(This post recently appeared on BlogHer.)
We haven’t had a profound shortage of female bonding orientated programming as of late. Girls on HBO, for example, is a gritty, realistic show about the real life jealousies and issues that develop between friends as they navigate the waters of young adulthood. But as much as I love it, it’s about women much younger than myself, and as much as I try to relate to Hannah, Marnie, Jess and Shoshanna, I realize that that the similarity factor can only go so far. They don’t have the most functional of relationships, as witnessed in their constant altercations and dismissive exchanges.
That’s why I’m kind of in love with two shows that debuted this season. One is a new HBO show called Doll & Em. Real life best friends Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells, two brilliant actresses who hail originally from the UK, star in the show. Mortimer plays Em, a TV/film star whose career is taking off after the demise of her show (Newsroom, which in real life is going off the air after this upcoming season). She hires Doll, played by Wells, as her assistant to take her away from a bad break-up in London. After Em flies her beloved BFF over to L.A. to work with her side-by-side things start to unravel, and it’s really interesting to watch them deal with the new rifts in their friendship.
Growing up together, they had always turned to each other to cry, celebrate and get advice, whether it be in person or on the phone. But when Doll is in the roll of to getting Em coffee and depending on her for a paycheck, feelings change. When Doll gets asked to audition for the same roles her friend is in consideration for, feelings change. When they are both interested in the same guy (the beautiful Jonathan Cake), feelings change. When Doll gets friendly with the likes of Susan Sarandon, Chloe Sevigny and John Cusack whilst on various film sets when Em is working hard to stay in character, feelings change. As a viewer, you know realistically that it’s only a matter of time before pent-up feelings boil over (and they do in the season finale, but I don’t want to give too much away!).
Doll & Em isn’t the only realistic portrayal of a friendship between two women with honesty, true grit and genuine love. Comedy Central’s Broad City Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson play two college graduates in NYC, both trying to figure out their direction and place in life. The show is produced by the fabulous Amy Poehler (who sometimes appears in the show as do other well-known comedians). Jacobson and Glazer are Amy’s fellow Upright Citizens Brigade alums and are clearly good friends in real life. The show doesn’t neglect to show how hard life can be living in NYC, but the girls’ friendship is the backbone of their existence. Whatever their mishap, they get through it together, side-by-side.
In a recent Vanity Fair article, Glazer said this about the show’s plotlines: We base most plotlines in reality. We start with something that has happened to us or a friend of ours, or a friend of a friend, and now with the writers’ room for the TV show, we have the writers’ experiences available to us, as well as their friends’ experiences, so we like to start from a real place.
The plotlines are crazy at times but completely relatable. It’s hard not to get enjoyment out of how the two girls handle the bizarre situations that they get into together. In the show’s premiere (available in its entirety in segments on the Comedy Central website) we watched as Ilana and Abbi attempt to desperately raise money for tickets to a Lil Wayne concert. One of them attempts to steal office supplies at work and they both tryto sell them back to an office supplies store. When that fails, they try street busking. Then, as a last effort, they take a job cleaning a nutter’s apartment in their underwear. Fred Armisen playsthe pervert, and his portrayal will make you squirm as he stands behind doors watching the girls clean. When the girls realize that he is convinced he’s a baby (wearing an actual diaper under his robe) and has no money as well as never having an intention to pay them, they are furious and start throwing his stuff all over the apartment, making him laugh harder. But then they just laugh and laugh and laugh..because that’s what friends do.
I salute Comedy Central and HBO for airing fiery shows about friendship, and I say these are the shows women should be watching now.…while we wait for the premiere ofOrange is the New Black, another show that takes the concept of female friendship to a whole new level.