Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce is Bravo’s first scripted series, and the network wants us to believe it’s an edgy one. The posters show star Lisa Edelstein flashing her naked ring finger, as if she were flipping us off, alongside the tagline ”Go find yourself.” It’s exactly the kind of playfulness you might welcome from the show’s creator, Marti Noxon, who got her start on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But the first two episodes offer so little beyond your standard Bravo fare—rosé-fueled meltdowns! gay BFFs who call you ”sister”!—that Noxon should’ve called it The Fake Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Maybe the problem is that GGTD exists in that tenuous place where serious marriage drama and breezy buddy comedy meet up, air-kiss, and exchange plastic surgeons’ numbers. The tone changes so abruptly, what’s meant to be funny comes off as bitter.
Inspired by the real Girlfriends’ Guide books by Vicki Iovine, the series focuses on Abby (Edelstein), a self-help author whose image as the perfect wife and mother is tarnished when she reveals she’s splitting from husband Jake (Paul Adelstein). Coached by her divorced friends—lawyer Lyla (Janeane Garofalo) and former model Phoebe (Beau Garrett)—she starts dating again and discovers a brave new world of handsome, nonthreatening men with bangs. The jokes reinforce tired clichés about the shallowness of L.A. women: Conversations are largely limited to yoga, cleanses, designer baby goods, and brunch. And when they’re not dissecting Gwyneth Paltrow’s ”conscious uncoupling,” they’re rehashing taboos you heard on Sex and the City more than 10 years ago. The dramatic moments feel more genuine, like when Abby and Jake tell their kids they’re divorcing, but they can also be unintentionally funny. ”You’re an eye-looker,” Abby tells a suitor. ”You look at women with your eyes.” You could say that dialogue is awkward, but only if you’re a mouth-talker who talks with her mouth.
If this show weren’t written by a woman, you might think it’s vaguely misogynistic, painting La-La Land ladies as gold-digging whores. Phoebe, who insists that she and her friends are ”Lean In women,” literally sleeps with her ex-husband in exchange for money. Most of the women are more high-powered than their exes, which puts a slightly fresh twist on the usual trophy-wife-gets-her-groove-back rom-coms, but apparently they’re also to blame for emasculating their husbands. And they’re largely sexless, according to Abby, until the moment they sign their divorce papers and start to have some real fun: Coming attractions reveal Abby joining a threesome, entertaining the idea of hiring a male escort, and tensely gripping a pregnancy test. (Maybe too much fun?) But hey, as that poster suggests, it’s only when you take that ring off your finger that you can truly ”find yourself.” And if Girlfriends’ Guide is any indication, you’ll likely find yourself sitting with your besties at some sad, low-carb brunch. C