Judge Victor Valdivia is developing a sitcom based on himself and his friends. It's called Everybody Loves Some Creepy Guy Who Posts on Internet Message Boards.
Our review of Girlfriends, published December 16th, 2005, is also available.
Joan: Toni had botox.
Girlfriends: The Third Season compiles the episodes that many feel are the show's peak in both popularity and creativity. If the show was only a shadow of itself in its last seasons, fans get a chance to see the series at its prime with this set.
Facts of the Case
Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross) is a lawyer at a high-priced Los Angeles law firm. Maya Wilkes (Golden Brooks, Beauty Shop) is her administrative assistant, a former teenage mother from South Central. Toni Childs (Jill Marie Jones), who sells high-priced real estate, is Joan's childhood friend. Lynn Searcy (Persia White, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), an unemployed free spirit, was Joan's college roommate. Together, neurotic mother hen Joan, narcissistic Toni, blunt and feisty Maya, and flighty and impulsive Lynn, along with Joan's laid-back coworker William Dent (Reggie Hayes), go through difficult trials and challenges but still find time to come together. Here are the 25 episodes from this season:
• "Getting Our Act Together"
• "Secrets and Eyes"
• "Star Craving Mad"
• "Don't Leave Me a Loan"
• "Invasion of the Gold Digger"
• "Handling Baggage"
• "The Mommy Returns"
• "A Little Romance"
• "Santa v. Monica"
• "Take this Poem and Call Me in the Morning"
• "Single Mama Drama"
• "Happy Valentine's Day…Baby?"
• "Sex, Lies & Books"
• "A Stiff Good Man is Easy to Find"
• "Runaway Bridesmaid"
• "Where Everyone Knows My Name"
• "Too Much Sharin'"
• "Blood is Thicker than Liquor"
• "The Fast Track and the Furious"
• "The Wedding, Part 1"
• "The Wedding, Part 2"
Frequently dismissed as a cheap CW sitcom, or a black Sex and the City, Girlfriends is actually a lot smarter and funnier. By tackling such hot-button topics as interracial and interfaith relationships, the skyrocketing AIDS crisis amongst young black women, mental illness, alcoholism, and divorce, the show showed it was far more ambitious than it was made out to be. Good writing has to be the foundation of a sitcom, and Girlfriends has sharper, smarter writing than most CW shows.
The third season of Girlfriends is one that many fans of the show agree is the best. After this season, the show began to slide into soapiness and mean-spiritedness, but here the show found a perfect balance between humor and heart. In fact, what sets it apart from most of the other shows it is frequently lumped in with is that in addition to delivering many funny jokes, Girlfriends actually spent time with carefully laid-out character development. This meant that themes and scenes from episodes over various seasons would not pay off immediately, as is usually the case, but over a longer time.
In the previous two seasons, for instance, the character of Maya was particularly developed. As a teenager, she was impregnated by her high-school boyfriend and married young. Insecure over her status as the only one of the friends who has never been to college, she's now aware of a far wider world than her childhood in South Central Los Angeles would have exposed her to and she has been outgrowing her relationships to her past, especially Darnell. Earlier, hurt by Darnell's refusal to allow her to attend college, she sought the attention of another man. This season begins as Maya and Darnell struggle to repair the damage her infidelity has caused to her family, and the continuing story arc pays off well here. "Handling Baggage," in which Maya and Darnell finally accept that their marriage is broken beyond repair, is arguably the season's best episode. Both Brooks and Kain give great performances, and while the episode has some very funny lines, it also avoids the typical sitcom trap of creating an artificial crisis and then resolving it. Here, not only is the ending poignant, but it conforms perfectly to the character development that has been carefully built up since the beginning.
Also great is "The Fast Track and the Furious." Although the title refers to Maya's story, the real heart of the episode is the relationship between Lynn and her biological mother, and how Lynn handles her blossoming career as a documentarian. It also serves to conclude the arc dealing with AIDS in a manner that is both heartbreaking and honest without stooping to cheap manipulation. This is the kind of story that no other show has ever done, and it's a shame that this episode didn't get more attention than it did.
The cast is appealing and charming, not to mention funny. True, the show doesn't shy away from taking advantage of the women's good looks; Jones and Brooks, in particular, rarely look less than glamorous. But that doesn't negate the fact that the women have crack comic timing and can deliver one-liners impeccably. No one does cheerful self-absorption like Jones. She can sell Toni's most egotistical moments with likeability. Brooks gets to deliver plenty of tossed-off asides, but also gets the season's most dramatic scenes. Ross' self-deprecating charm makes even the most neurotic Joan moments entertaining. White, who has sometimes been underused, actually gets plenty of great chances this season to show off her skills with the documentary and AIDS storylines. While Hayes might have been dismissed as the show's token man, he's actually a gifted comic actor, equally adept at verbal sparring and physical bits.
The show really comes together for the climactic two-part wedding episode. All of the storylines of the season are carefully weaved together. Joan is forced to confront her jealousy over Toni's relationship, and her problem's with Ellis' newborn son (Ross is really at her best here). Maya finally recovers after a painful divorce and begins to feel her oats when she meets Toni's younger brother, an aspiring doctor she finds intriguing (and Brooks gets the episode's funniest scene when she launches into a pitch-perfect Angela Bassett impersonation). Lynn has found a place for herself that satisfies her both professionally and personally. Toni, whose selfishness and arrogance were so pronounced earlier that at one point before this season, she and Joan were estranged, has accepted how love and marriage can make sacrifice not only necessary but even welcome. It's a fitting closer to what would turn out to be the show's most consistently enjoyable season.
Girlfriends is shown in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Since the original shows were shot and broadcast in full-screen, this may explain the note on the back of the package that parts of the show are edited out. The transfer is good, with some minor grain showing up here and there. The Dolby Digital stereo mix is crisp and clear.
The extras are a decent mix, though not as thorough as they could have been. On Disc Two is "It's What You Wear That Counts" (17:24), a look at the fashion and wardrobe. Executive producer Mara Brock Akil says here that wardrobe is very important to a woman, and judging by this featurette, that's true, as all of the cast (minus Brooks and Hayes) has a lot to say about their clothing, as do Akil and the show's costume supervisor. Fashion junkies may love this, but anyone else can skip it. The better featurette, "Here Comes the Bride: An Invitation inside the Wedding" (20:52), is on Disc Four. It's a look at the filming of the wedding episode, and how the rest of the season related to it. In addition to the cast (with Hayes, but still without Brooks), there's also input from Akil and Akil's husband Salim, who directed the wedding episode. All have some insights into the darker tone of the season and how the characters developed considerably. They also address some of the controversies that erupted over the show as it tackled such weighty topics this season, especially over Toni's interracial and interfaith relationship. Since Girlfriends so rarely gets any press coverage, this is an excellent place for fans to finally get to hear about the show in any depth. It's a shame there's not more features. Commentaries on the best episodes would have been interesting to hear.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It seems like a strange complaint to make against a sitcom, but there are certain points where the show maybe could have cut a little deeper. In the storyline about Todd and Toni's relationship, it seems that there are several aspects that were not really fully explored. Apart from some tart one-liners from Maya and Toni's mother, there really isn't much attention given to the possible controversy over a black woman dating a white man. This may have been a topic that could have been a little weighty for any sitcom, but given that Girlfriends hasn't shied away from addressing even more serious topics like AIDS, it seems rather strange that this wasn't dealt with in more detail. In fact, this is the season where Lynn learns that she herself is the product of an interracial relationship, and yet she doesn't seem to have anything to say about Toni's and Todd's marriage, or any challenges that their possible offspring might face. Similarly, Reesie is given plenty of attention in the two episodes devoted to her story, but in order for it to really pack the dramatic punch that it deserves, she really should have appeared more in the series. There are times, in short, when it becomes apparent that the show may have tried to cram too much into one season. It's possible to argue that maybe some of these story arcs should have been spread out more over other seasons.
Girlfriends is an underrated show, much smarter and funnier than it's been given credit for. This is the show's best season, hitting its creative peak before less realistic storylines took over. Viewers looking for a good sitcom with great comic acting and more depth than usual should give it a look.
An overabundance of ambitions is by far the most forgivable crime, especially for a sitcom on the CW. Girlfriends: The Third Season is found not guilty.
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