Is it possible to recover from a messy divorce and still be friendly for the sake of the kids? Can you find love with someone else after your last long term relationship ended so badly? That’s part of the premise behind Bravo’s first scripted series “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” which followed three women either having gone through, or in the midst of, a divorce and still reeling from it. Sure, the premise maybe familiar but the show’s cast managed to give viewers a different viewpoint.
“Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” followed successful self help author Abby McCarthy (Lisa Edelstein) who was balancing the release of a new book and the crumbling of her marriage to Jake (Paul Adelstein) that led to a trial separation that had to be kept on the quiet to protect their two children. Abby was forced to smile whenever people asked how her marriage was doing and she was struggling to realize how she ended up with a failing marriage. She had an emotional affair with a married father at her kids’ school that never went beyond flirty texts, but she didn’t fully understand the damage she caused until recently. Jake started dating a much younger television actress with an age that made Abby feel uncomfortable since her teenage daughter Lilly (Conner Dwelly) was a fan of more than her own mother. She also had to keep up appearances for her young son Charlie (Dylan Schombing) who was still too young to understand what a divorce would mean to his definition of family. Abby was also afraid to tell her gay but surprisingly traditional brother Max (Patrick Heusinger) the truth for fear of being deemed the one who was at fault. Luckily, Abby had the support of her newfound friends Lyla (Janeane Garofalo) and Phoebe (Beau Garrett) to help her navigate through the complicated world of being a divorced single mother. Both of her friends found two very different perspectives on divorce. Lyla was an attorney who meant through a bitter divorce that still had some venom left in it as she continued to fight with her ex-husband over everything, which now included full custody of their two sons. Phoebe’s divorce life was more of a free spirited one that allowed her to get together with any man or woman she wanted, even though it was evident that she was looking for more than being someone else’s object of lust. Will Abby be able to move on once her divorce is finalized or will she continue to make the same mistakes her friends did?
In terms of questions, the show’s biggest involved whether it would find its footings long enough for viewers to decide whether it was the same level of appointment television that “Sex and the City” once was. The show’s plot episode got off to a rocky start, but the series started to develop some momentum when the cat was out of the proverbial bag when Jake and Abby revealed that they were getting a divorce. Once the truth was revealed, the comedic possibilities started to develop. When Abby and Jake had either a night out with, or without, the kids, the comedy started to truly come to light. Edelstein’s Abby had some comedic gold when she struggled be on her own and ended up getting her boobs caught under a falling window that led to an embarassing 911 call. She also got drunk and danced around rather hysterically. The episode’s funniest moment had Edelstein defacing a poster that Jake’s new girlfriend gave her daughter in a moment of weakness. She spent half the night finding a replacement so that her faughter wouldn’t find out. The trip alone to find the poster was worth the price of admission as Abby, Lyla and Phoebe goofed off as they did so. Another show highlight was when Garfalo’s Lyla pretended to make nice with her ex-husband in an effort to get him drunk so that she could report him for drunk driving so that she would be granted full custody of her children. The fact that her plan backfired made it even funnier. Edelstein’s Abby also had a few romantic experiences that proved to be both steamy and embarassing. She hooked up with the married father, but it turned out to be better by phone than in the real world. Both of them built up their connection that nothing else could top it. Sadly, the show’s only weakness so far proved to be Garrett’s Phoebe who has only been realized to be the show’s resident wild child. It would be nice to see what makes the character tick in order for viewers to decide whether to root for her or not.
As for breakout performances, Edelstein, Adelstein and Garofalo led the pack as their characters brought very different viewpoints to how divorce can impact your future. Edelstein’s Abby was designed to be a put together woman, until she came truly unglued and it cost her a clear financial future. She made Abby to be both a strong and vulnerable woman who had no idea what came next for her. She had chemistry with both Garrett and Garofalo that made viewers think that the three of them could be believable friends off-screen as well. Edelstein’s strongest scene came towards the end of the first episode when Abby came apart at a book signing where she revealed that she wanted her husband dead at one point. She came across as someone no longer willing to cover the holes in her private glass house and wanted to let the cracks be exposed to the world. Edelstein also made Abby’s romantic misadventures seem enjoyable, even when they weren’t to the character. Adelstein’s Jake was initially conceived as the cheating husband when it turned out that he wasn’t the only guilty party. His character also had to learn how to live without the safety net that his marriage to Abby provided and he was even developing a relationship with his younger girlfriend. He also showcased how he was trying to be the better man when sometimes emotions got the best of him. His strongest scene came when Jake had his first night alone with the kids in his new place and nothing was going right. The stress that was Adelstein’s Jake was going through was genuine and relateable to every parent dealing with impatient children who want different things. Garofalo’s Lyla, on the other hand, was the more challenging role as the character was always angry and plotting to destroy her ex for reasons known only to her. Once the character showed some cracks in her armor, viewers started to relate to her. Garofalo’s strongest scene came when Lyla broke down as she realized that her ex was never coming back and now she might lose the kids too. She allowed the character to have a brief moment of vulnerability before her defenses went back up. Let’s hope that she had another moment like this sooner rather than later.
“Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” premiered on December 2nd and airs Tuesdays at 10:00 PM on Bravo.
Verdict: The show managed to capture a new set of female friends overcoming messy divorces in ways that often ended in disaster. Sure, the first episode got off to a rocky start, but the show has gotten better since then.
TV Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)