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TELEVISION & RADIO | TUNED IN

Wedding bells chime on 'Girlfriends' finale

May 19, 2003|Mark Sachs | Times Staff Writer

Although one of the "Girlfriends" is scheduled to walk down the aisle in tonight's hourlong season finale (at 9 on UPN), there's an awful lot of tearing asunder going on before we get around to any joining together.

This solidly entertaining third-year series has been groundbreaking in its look at the relationships between four 30ish black women and the people in their lives. The show is done with a comic touch, but its thoughtful, reflective moments allow it to cut even deeper.

This season has been a fractious one as queen-bee Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), a successful single lawyer, is grappling with feelings of jealousy and resentment over the impending marriage of pal Toni (Jill Marie Jones) to a white Jewish doctor. Free-spirit Lynn (Persia White) is balancing living with a former lover while nurturing a new relationship with a man on a celibacy kick. Maya (Golden Brooks), Joan's assistant, was the only married member of the group before the union ended up on the rocks earlier this year.

All the plot points come into play tonight. Maid-of-honor Joan spends more energy fighting with her new boyfriend than on the wedding. Bride-to-be Toni temporarily breaks up with her intended over her increasingly outlandish honeymoon plans.

The two men in Lynn's life, meanwhile, have a meeting of the minds, and Maya makes a play for Toni's brother, much to the displeasure of Toni's mother (a superb Jenifer Lewis as Veretta Childs). Later, Mrs. Childs softens and offers grudging acceptance of Maya. "You've got chutzpah," she tells her. "I can say that now because I'm all in with the Jews." Isaac Hayes guest-stars as Toni's father.

Some of the tumult has a bit of a forced, manufactured feel early on, but the artifice melts away in the final half hour as the episode finds its heart and sprints stylishly to the finish.

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