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Telegraph / Life - Entertain

Girlfriends, episode 1 review: partly gripping and overplotted, but not worth a second date

A decent idea and three excellent performances lay at the heart of Girlfriends (ITV).


A decent idea and three excellent performances lay at the heart of Girlfriends (ITV). Miranda Richardson, Zoë Wanamaker and Phyllis Logan were Sue, Gail and Linda, childhood friends entering their seventh decades with reckonings looming. Linda’s husband, Micky (Steve Evets), had disappeared, presumed drowned, during a cruise trip to celebrate their anniversary, leaving behind mountainous debts. Gail was newly divorced from her husband Dave (Adrian Rawlins), managing her ailing mother Edna (Valerie Lilley) and welcoming her son Tom (Matthew Lewis) out of prison. Sue was being sidelined from her job at a struggling bridal magazine by her married lover John (Anthony Head).

Plenty to be going on with there, you might think, and a drama featuring older women should always be welcomed. But Girlfriends is a Kay Mellor six-parter so, like Love Lies & Records, In the Club and so on, the narrative is ludicrously overstuffed. To whit: Gail’s son Tom (whose own son, incidentally, was also on the scene) was rekindling a fling with Linda’s daughter, while Sue’s mother was poised to remarry and her son was, unbeknown to her, in a steady gay relationship. In the episode’s climax, a mystery woman turned up on Linda’s doorstep to accuse her of murdering Mick – who, you can virtually guarantee, won’t be dead after all.

This frantic overplotting was presumably intended to deepen the central characterisations but merely lengthened the cast list. The leading trio worked wonders with a drama too often smothered by suds and the best scenes were those they shared alone. When careworn Linda, self-involved Sue and exasperated Gail were allowed to get on with finding nuance and subtlety in the seeping unhappiness of their late-middle age, Girlfriends gripped. For the most part, however, it just floundered in extraneous subplots. 

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