November 30, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce”


GIRLFRIENDS’ GUIDE TO DIVORCE:  Tuesday 10PM on Bravo – If Nothing Else Is On…

Bravo has established a very successful brand for itself in the unscripted realm, notably with the Real Housewives franchise and its seemingly innumerable spin-offs, and now with GIRLFRIENDS’ GUIDE TO DIVORCE, the network is attempting to extend that brand to scripted dramedy.  In its initial hour, though, the show treads in extremely familiar territory, and whether fans of the network’s signature style will find a similar zing from the effort is open to question.

The set-up is simple:  Abby (Lisa Edelstein) is all but officially split from husband Jake (Paul Adelstein), but the pair haven’t quite admitted it to their children or themselves.  Officially, they’re on a “break,” with Jake living elsewhere–he’s dating a CW actress little more than half his age–and showing up pre-dawn each morning so he’ll be there when the kids wake up. Once they’re off to school, he leaves Abby to agonize over the situation with the most cliched group of confidantes imaginable:  pals lawyer Lyla (Janeane Garofalo) and ex-model Phoebe (Beau Garrett), both themselves divorced, and gay brother Max (Patrick Heusinger).  Lyla acts like Miranda from Sex and the City, while Phoebe dresses like Jessa on Girls, and so far there’s not much more to them than that.  Even the touch that’s meant to give the story a bit of satiric edge is old-hat, as Abby is also the best-selling author of a series of “Girlfriends’ Guides” to love and marriage.  (If Abby had been writing the books cynically all along, that might at least have been fun, but no, she’s been completely sincere about her romantic happily-ever-after values.)

Series creator Marti Noxon has been a strong writing voice on shows from Buffy the Vampire Slayer days, but Girlfriends has very little spark and is remarkably light on wit.  The pilot is talky to the point of dreariness, mostly because none of the characters say or do anything the least bit surprising.  When there is the hint of something interesting going on, like Lyla calling the cops on her ex after she’s slept with him, or the reveal that the reason Jake left Abby is become she had a (strictly platonic!) bond with another man, those threads are dropped instantly.  The plot, such as it is, is contrived:  no sooner does Abby re-enter the dating world after her friends have counseled her to get laid than, despite all the power of her self-deprecation, she’s in bed with the hot manager of a downtown LA club half her age, who not only wants to sleep with her, but wants her to hang around afterward.  (She instantly obsesses herself back home, where she and Jake finally have a fight loud enough to wake up the kids, which requires them to tell the truth about their situation.)  That leads to the public book-signing of her new Girlfriends’ Guide that’s been telegraphed all through the hour, where with the help of a few tranquilizers, she tells her public about her real, less than ideal home life.

Girlfriends has been put together professionally enough, with slick pilot direction by Adam Brooks, and Edelstein and Adelstein, in particular, are solid actors who give their climactic fight scene a little crackle.  It’s a bad sign, though, when a relatively serious-minded series brings forth memories of USA’s misbegotten Satisfaction, which at least has some melodrama going for it (as stupid as much of it is).  Girlfriends also has the unfortunate timing to be airing while The Affair is with us, a show that deals with similar material in much deeper and more unexpected ways.

Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce, at least in the first instance, lacks the outrageousness of the unscripted shows with which it’s meant to provide a fit, and it doesn’t substitute insight or originality in its place.  Bravo is taking a big swing by jumping into scripted television, but it may have chosen the wrong pitch.


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."