much in the ratings, which have remained mediocre (although steady enough for Bravo to declare its first scripted 1-hour a win and order another season), but dramatically.  At the start, Girlfriends pandered all too blatantly to Bravo’s Real Housewives culture, with many scenes of heroine Abby McCarthy (Lisa Edelstein) and her pals drinking cocktails or coffee and being gleefully bitchy to one another and everyone around them.  Through the ensuing weeks series creator Marti Noxon has pruned the show of some of its more egregious “comedy,” as well as the gimmickry satire of Abby’s adventures in the publishing world as she writes the handbook we’re watching, and shaped the characters into inhabitants of a fairly pleasing light soap, something like Mistresses but with less melodrama and a bit more emotional gravity.

That’s not to say the show has abandoned all its middle-aged ladies’ wish-fulfillment tendencies.  Abby’s first post-breakup serious boyfriend has been fantasy boy-toy Will (Warren Christie), a hunky bartender significantly younger than she is who also happens to be a deeply sensitive and perceptive writer, while friend and divorce lawyer Delia (Necar Zadegan) is the love of billionaire client Gordon (Matthew Glave), and Phoebe (Beau Garrett) has won the heart of social-minded hunk Marco (Brandon Jay McLaren).  (To be fair, Abby’s ex Jake (Paul Adelstein) wasn’t doing badly either with a much younger CW starlet.)  The problems of these characters, often at the level of wondering if they’ve donated the right item to the ritzy private school fundraising auction, are mostly escapist.

As the tone of Girlfriends has moderated, it’s become a more likable hour, and it’s also become more believable that these characters would actually be friends.   The departure midway through the season of co-star Janeane Garofalo, who played probably the show’s most polarizing character, was helpful, whatever the reasons for her exit may have been; she was replaced by Alanna Ubach as Jo, a neurotic but easier to take friend of Abby’s who discovered after her marriage ended that her ex had a second family.  Girlfriends has plenty of elaborate set-pieces (the finale featured a party whose star attraction was a paintball attack on Abby’s wedding dress), but it’s best in its small moments, instances of awkwardness and paranoia between former spouses, and between parents and children, that feel like they come from actual experience instead of a writers room.

The season finale, written by Noxon and directed by Robert Duncan McNeil, set up some low-key cliffhangers.  Delia became engaged to Gordon, only to discover almost immediately that he was looking for a traditional kind of marriage that might smother her.  Jo had to accept the fact that her tightly wound daughter Zooey (Allison Thornton) wasn’t as well-adjusted as she appeared (shoplifting was the way she let off steam), and wanted to spend time with her errant father.  Phoebe, having told Marco about her ugly years as an adolescent model abused by a famous photographer whose children now attend the same school as hers, may be facing criminal charges of assault for her impulsive attack on the photographer.  And Abby, who immediately followed signing the divorce papers with Jake by going to bed with him, entertaining a reconciliation, and breaking up with Will, doesn’t know that Jake’s CW girlfriend is pregnant.

None of these are likely to keep viewers at the edge of their seats for the next several months, and Girlfriends’ Guide is far from essential TV drama.  It has, however, become a well-performed, moderately absorbing hour with more depth than it first seemed capable of achieving.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."