Originally published at Bitch Flicks.
“Hey, you always have a choice when it comes to your vagina.”
So says Lennon on NBC’s new sitcom that premiered last night, Best Friends Forever. And yes, you do have a choice, when it comes to vaginas and other things. So should you choose to watch the new female-fronted show?
When I first saw the trailer, I was ecstatic. I mean, a TV show putting two women front and center, even in their title??? Yes, please!
Written, produced and starring real-life friends Jessica St.Clair and Lennon Parham, it also features Alexa Junge as producer and showrunner. After her husband serves her divorce papers, Jessica (St. Clair) moves from California back home to Brooklyn to live with her best friend Lennon (Parham) and her live-in boyfriend Joe. As Jessica and Lennon reminisce and bond, Joe (Luka Jones) feels left out.
Best Friends Forever is witty, funny and surprisingly sweet and tender. Parham and St. Clair share an effortless chemistry. The characters are likeable and interesting. While it seems like it might suffer from predictability – a Three’s Company premise, Joe seems like he might be a stereotypical man-child (like when he creates a female video game avatar with ginormous boobs), vagina talk between Jessica and Lennon – it possesses realistic dialogue and its humor isn’t mean-spirited. Jessica is snarky but not deemed a shrew. Lennon is nurturing but not a doormat. Lennon and Joe’s relationship is refreshingly egalitarian and über adorbs as they bond over their shared love of Braveheart and Medieval Times. Neither gender is portrayed as superior and as Rachel Stein at Television Without Pity points out, “it weighs men and women equally.”
Best Friends Forever passes the Bechdel Test, which so few films and TV shows do. The female friendship is clearly front and center. Talking about the show’s premise:
Lennon: “Essentially it’s a story about two best friends who are so close — it’s like that romantic relationship that girls have in middle school that travels with them.”
Jessica: “Someone brought this up to us: The word ‘friendsbians.’ You’re so close you might as well be having sex, but you’re not. [Laughs.] So really it’s a love story about two women. It’s a romantic comedy, but instead of a boy and girl, it’s Jessica and Lennon.”
Parham and St. Clair hope the series “fills the void” that Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls and Anne of Green Gables has left. Okay, as a huge SATC and Anne Shirley fan, I so heart that.
You can sense that the two leads share a history, finishing each others’ sentences, discussing dinner parties and whipping up homemade Scoops (um, which sound delish btw), and using a movie (in this case weepy Steel Magnolias and “pulling a Shelby” if you rush into major life decisions) to give advice about life, which is unusual in the pilot as most shows take at least a season or two to sink into the camaraderie.
Yes, it’s problematic the characters are white and straight, aside from neighbor Queenetta (Daija Owens), the ubiquitous precocious child and the stereotypical sassy black girl…as if all black girls must be sassy. Although I’ve got to admit, she delivered one of the funniest lines of the episode when she said, “There’s a new baby in my house and I don’t like the way it smells!”
According to Two and a Half Men co-creator Lee Aronsohn, we already have enough female-centric TV series. Gee thanks, asshole. At the Toronto Screenwriting Conference, Aronsohn told The Hollywood Reporter:
“Enough, ladies. I get it. You have periods…But we’re approaching peak vagina on
television, the point of labia saturation.”
Oh that’s right. Women shouldn’t write, create, act or do anything. Cause you know all we ladies care about? Our fucking periods. Silly me for forgetting that. Thankfully fab feminists Martha Plimpton and Lizz Winstead among others called out this douchebaggery.
While it seems that there’s been a surge in female-centric comedies, Aronsohn’s bullshit sexist comments about vagina saturation is just that. Bullshit. Because if you look at the actual numbers, it’s not so. If you look at the female-fronted TV shows, they may be ensembles but they rarely focus on female friendship. 2 Broke Girls and Parks and Recreation (although not really this season) are the only other TV shows on right now that
revolve around 2 female best friends.
As Amy Tennery at The Jane Dough, using data from Women’s Media Center, points out last TV season, women only comprised 15% of writers (!!!) and “the closest we’ve ever come to having parity with guys was in 2009 when women comprised 39% of television entertainment producers.” So there must be surge of women as TV characters then for Lee’s tirade, right?? Nope. Women constitute approximately 40% of TV characters (41% according to WMC, which doesn’t include last season, and 43% according to GLAAD). Um yeah, douchebag…that’s not exactly “peak vagina” season, whatever the fuck that is.
Is it the best comedy on TV right now? No, although it might be too early to tell. Parks and Rec still holds that title for me, followed closely by Community and Up All Night. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have oodles of potential. It made me laugh out loud. Something very few comedies actually do. And we desperately need more women writers and female characters. With two smart, funny ladies at the helm, I’m curious to see where Best Friends Forever goes.