Girlfriends: Season Six
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Girlfriends: Season Six

There is a fundamental difference between the television viewing habits of men and women. In the past this was solidly enforced by the networks with some creative scheduling of their programming. The ladies had the late morning and early afternoon for their soap operas and men had Saturday afternoon for sports. Now that cable TV is in most homes the variety of programming has greatly increased and there are even networks that target one of the genres such as Lifetime for woman and EPSN and Spike for the guys. One show that was on a broadcast network, UPN and in later seasons on the CW, was ‘Girlfriends’. It first glance it might seem like the typical television equivalent of the chick flick but I have to admit that I am in possession of a Y chromosome and for the last few years have gotten into the DVD season releases of the series. This is a show of quality that many are quick to unfairly place in a small box due to a superficial examination of the cast and premise. Since it has an all female central cast it has to be a woman’s show. It also has a predominant African American cast so it must be a black show. Some have referred to it as a tamer black version of ‘Sex and the City’. While there is modicum of truth to these perceptions they do not accurately represent the series. This is a dramatic comedy that is about human beings. Like all of us their lives have been shaped by their ethnic backgrounds but what they are going through in the course of the series is purely human in nature. The stories are something that is universal and anybody can relate to them. The four girlfriends shown here are just trying to find love and success in life; isn’t that what we all seek? I admit that at first I thought that this was a niche show but after watching a few episodes I was convinced that this was something well worth watching on a regular basis. Alas, this revelation came to me after the series was ultimately cancelled but the DVD for the first six of its eight season run on out on DVD. This DVD set represents the last season that the show aired on UPN and apparently many fans consider this one of the best seasons of the run. For the guys out there watching this series may just give you a little insight into the emotional makeup of the ladies in your life. There is a huge gap between how men and women view close friends and based on the experience I’ve gathered over the years through marrying into an all female family it does seem that this show is honest and extremely well crafted.

For us men a best friend is someone that you have a few beers with while watching a game. With women the term best friend is a much more lauded position in their lives. They communicate with each other openly about their emotions and the situations in their lives. Sure we guys do this to some extent but you rarely hear men get into the same depths of feelings as the opposite sex. This series is based on that premise. There is a lot of discussion going on in almost every episode. The women that the show focuses on are all different, strong willed and determined to carve their own path in life. The series is not done in the usual episodic sit com fashion. There are story lines and character arcs that have been going on for five years at the start of this season. An important thing to the success of the series is its continuity; the ability to portray circumstances realistically not as a problem that comes to a neat conclusion in twenty two minutes. Over this time many of the relationships between the women and their significant others have changed. Some have grown closer while a few have fallen apart. Change is extremely important to the writers of this series and they put their characters through a lot of them. Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross) is the type of person all her friends look to for advice and basically as a role model. Joan had been a highly successful lawyer working for a well known firm but that failed to satisfy her. In the previous season Joan made a giant leap of faith and opened her own restaurant. In this season she has cold feet and considers going back to the practice of law. Although she fails an interview one of the partners talks to her and reassuringly tells to not to give up on her dream. For Joan relationships are very important. Since she is rather unlucky in love she depends on her close friends. In this season Joan dates the partner in the law firm and a writer who is doing a story on her restaurant, ‘The J Spot’. Toni Childs-Garrett (Jill Marie Jones) has been Joan’s best friend for most of her life. Coming from a very poor family has made Toni materialistic and always seeking to improve her financial situation. She has a child by her estranged husband Todd Garrett (Jason Pace) and is now well off enough to afford a nanny but child care becomes a point of contention between them. Maya Wilkes (Golden Brooks) once worked as Joan’s assistant in the law firm but by now has become a successful author. Her first book was a big hit and now her publisher in anxious for the next one. Unfortunately great ideas are not forthcoming. Lynn Searcy (Persia White) is the flighty one of the group. In college she roomed with Joan and Toni and has remained friends ever since. She has always had an identity crisis stemming from her mixed ethnic parentage. In this season the confusion in Lynn’s life is with her sexual orientation. She falls in love with a lesbian and the get engaged but Lynn soon discovers that she is very dysfunctional. Friction between the girlfriends starts up with some small things. Maya and Lynn are constantly eating at the struggling J-Spot but never manage to pay for anything. Joan becomes upset more at Toni since she should know better and things between the two escalate steadily throughout the season. There are men in the cast as regulars and they have been given story lines that allowed them to grow. They are not just peripheral characters and do add much of the drama and a touch of comic relief to the mix.

This is just a series that will captivate you. It is rare for a show done in a half hour format display such a mixture of comedy and drama ass well as is done here. CBS Paramount has collection of television series around and this is one of the gems in their catalog. Just be warned that the series is addictive and you will want to go back to get the previous seasons.

Posted 02/11/09

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