The series doesn’t pull punches or shy away from the very real and very honest messes that relationships can be, particularly when they are falling apart. Abby and Paul send passive-aggressive text messages across the breakfast table, alternate between engaging in serious fights and debating whether sex would help, and seek solace in other people. They understand each other so well that they know exactly what to say when they’re angry, so their fights are both devastating and pretty scary to watch.
But Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce isn’t all serious business. It can be very lighthearted at times, switching from serious conversations about divorce to scenes in which two strangers compare their breast implants from the same doctor (maybe it is a perfect show for Bravo). The brightest light in the show is Lisa Edelstein’s performance. She’s captivating from beginning to end, able to reach down deep into Abby’s character and pull out the complexities that make her real, showcasing a wealth of emotion with a few words or a head tilt. She’s positively endearing as she embarks on her first sexual encounter after her husband; Abby comes across as equal parts awkward and seductive, nervous about whether she groomed enough for this younger guy but eager to feel something — someone — new.
There are a few missteps within the first two episodes, a few underdeveloped characters (Abby’s gay brother, for one) and some unfortunate scorned-woman stereotypes, but they are few and far between, and will be easy to fix as the series goes on. The biggest obstacle for Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce will be viewers’ preconceived notions about the network it’s on — it’ll be hard for anyone to believe a good scripted show can come out of Bravo. But the episodes screened for critics are well-written and clever, and definitely worthy of a full-series commitment. The show is both funny and emotionally honest without either side undercutting the other. It’s an example of a good drama — not just for Bravo, but for television in general.