A Very Girlfriends Christmas
“Into” is a series dedicated to objects, artworks, garments, exhibitions, and all orders of things that we are into — and there really isn’t a lot more to it than that. This week: Juliana Ukiomogbe prepares for the holidays by watching the very first Christmas-themed episode of Girlfriends.
Christmas-themed television episodes date all the way back to the ’50s, and decades later, we’ve come to anticipate the formula. Usually, an extended family gets together, one or two people start drama, and then things somehow get magically resolved in a matter of minutes towards the end. The goal of these specials is simple: to spread the holiday cheer. Though this is a familiar beat that we know all too well, it can get a bit stale and predictable. In order for these types of episodes to really stick with us, there needs to be an element that turns the traditional holiday theme on its head. For this, I present Girlfriends.
Girlfriends, which ran from 2000-2008, is a sitcom about four best friends: Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross), Maya (Golden Brooks), Toni (Jill Marie Jones), and Lynn (Persia White) and the various ups-and-downs in their professional and personal lives. With its recent move to Netflix, many old and newly-converted fans are basking in the show’s brilliance, and I am no different. Around this time of year, there’s something comforting about watching your favorite characters navigate the holidays. Aptly titled “You Better Watch Out,” the first Christmas-themed episode of the eight-season series aired in season 2. The episode has all the standard holiday trappings: fruitcake, eggnog, Christmas sweaters, an office party, and drama for days. William (Reggie Hayes) provides the endearing awkwardness and comedic relief when he stays in a Santa costume for the entire episode, even sleeping in it, as he tells Joan. Meanwhile, Joan, obnoxious as always, sings a medley of Christmas songs at the office party to a rather befuddled crowd. Though these generic festive motifs are littered throughout the episode, Girlfriends subverts the traditional familial holiday theme by having its characters spend the Christmas season with their chosen family: friends, co-workers, and lovers alike.
The main source of conflict is, you guessed it, relationship woes. We spend most of the episode in a sea of relationship drama when Maya’s husband Darnell (Khalil Kain) finds out that she was gifted a $1,500 Concord watch by another man—a “friend.” What makes the episode so great is that it shows explicitly the ways in which holidays test relationships and friendships, both financially and emotionally. But of course, the melodrama doesn’t last too long; everyone makes up and hugs by the end. Over the remaining seasons, the series went on to air several Christmas-themed episodes, but this first one set the tone. Girlfriends does an excellent job of blending humor with relatability, and this episode certainly fits the bill.