what i watched last week
throwback thursday: december 4, 1969: fred hampton and mark clark are murdered by the fbi and chicago police

girlfriends' guide to divorce, series premiere

I wrote a couple of days ago about getting out of the comfort zone of taste preferences. Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce is an example, one that leads me to figure out why I decided to watch it.

The series is on the Bravo network, known primarily for its reality programming. I don’t have an opinion about Bravo, although actions speak louder than words, and I don’t think I’ve ever watched one of Bravo’s shows. It is loosely based on a series of “Girlfriends’ Guides” written by Vicki Iovine. I had never heard of those books, and was admittedly surprised to find that I actually knew a few things about Iovine. As Vicki McCarty, she as Playmate of the Month in September of 1979 … that was in middle of my years as a steelworker, when pictures of Playmates were regularly posted on machines … I’d seen her pictures more than once back then without knowing who she was. She became Vicki Iovine when she married Jimmy Iovine, who apparently once posted a comment on this blog chewing my ass for not appreciating The Carpenters. She also got a B.A. in Journalism and a subsequent law degree at Cal. All of this makes for an interesting story, but it’s not something that would make me think to watch Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, especially since I knew none of it until I looked her up for this blog post.

The guiding creative force behind the series is Marti Noxon, someone whose work I do know. Noxon joined the staff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Season Two as a writer, and by the end of the series was functioning as the showrunner. She doesn’t have the best reputation among hardcore Buffy fans, who felt a bit jilted when Joss Whedon began spending less time on the show. (On the plus side, Noxon had a lot to do with casting Amber Benson as Tara, for which Buffy fans are forever grateful.) Noxon has been busy since her Buffy days, and it’s silly to complain because she wrote a lesser Buffy episode back in the day.

The closest prior equivalent to Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, other than Bravo’s reality shows, is Sex and the City. The comparison makes a certain amount of sense: a group of adult women friends work their way through modern life, having each others’ backs along the way. I liked Sex and the City, which may be the first connection between my taste preferences and this new series.

But the basic question remains: why did I decide to watch this show, given all of the other fine series awaiting my attention? Well, it got some nice early reviews, and I pay close attention to critics. (Tim Goodman in particular was big on the show.) Joss Whedon live-tweeted the premiere, and there’s no better way to get me to watch (I’m still watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., after all).

I’ve seen the first two episodes, and I’m in. One of my favorites, Lisa Edelstein, is the lead, and another of my favorites, Janeane Garofalo, has a big part, as well. The writing is sharp … Noxon is very good here at moving between funny and serious, making this a dramedy that elevates the tired genre. Edelstein plays the author of a series of “Girlfriends’ Guides” whose marriage is falling apart. There are lots of scenes of Edelstein, Garofalo, and Beau Garrett hanging out and hashing out their problems (hence the SATC reference). There are some painful scenes, but not in the manner of “cringe comedy” … it’s just hard to watch people when they are miserable. But there is a good balance … overall, it’s not hard to watch at all. Grade for first two episodes: B+.

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