Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Girlfriends’ Guide needs to remember its title

Illustration for article titled Girlfriends’ Guide needs to remember its title

Girlfriends’ Guide, like other girlfriends shows (Sex And The City, Living Single, Golden Girls) doesn’t just offer a valuable female perspective. It also shows how female friendships can form a foundation for that perspective. In SATC, even Mr. Big knew he came in fourth in Carrie’s heart after her friends. The girls may have had episode-long battles, but they never lasted long, even between two friends as disparate as straightlaced Charlotte and free spirit Samantha.

Girlfriends’ Guide’s title highlights these relationships even more, but the friendships don’t quite feel as solid. Delia showed up almost as a villain in the middle of last season. Beautiful and flighty Phoebe at least offers deeper struggles this season past who she’s sleeping with, even as her kids seem to have disappeared. But I am stumped to find a valid reason why any of these people would be friends with Jo.

To the show’s credit, Jo came into the series with some backstory, after Janeane Garofalo unfortunately left last season (Janeane, please come back; all is forgiven). Lots of times we’re friends with people we’re different from, or we find that we’ve changed in different ways. Then the friendship struggles to change along with us. Jo arrived from New York, splitting from her husband with her genius daughter Zoey in tow, and almost immediately chastises Abby—whose house she’s staying at for free—for no longer being the free spirit she once was. Jo’s archetype appears to be that abrasive, in-your-face person, who says obnoxious things and then backs it up with, “Hey, I’m just telling the truth.” Yes, but you’re also being an asshole. Jo is being such an asshole I’m cringing whenever she’s on the screen, because she is actively detracting from my enjoyment of the show. I find her infinitely frustrating, just like Abby does.

Last week, Abby rightly kicked Jo out of her house after she took advantage of her hospitality one too many times (well, several too many times, but this was a breaking point). This week, Jo sulks and petulantly moves her stuff out of Abby’s house, making cracks about being “self-sufficient”: again, to a friend she’s been staying with for months.

The women on this show are all faced with obstacles, mostly posed by the men in their lives. Abby now has a brand as a hot divorcee, making this the wrong time to reconcile with her estranged husband Jake, even though they’re getting along better than ever. Phoebe’s boyfriend falls off the wagon after she gets wasted, makes snide remarks, and leaves because he can’t stay sober around her. Delia insists to her partner that she doesn’t want an elaborate wedding, but he keeps pushing ahead with his over-the-top plans (although Jonathan the wedding planner is pretty hilarious). So, life is hard, and as single mothers like some of these women are, it can be even harder. Just like our friends from New York, it’s nice when they can lean on each other, and be supportive for each other. Delia is tactful when she asks about Phoebe’s relationship. All attend horrible Jo’s bakery opening, and cheer when she takes down a hater in an inspired speech.

But when Jo finds out that her daughter knows about Abby and Paul’s dalliance, it’s another reason for her to go off on Abby, the “friend” that she clearly has a lot of resentment toward. This is not a supportive relationship we would value watching, only a confounding one where we wonder why the nice lady would talk to the grumpy short redhead at all, let alone follow her around the house, trying to make amends.


What it comes down to is: Do these people want the best for us? Or do they only want the best for us when what they wast aligns with what we want? Was it Oscar Wilde, or perhaps Morrissey, who said, “We hate it when our friends become successful”? Jake can’t get behind Abby’s success because there’s no way he can be a part of it. Inexplicably, he also further tests their relationship by not telling her about his pregnant ex-girlfriend, even though that’s an issue that’s not going to go away. Delia and her fiancee want very different things, even though they’re engaged. He appears to have little regard for her high-powered job, even though it obviously means the world to her. Jo resents Abby’s life even as she takes advantage of it by living in her beautiful house.

The fact that the majority of this show offers that type of fantastic, luxurious L.A. setting is pointed out by Barbara. Now, here’s a grump I can get behind. Barbara, the actual realistic face of divorce, will push Abby, the fun, sexy face of divorce. Barbara may be real, but Abby is not, as she’s now posing to the world on an even larger scale with her false relationship status.


But as Abby tries to explain to Jake: She needs this. She needs to rebuild her career after trashing it after the previous breakup of their marriage; she needs something for herself. It’s what all her girlfriends are trying to do: Phoebe by speaking at the school, Delia and her job, even Jo opening up her own bakery. And it’s fun to watch them cavort around L.A. in heels and desirable wardrobes as they carve out new lives for themselves, entering a new chapter after their previous ones have closed. Which maybe explains why Jo is such a sticking point: Everyone else around her is trying to improve themselves, without calling out other people as looking like “warmed-over ass” while doing so. Yes, relationships ebb and flow, and Abby and Jo’s is in a downward spiral right now. But it’s hard to remember what was good about their friendship in the first place.

Stray observations

  • Abby really doesn’t have a lot of outfits with sleeves.
  • This Jo line was funny: “Vegans like depriving themselves! That’s why they’re vegan!”
  • Zoey might be my favorite character on this show.
  • Nice epic eyeroll, Barbara!
  • Would that many people go to an L.A. bakery opening?
  • At the wedding planners’ studio, I totally would have picked the stapler and the peacock. And the ability to fly.