Bravo premieres its first original scripted series, “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” on Tuesday night and it is launching with a winner. Inspired by the books by Vicki Iovine, “Girlfriends” follows the life of Abby McCarthy (Lisa Edelstein), a self-help book author who is living a lie. Despite dispensing advice on how to keep the magic in a marriage, hers is on the brink of divorce. When she finally can take it no longer, she self-destructs at a book signing for her latest advice tome, telling her audience of ardent fans that her life would be so much easier if her husband (Paul Adelstein as hubby Jake) had died.
“The book was just a jumping off point,” says executive producer Marti Noxon. “Vicki Iovine is a wonderful, inspiring woman but she already has a new husband. She pulled her life together really quickly. In our premise, Abby is the bread winner and dealing with a lot of things that, I think, modern women haven’t been dealing with for very long. The economic power of the household is different than we’ve been taught, so I think the jumping off point was the story of a woman who gives advice professionally and has her life implode because she gives advice about marriage and family, and hers all goes to hell.”
In so many stories about divorce, the man is the bad guy, but in “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” Abby takes equal responsibility for her breakup with Jake, because she was having an “emotional” affair with another man. So, while she didn’t technically cheat, she gave Jake cause to find solace in another woman’s (Julianna Guill) arms. The problem is magnified because that woman is a star of a TV show on The CW, and she isn’t playing a parent.
“It is one of those great things that happen when you’re writing a show, you have an idea where the first 13 are going, but then things happen organically,” Noxon continues. “There was this amazing amount of chemistry between Paul and Lisa, so the story became more focused on the will they — or won’t they. So the arc of Season 1 is twofold: First, will Abby rescue her career? Will she be able to dig herself out of the problem she has made? And second, the guy she meets in Episode 1 — Will (Warren Christie) –– comes back, so she is contemplating a relationship with a much younger man, which is challenging. Will, Jake and Abby form an interesting love triangle. Also, Jake is dating Rebecca Riley (Guill) and that becomes pretty significant.”
Noxon, who has a lot of TV experience with series including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice” and “Glee,” knows how important casting is to a project, so it was important to find the perfect Abby.
“Lisa’s audition was one of the most exciting auditions I have been in for the lead of a show,” she says. “Normally, you can imagine, that takes a number of tries. She came in and she was so beautiful and so funny — I think that maybe people don’t know she is so funny from watching House. But she’s the kind of person you want to be friends with. It felt like she is everybody’s girlfriend.”
The goal of “Girlfriends” is, of course to be entertaining and to attract an audience, but Noxon and Edelstein also want to keep it real, so there are scenes, such as Abby and Jake at a mediator’s office that was inspired by an incident from one of the writer’s lives. As is the fact that Abby changes girlfriends when she goes from married to separated.
“There is a reality to women who share custody with their ex-husbands,” Noxon says. “They have Tuesday nights or Wednesday nights and go through loneliness and a period of adjustment. So they reach out to women going through the same thing. They may not have been your friend otherwise, but you find yourself growing close to people you might not have before. To me that sort of strange bedfellows aspect is interesting.”
“Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce” premieres Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 10 p.m. on Bravo.