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Girlfriends aired from September 2000 until -February 2008 on UPN and The CW.
Brought to TV by Moesha creator Mara Brock Akill and executive produced by Kelsey Grammer, Girlfriends was a somewhat raunchy comedy centering on the love lives of four thirty-something African-American women and was, in some respects, a cross between the 1980's Designing Women and the 1990's Sex and the City. Joan ( Tracee Ellis Ross), who commented to the viewing audience about herself and her friends , was an attorney at the Los Angeles law firm of Goldberg, Swedelson, McDonald , and Lee. Her professional life was on track but not so her personal life-she constantly fretted about being unable to find " Mr. Right," and endured one dating disaster after another. Joan had three close friends with whom she shared her ups and downs and to whom she gave advice-Maya ( Golden Brooks), her married assistant at work ; her best friend Toni ( Jill Marie Jones), a self-centered , gold-digging real estate broker, and Lynn ( Persia White), a friend from college and perpetual student who lived with her. Joan's one male confidant was William ( Reggie Hayes), a fellow attorney at the firm, who made wisecracks about her social problems despite the fact that his own social life was if anything, worse than hers. Seen occasionally were Maya's husband Darnell ( Flex Alexander and later Khalil Kain) and her young son Jabari ( Tanner Scott Richards and later Kendre Berry).
For awhile Joan dated Sean ( Dondre T. Whitfield), a recovering sex addict, but was disappointed because he just had sex , he didn't make love. In February Lynn moved in with Toni, who wasn't happy about it-and Joan relished her newfound privacy. In May Toni accepted the proposal of Clay ( Phil Morris), a rich doctor, even though she really loved Greg( Chuma Hunter-Gault), another guy she had been dating. Because Joan convinced her to follow her heart , Toni gave the ring back only to have Greg dump her after he found out about the engagement and became convinced she was a gold digger. Meanwhile Wiliam dated Yvonne ( Cee Cee Michaels), a feisty lady cop , and because he worried about her safety, he asked her to quit the force.
At the start of the 2001-2002 season Sean left for New York and William was engaged to Yvonne. Joan and Sean were having problems with a bicoastal relationship and broke up while William , finally commited to a Valentine's Day wedding , asked Joan to be his " best man." When the wedding day came Yvonne bailed out because she thought William was too controlling. Toni set up her own upscale real estate office -with Lynn as her assistant, and William as her attorney. Lynn moved in with William, on a platonic level, although they did spend a little time as uncommited " sex buddies." Maya and her husband Darnell had been having problems with their marriage , mostly about money. In the season finale, he found out about Stan ( Don Franklin), a guy Maya had been flirting with , and kicked Maya and their son , Jabari, out.
In the fall of 2002 , when her parents pressured her to pay off her student loans, Lynn took an office job, which she hated. Maya and Darnell's marriage counseling didn't help and she moved in with Joan while William began an affair with manipulative Monica ( Keesha Sharp), whom all the girls hated.In November Darnell told a distraut Maya that he wanted a divorce. When Mr. Swedelson ( Phil Reeves) brought Sharon ( Anne-Marie Johnson) into the firm as a new senior partner , William quit because he was convinced he should have been promoted. Unable to make a living on his own , he negotiated a return to the firm with a modest salary increase . In early February Maya and Jabori, who had been living with Joan for six months, finally moved into their new apartment. Toni got engaged to Todd ( Jason Pace), the successful plastic surgeon she had been dating, and during the spring she was making wedding arrangements. Her biggest concern, ironically ,was not that he was white, but that he was shorter than she was. William 's return to the firm created an awkward situation since he had been having an affair with Sharon, and, even though they still had the hots for each other , they reluctantly broke it off. In the season finale, Toni married Todd, whom she really did love, and Joan reconciled with Ellis ( Adrian Lester), the actor with whom she had been having an on-again, off-again relationship for more than a year.
During the 2003-2004 season Joan broke up with Ellis when she fell in love with his agent, Brock ( Malik Yoba), but their relationship ended when he told her he didn't want to have children. Unhappy with her work at the law firm, she quit and tried to find herself. Meanwhile after making senior partner, William told Joan he wanted to be more than friends. Toni's relationship with Todd deteriorated when she found out he didn't have much money and he moved to New York without her for a job as a plastic surgeon on a reality TV show. When she went to see him there in the spring, she told him she was pregnant. Lynn started the season breaking up with her celibate boyfriend Sivad ( Saul Williams) and then married William, who was determined to beat Joan, who, he thought was marrying Brock to the aisle. After Joan broke up with Brock, William convinced Lynn to have their marriage annulled and the following month she got a job managing the apartment complex where Maya lived. In May Maya self-published her book , Oh Hell Yes and , selling it on the streets , got a five-figure deal and $ 25, 000 advance, from a major publisher that wanted to release it. Eventually William fired her because of her preoccupation with her literary career.
That fall William was dating the field, putting a crimp in Joan's plans to move their relationship forward. Things got complicated when he invested $100,000 to become her partner in a new restaurant and more so late in the year when they started dating.Todd moved back to L.A. to help Toni with the pregnancy , despite the fact that he still wanted a divorce. In February Joan and William decided they were better friends than lovers but she was still uncomfortable when he was with other women. In the spring Joan opened her own restaurant , J-Spot, but it struggled to find customers. The season ended with Toni giving birth to a daughter, Morgan, Maya getting back together with her ex-husband, Darnell, and Joan and William sleeping together for the first time only to find out they weren't physically compatible.
The 2005-2006 season began with Maya and Darnell remarrying but having trouble adjusting to being back together. Todd initially refused Toni's request for a divorce but eventually agreed it was the best thing to do-and then began a custody fight. Lynn got engaged to troubled would be lesbian Jennifer ( Rebecca Creskoff), after stopping her from commiting suicide and spent the first half of the season working her way out of the relationship. Despite misgivings Joan let William turn the struggling J-Spot into a sports bar and ,after it became a big success , she landed on the cover of a trendy magazine as L.A.'s " It Girl" and reveled in her celebrity. In May soon after Maya and Darnell bought a house , he got a job working pit crew for a NASCAR racing team in Florida. After Todd dropped his custody suit Toni moved to New York so Morgan could spend more time with her father and William was back together with his old status-conscious girlfriend , Monica .
When Maya and Darnell returned from Florida Lynn, who had been house-sitting for them, temporarily moved in with Joan while struggling with a career writing music. William was having second thoughts about his engagement to Monica, whom he had made manager of the bar at J-Spot and late in the year Darnell quit his job with NASCAR and returned home permanently. At his wedding reception in February, William revealed his doubts about marrying Monica and when she left him and went home to Chicago, he suffered a serious depression. Joan convinced Monica , whose mother cut her off financially , to come back to L.A. and manage the J-Spot. In April Maya revealed to the girls she was pregnant and in the season finale William and Monica reconciled and Joan's new guy Aaron Waters ( Richard T. Jones) propsed to her.
In the fall of 2007 Aaron got news that he was being shipped to Iraq and he and Joan decided that they should get married before he desparted. . In the end , however, they decided to wait until he got back. Maya suffered a miscarriage and went into a big depression, even taking pills in an attempt to get over her loss. She and Darnell eventiually considered adopting a child. Meanwhile, Monica told William that she was pregnant. Lynn's music career was taking off as a record label wanted to sign her however in early 2008 she learned that her record label was pushing back the release of her album because she wasn't black enough and she started to turn in sub-par songs in an attempt to get out of her record deal.
The 2007-2008 season was cut short because of the writers strike that effected all of Hollywood. The strike eventually ended in early 2008 but in February , The CW announced that Girlfriends had been canceled and that no further episodes would be made for the season. A lot of fans were angry that a sitcom that had run for 8 years would not even get a propper final. The CW did offer to air a One-Hour retrospective episode but when they offered the actors half of their usual salary to take part, the actors all turned them down.
A Review from Variety
September 11, 2000 12:00AM PT
By Phil Gallo
What begins as a female version of the “Wassup” guys in the Budweiser ads ostensibly turns into a black version of “Sex and the City,” landing UPN a ribald sitcom that could test the boundaries of network TV — provided “Girlfriends” is given a chance to blossom. Pilot, in which the four principals are drawn, is a generally flat half-hour; episode two picks up steam and generates a healthy dose of gut-busting laughs. For his first exec producing project, Kelsey Grammer has gone tawdry, albeit clever, a considerable distance from the humor of “Frasier.”
Central character is the single lawyer Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), a 29-year-old woman with a healthy moral code, a distaste for her trampy friends and a desire to elevate the social and speaking skills of her promising assistant, Maya (Golden Brooks). Toni (Jill Marie Jones) is the sluttiest of the group, constantly attempting to attract the eye of well-dressed, loaded men. Lynn (Persia White) is the free-love expert, a hippie chick whose friendship with Joan dates back to their college days. Well-cast bunch is sexy and energetic as they concentrate on men, careers and more men.
Lone male in the regular cast, Reggie Hayes, plays William, a lawyer at Joan’s firm. He darts in and out of scenes with wisecracks and sob stories, and his sense of timing recalls Mark Curry (“Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper”) and Meshach Taylor (“Designing Women”). If his role transcends those past TV characters on which it appears to be based, this could be the start of good things for Hayes.
First episode concerns Toni dating one of Joan’s ex-boyfriends, a toe-sucking specialist named Charles (the hunky Jason Winston George). Joan goes through the usual emotional turmoil and the inevitable fight brought on by too many nosy friends.
Second episode, the far funnier “One Night Stand,” has Joan going a bit nutty after a year of celibacy. Episode is loaded with the sorts of zingers usually heard on “Sex and the City.” Wisely, dialogue in both episodes is never forced for the sake of a joke.
Despite 13 assorted producers, sitcom has the distinct feel of a singular voice — Mara Brock Akil, whose credits include “Moesha” and “The Jamie Foxx Show.” Direction by Leonard R. Garner Jr. succeeds in establishing the characters but is generally mundane.
The show’s sets could use some improvement. Joan’s much-praised “great” house is about one step above Mary Richards’ second apartment, and the bar used in the second episode more closely resembles a cafeteria than a dating hotspot.
Schedule could play in “Girlfriends’ ” favor, given its lead-in of “The Hughleys” and competition of “Becker” and the second half of “Ally McBeal.” Review cassette was a rough cut with no final music.
Series; UPN, Mon. Sept. 11, 9:30 p.m.
Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Grammnet Prods. in association with Paramount Network Television. Executive producers, Kelsey Grammer, Rudy Hornish, Dee LaDuke, Mark Alton Brown; co-executive producer, Mara Brock Akil; producers, Nancy Sprow, Michael E. Stokes; co-producers, Mary Fukuto, Marcy Gray Rubin, David Adam Silverman; director, Leonard R. Garner Jr.
Crew: Writer, Akil; camera, Donald A. Morgan; production designer, Wendell Johnson; editor, Timothy Mozer; music, Camara Kambon; casting, Eileen Mack Knight, Kim Williams. 30 MIN.
Cast: Joan - Tracee Ellis Ross Maya - Golden Brooks Toni -Jill Marie Jones Lyn - Persia White William - Reggie Hayes
A Review from Entertainment Weekly
UPN, 9:30-10 PM DEBUTED SEPT. 11
By Lynette Rice
Networks were feeling awfully randy this development season: No fewer than six Sex and the City rip-offs were on the drawing board, thanks to HBO's successful and libidinous sitcom quartet.
One of the few to get a pickup for fall was UPN's Girlfriends -- which was dubbed in early thumbnail descriptions as an ''urban'' Sex and the City. (Groundbreaking!) Besides the customary X-chromosomed cast, the African-American foursome also do the City girl thing by talking about their carnal exploits around restaurant tables. Check out this exchange over cocktails: Single attorney Joan (Lyricist Lounge's Tracee Ellis Ross) laments, ''You guys, I just came to the saddest realization today. I haven't had sex in a year.'' Her cheeky friend Maya (Golden Brooks), the only married one in the group, tries to sympathize: ''Damn, girl, you sure you're still open for business? I mean, you know what happens when you don't wear earrings.''
''Let's face it, there's nothing new in the sitcom world,'' admits executive producer Mark Alton Brown (Designing Women), who also employs another well-worn TV trend by having Ross' character address the camera. ''You struggle mightily to fight the sitcom status quo. You twist it in new directions to make it feel fresh.''
The good news is Girlfriends does have two unique things going for it: It's the first UPN sitcom executive-produced by Frasier's Kelsey Grammer (he developed it through his Paramount-based production company) and it's the only fall show to star the daughter of ultimate diva Diana Ross -- not that Tracee's pedigree comes in handy around Hollywood. ''One misconception is that it helps me get acting jobs -- it doesn't do anything,'' says Ross with a laugh. No matter: The 27-year-old actress didn't need any assistance nailing the role of the ambitious, marriage-ready Joan. ''The lines just rolled off my tongue,'' she says. ''When I left [the audition], I was thinking I was able to be myself in the part, which is rare.''
While Girlfriends is wedged in Monday night among all of UPN's other ''urban'' shows (Moesha, The Parkers, The Hughleys), Brown is making every effort to keep the comedy from being written off as just another ''black show on the black night on UPN'' by exploring universal themes like pity sex, dating a friend's ex, and finding love on the Internet. Adds Ross: ''The beauty of this show is that first and foremost, we are girlfriends, women connecting to each other. That can create a broad appeal.'' And who knows? The show's sexy quartet may ultimately trade the inevitable Sex comparisons for those with an earlier, color-barrier-busting comedy. ''Living Single was groundbreaking at the time,'' says Girlfriends creator Mara Brock Akil, ''and we're going to take it to a new level.''
A Review from the Baltimore Sun
`Girlfriends': Don't invite them to stay
Preview: The new UPN show is lewd, crude and stupid.
September 11, 2000|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC
If you've heard that television is coarsening the culture, but you're not exactly sure what that means, check out "Girlfriends," a new sitcom premiering tonight on UPN.
I can't reprint most of the words featured in this sorry attempt at humor, but I'll do my best to give the flavor. Most expressions relate to the human posterior, which seems to be a particular obsession of creator Mara Brock Akil.
"Girlfriends" is a mindless comedy about four African-American women friends in Los Angeles. They are Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), a 29-year-old attorney; Maya (Golden Brooks), Joan's secretary; Toni (Jill Marie Jones), a real estate agent who's searching for a rich husband; and Lynn (Persia White), a perennial graduate student living rent-free at Joan's.
As the description suggests, Joan is the center of the quartet. Unfortunately, Ross is the worst actress in the group, given to making strange little-girl faces that have no ostensible relationship to the emotions Joan tries to express.
The UPN press materials make much of the fact that Ross is the daughter of Motown diva Diana Ross. For the sake of the young woman's career, let's hope Mama at least passed on her musical talents.
In the pilot, Joan turns 29, and Toni dates the man who dumped Joan - a foot fetishist named Charles (Jason Winston George). I mention the fetish because it's constantly referenced and twice shown in action during the half hour - once with Joan and once with Toni. Charles is known among the women as "Toe-Sucking Charles," although both Joan and Toni seem to enjoy it.
But that's not the really crude part. That comes later when Toni shows up at Joan's birthday party with Charles in tow. As a warm-up to crude, Lynn asks Maya where her husband is.
"I made the mistake of givin' him some right before I left. He might come by later - if he ever wakes up," Maya replies. She grinds her hips from side to side as she says it.
And then Joan makes her entrance in a tight-fitting gown that looks to be straight out of Mama Ross' closet. As she accepts a bottle of wine from Charles, a little cartoon bubble appears over her head (I'm not making this up) with Joan's face in the bubble speaking directly to the viewer.
"This is where I turn," she tells us, "and he pops a wheelie, because I remind him that all of this booty could have been his."
Then she turns, and the camera zooms in on her posterior for a super-tight shot as she slowly walks toward the kitchen grinding like an exotic dancer on a runway stage. But we're not through yet. The camera stays right where it is until she reaches a table and bends over in an exaggerated fashion to put down the bottle.
And, all the while, men in the audience can be heard whistling and yelling encouragement. The scene makes "Married ... With Children" seem like "Ode to a Grecian Urn."
The Main Event in Crude comes during a cat fight between Toni and Maya, with Toni twice telling Maya to kiss her posterior. The term she uses for that part of her anatomy makes booty downright civil.
There's more, but I'm guessing you get the idea, and the language in the show only gets worse.
I'm not angry at UPN; I've come to expect lewd and crude from the house that "WWF Smackdown!" built.
But I am angry at Kelsey Grammer, of "Frasier" fame, who is one of the co-executive producers of "Girlfriends." With his Emmy-enhanced reputation for witty and sophisticated comedy, he wouldn't be caught dead doing this kind of material himself. Yet, somehow it's good enough for his employees and the UPN audience on a night of four straight sitcoms featuring African-American casts.
One last thing: No, I'm not overlooking cultural differences. Crude is crude, cheap is cheap, and stupid is stupid. And "Girlfriends" is all of that and then some.
When: 9:30 to 10 tonight
In brief: Lewd, crude and stupid sitcom about four women friends
An Article from The Hollywood Reporter
Girlfriends" 100th episode
Nov 8, 2004
"Girlfriends" debuted on UPN in September 2000, what seemed a promising sitcom was anything but a sure bet. Despite positive reviews, mainstream media buzz and TV megastar Kelsey Grammer as its executive producer, the ensemble comedy's prospects still hinged on the fate of its fledgling network.
At the time, UPN was facing a sink-or-swim moment, with many prognosticators expecting a Titanic-like plunge. Three months earlier, Viacom then-No. 2 executive Mel Karmazin had threatened to deep-six UPN if the 5-year-old network couldn't stem its mounting losses.
"When the show first came on, UPN was in a state where people didn't even know if the network was going to be around," creator-executive producer Mara Brock Akil recalls. "When I was trying to audition for the parts in 'Girlfriends,' some people wouldn't even return the phone call."
But like its host network, "Girlfriends" slowly forged its own identity and began to flourish. Teamed on Monday nights with "Moesha," "The Parkers" and "The Hughleys," the black female-centric sitcom filled a primetime network void created when Fox's "Living Single" went off the air in 1998. In fact, "Girlfriends" quickly developed a loyal fan base that propelled the estrogen-fueled comedy to UPN anchor status.
Now in its fifth season, "Girlfriends" reigns as the network's highest-rated comedy -- a position it held last year as well -- and is UPN's longest-running series currently on the air. The sitcom is a mammoth hit with black viewers, where it often holds the No. 1, 2 or 3 ratings position when compared to all network series, and has nabbed seven NAACP Image Awards, including three consecutive outstanding comedy series nominations. And in 2003, "Girlfriends" received long-overdue industry recognition when it nabbed its first Emmy nomination for outstanding cinematography for a multicamera series. As the show celebrates its 100th episode tonight, the series demonstrates that four unknown black women can carry a show and help stabilize a network.
But long before "Girlfriends" was ever greenlighted, Akil envisioned a show that could accurately portray the urbane women of color she was familiar with, not the urban stereotypes that were common in primetime. Akil says that she was motivated because "I didn't see me or my friends really represented on TV."
Fortunately for Akil, UPN was in the market for a show about black women, and network executives were willing to give the first-time creator-executive producer a shot, while Paramount Network Television signed on as the studio. Says Grammer, "Mara had a very clear vision about the kind of show she wanted to do, and we were impressed with her and thought, Let's make this happen."
The resulting series follows the lives and romantic adventures of four sophisticated L.A. women -- Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), Maya (Golden Brooks), Lynn (Persia White) and Toni (Jill Marie Jones) -- and their male friend, William (Reggie Hayes). Although "Girlfriends" is often pigeonholed as simply a black comedy, UPN entertainment president Dawn Ostroff insists that the series has more in common with NBC's "Golden Girls," CBS' "Designing Women" and HBO's "Sex and the City" than the rest of UPN's Monday night lineup.
"('Girlfriends' is) a very smart, well-written, well-acted show that's universally relevant," Ostroff says. "The fact that it stars four African-American women is irrelevant because the subject matter and the story lines that the show deals with on a weekly basis really are relatable to women everywhere."
In fact, Akil says she was looking to explore the issue of class in society more than race.
"A lot of time, people focus on race, and I think class is one of those things that really separate us," Akil explains. "A lot of times, people think that if you're white, you can relate to white people, and if you're black, you can relate to black people. I think what is happening in America is money separates us more; that's what we explore."
She points to characters Maya and Joan -- a struggling single mother and a privileged attorney, respectively -- as examples of women who share the same skin color but are polar opposites because of their economic stations. Ultimately, Akil says she wanted to investigate how women overcome societal divisions and build lasting friendships.
Adds Ostroff: "This isn't the first show that has ever done that.
But I think it's a formula that when well-written and well-acted, when the characters are well-drawn, certainly has relevance that would be relatable to everybody."
Meanwhile, the show has become an asset for Paramount Network TV. With the departure of NBC's "Frasier" in May, "Girlfriends" is now the longest-running half-hour comedy that it produces.
"It is the veteran on our lot," Paramount Network TV senior vp current programming Tom Russo says.
Russo credits Akil with much of the series' success. "She has tremendous vision; she has boundless energy," he says. "I can't stress enough how well-run the show is. It is such a pleasure to go down on that stage on Tuesday nights and watch them work. They do a really great job."
In addition to quality writing and acting, "Girlfriends" has become known for its hip, trendsetting style and music. Costume designer Stacy Beverly creates the show's bright and funky fashions, which Akil refers to as the series' sixth character. And composer Kurt Farquhar sets the mood by crafting what he dubs "the soundtrack of their lives."
"Music is terribly important for (Akil)," says Farquhar, who wrote his first symphony when he was 12 and now scores many of UPN's shows. "She wanted the music to really exemplify who these people are."
"Girlfriends" also is creating shock waves beyond UPN as it recently made an auspicious debut in syndication. The series began its encore run in mid-September in several markets, including Fox affiliates in New York, Los Angeles and Houston. The show began to resonate with viewers immediately -- even beating syndie stalwart "Seinfeld" in New York.
Says John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television: "It's just astounding the kind of numbers ('Girlfriends' is earning). If you (asked) who would beat who -- 'Girlfriends' or 'Seinfeld' -- the normal person responding to the question would say, 'Seinfeld.'"
Furthermore, syndication gives "Girlfriends" a new opportunity to expand its viewership.
"I think it really works to the advantage of the show in the long run in syndication because a lot of times, the first time some people see it is in syndication," adds Nogawski, who oversaw the syndication sale, which also includes airings on BET. "But it was a little bit at a disadvantage in the beginning when we were selling it."
As for the show's future, Grammer sees no final curtain call on the horizon. "You can tell a thousand stories about them, not just a hundred," quips Grammer, who knows a thing or two about sitcom longevity. "With 'Girlfriends,' it will really be up to the cast and the writers if they still think there is territory to explore."
An Article from the LA Times
`Girlfriends' feels left out of the clique
The long-running show has a new time slot and a new network. But its creator wishes the CW would tout it more.
September 30, 2006|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer
When it comes to on- and off-screen drama, it's hard to beat the comedy "Girlfriends."
As "Girlfriends" launches its seventh season at 8 p.m. on Sunday, its creator is biting the hand that programs the show -- the new CW network -- saying she's not feeling the love. The network denies the charge, saying it has much love. One of its core stars dropped out unexpectedly at the end of last season and has turned down pleas to make a farewell appearance. And the first episode of the season begins not with a joke but with one of the girlfriends jogging through the ruin and recovery of Hurricane Katrina-torn New Orleans.
The furor helps mark a milestone season for "Girlfriends," whose producers include Kelsey Grammer. The comedy is one of the longest-running series featuring a predominantly black cast since "The Cosby Show," surpassing the runs of ABC's "My Wife and Kids," Fox's "The Bernie Mac Show," and even NBC's "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." "Girlfriends" is also the most veteran UPN series to survive the WB and UPN merger that led to the CW.
Moving from the 9 p.m. Monday time slot it previously occupied, "Girlfriends" is the anchor of the CW's Sunday lineup of African American shows that includes "Everybody Hates Chris" and "All of Us," while also serving as the springboard lead-in for its spinoff, "The Game," which premieres Sunday.
On the eve of the new era, Mara Brock Akil, the key creative force behind "Girlfriends" and "The Game," calls this season "an exciting challenge."
But she is troubled that "Girlfriends" was not included in the CW's "Free to Be ..." billboard and bus-placard campaign hyping its programming. The push focused on "America's Next Top Model," "Gilmore Girls" and "Veronica Mars," while also giving a boost to "Smallville," "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Supernatural," which have not been on the air as long as "Girlfriends."
Akil said she was concerned when she first heard that the show "was moving from the Monday night slot where we've worked so hard to build an audience.... I know [CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff's] financial purse is tight, but to move us without a billboard around town when we're going into our seventh season doesn't make me happy. Will our fans know we're on, or when?"
She said that "Girlfriends" "has never had a billboard, even though more times than not we've been the No. 1 show in black households." She continued: "That's not right. If I meet this challenge, even though our numbers may be small, I will consider them double what they are, because we would have done it without marketing support. I know it's the reality of the business, but I don't like it."
Responding to Akil's comments, a network spokesman said, "When you're launching a new network, there are countless marketing priorities, including an overall branding campaign, which featured every show on the CW. 'Girlfriends' is one of those shows, and we are very proud that it's anchoring our new Sunday night as the most-watched program on television by African Americans since it premiered in 2000."
And in an interview earlier this week, Ostroff called the series an integral part of the CW's strategy to attract female viewers. "When 'Girlfriends' was on UPN, it was still going strong," she said. "It's very important for us -- it helps to bring in women. The show is so smart, and shows women in a realistic vein."
Making the transition even tougher for Akil is the unexpected departure of one of the series' main cast members, Jill Marie Jones, which caught Akil and the rest of the cast off-guard.
Jones' character, real estate agent Toni, was embroiled in several heavy-duty story arcs last season, which included a bitter divorce and custody battle, and a falling out with her best friend, restaurant owner Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross).
The departure of Jones and her refusal to make a farewell appearance still has Akil shaken. She said: "I would love for her to come back, but Jill doesn't want to return. I don't know 100% why she made this decision. She didn't tell me. All she said when we talked was that she felt it was time for her to move on. The door is not closed. We've asked her to come back and have offered different ways for her to return. But I completely wish her well. There's no drama involved."
Jones declined to comment. "There really is nothing to say," said the actress' publicist, Nicole Nassar.
"Girlfriends" will now deal with Toni's loss through Joan's struggles, said Akil. "We're going to show what it's like to lose a best friend and not have that last conversation to say goodbye."
That loss will be linked thematically to Joan's visit to New Orleans, where she went after her falling out with Toni and her other friends. The season opens with Joan jogging from the French Quarter to the 9th Ward, and was filmed guerrilla-style with a local crew.
Ross said: "The scene really opens the devastation that has been in Joan's life. We've always straddled the line between comedy and drama, and showing real life is what keeps our show fresh."
Akil said she knew it was risky to start the new beginning of "Girlfriends" with the sequence: "It's a little out of character with the show -- it's not the conventional thing to do, especially when the story is not about New Orleans. This was our way to reach outside the box, and pay tribute to New Orleans at the same time. It's our way of saying we don't want people to forget what happened there. We can't delve into it like an hour drama. But I'm proud of the way we did it."
An Article from The Associated Press
L.A. "Girlfriends" log eight seasons on TV
By JANICE RHOSHALLE LITTLEJOHN
The Associated Press
December 24, 2007
LOS ANGELES At a time when black sitcoms are losing their luster, the eighth season of "Girlfriends" is worth noting.
The CW comedy about three close-knit L.A. galpals is the longest-running live-action comedy currently airing on prime-time network television. Though like other UPN transplants on the CW, it has never hit Nielsen's top 100, "Girlfriends" is the second-highest-rated comedy among black viewers (bested only by its two-year-old spinoff, "The Game").
With 173 episodes shot so far (13 of 22 were filmed before the Writers Guild strike halted production), "Girlfriends" is just behind "The Cosby Show" with the most episodes produced for a black sitcom.
"And knowing that, if I got one more year, I could beat Cosby," series creator Mara Brock Akil said with a laugh. "I mean, come on, to be able to say I was right up there with 'Cosby,' that ain't a bad thing."
Not bad, indeed, considering that with ratings down last season, many had suspected the show wouldn't return at all this fall. Akil and the writers even wrote a final episode that tied everything together, including the lovelorn Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) getting a marriage proposal.
Though CW executives are not willing to discuss the possibilities of a renewal until May, when series are picked up for the fall, there is another contingency plan in place if this season is the last.
"I think fans will be very happy," Akil said.
So does that mean Joan will finally get married? Akil would only reveal that "when we finally feel like Joan is really OK, I do believe the show is over."
While Akil and cast agree that they would not be opposed to coming back, they'd also be fine if they didn't. With nearly nonexistent promotion, network swaps and the loss of a principal cast member last season, just the fact that the show has endured is what's mattered most.
"It's not that I didn't think we could go this long, but it's totally outside my frame of reference," said Ross, who directed the scheduled Jan. 14 episode. "It was one of those things where I was like, 'Yeah, this is really good,' but who would ever think? What show goes eight years? It's not something you imagine."
A Northwestern University journalism graduate, Akil got her start writing scripts on the critically lauded "South Central" before moving to UPN's "Moesha," where she became a producer after four seasons. She landed "Girlfriends" just days shy of her 30th birthday.
"When I first met her, Mara had really not had the reins of a show before 'Girlfriends,' " said CW President Dawn Ostroff. "Over the years she has matured where she is not only able to handle the pressure of producing two shows, but she's just always thinking about where the characters are going and what's going to create the most drama and comedy for the series in the long haul."
Akil is one of only two black women producing multiple shows on the air this season (Shonda Rhimes, creator of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice" being the other).
Even more significant is that Akil has two of the only three network prime-time comedies (including the CW's "Everybody Hates Chris") that feature a predominantly black cast a dying breed amid television's increased interest in "color blind" series.
After years of criticism about the lack of diversity on the networks, much of broadcast television has moved toward multiracial casting. Black shows like "Cosby," "My Wife and Kids," "The Parkers" or "The Jamie Foxx Show" are a thing of the past.
Although there are more black actors on television than ever before thanks in part to cable the absence of black shows means fewer working opportunities for black performers, writers and producers, critics say, as well as fewer authentic stories that represent the culture.
That unique representation, said Kelsey Grammer, whose Grammnet production company makes Akil's shows, is what made "Girlfriends" such a significant series.
"For 20 years I was on television watching everybody kind of piss and moan that, except for 'The Cosby Show,' there was really no show of color that was substantial," said Grammer. "But this is a real show about real people that I thought was an important step for television."
An Article about the Cancellation
'Girlfriends' Breaks Up With CW
Sitcom has been on for eight seasons
February 14, 2008
The CW sitcom "Girlfriends" will be bidding adieu to the network after eight seasons on the air, it was announced by the series' creator/executive producer Mara Brock Akil on Thursday, Feb. 14.
"Although it's always difficult to say goodbye," said Akil in a statement, "I choose to focus my energy on the history that 'Girlfriends' has made, the human stories that we told, the beautifully complex images that we projected and the blessings 172 episodes bestowed on us, both personally and professionally.
"I am immensely thankful to the amazingly talented cast, writers, directors, staff and crew for their endless dedication and hard work for eight seasons, to the network that always wanted us and the studio that always supported us, but mostly to the audience, especially African-American women, who took the time to tune into us every Monday night at nine to have a dialogue with us and who have been our partner in this journey. I am currently in talks with the studio and network on putting together a retrospective show which will honor and celebrate this landmark series, so please stay tuned."
No statement was released by the network.
The show began airing on UPN in 2000 and moved over to The CW when UPN and The WB merged. It has been enjoying a home in the network's Monday comedy lineup that includes "Everybody Hates Chris," "Aliens in America" and "The Game." "Girlfriends" stars Jill Marie Jones, Persia White, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Golden Brooks as the titular pals.
To watch some clips from Girlfriends go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=girlfriends+tv+show
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406165849/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/girlfriends.html
For a Website dedicated to Tracee Ellis Ross go to http://www.traceeellisross.com/
For 2 Reviews of Girlfriends go to http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/television/2006/06/these_friends_of_mine.html and http://www.thefader.com/2017/03/09/girlfriends-show-black-women-bff-week
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