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The end is in sight for Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.
In April, Bravo handed out a rare supersized three-season renewal for the hourlong dramedy starring Lisa Edelstein, and now The Hollywood Reporter can exclusively reveal that the fifth season of Girlfriends’ Guide will be its last. “We’re going to land the plane,” creator Marti Noxon tells THR of Bravo’s first-ever scripted series.
The series, which is produced in-house by Universal Cable Productions, will film 19 more episodes all at once over the course of the next eight to nine months in Vancouver. Bravo will then air them as three distinct seasons with shortened windows in between. A seven-episode third season will be followed by six-episode fourth and fifth seasons.
Following the lead of AMC — which famously split the final seasons of Breaking Bad and Mad Men into separate, shortened runs — and more recently HBO and its rather similar Game of Thrones‘ wrap-up plans, the decision to stretch out the final batch of Girlfriends’ Guide episodes was a strategic one made by the NBCUniversal-owned cable network and studio.
“In today’s world, it’s all about flexibility, partnership and creating the best experience and the most valuable asset for everyone involved,” chief content officer of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and president of UCP Jeff Wachtel told THR. “Doing this three-season pickup allows for Bravo to plan in the future. … There are three separate times over the next couple of years where they’ll be able to drive ratings and that branding story.”
Future seasons of the divorce dramedy will air alongside the other scripted series on Bravo’s roster including Jill Kargman’s half-hour Odd Mom Out and the upcoming dark comedy My So Called Wife from Girlfriends’ Guide writer and star Paul Adelstein.
The multiseason pickup of Girlfriends’ Guide benefits the studio, too, as five seasons of the series allows them to achieve more profitability via international and SVOD sales than they would a three- or four-season show. “It’s kind of a real thing after five seasons,” said Wachtel, adding that the rollout strategy is a win for the talent involved, too.
“Shooting all of the episodes in one large bunch is just best for Marti, who is a very in-demand showrunner — she has movies and miniseries going left and right,” he explained. “This is a way for us to really capture her attention for a period of time. She knows, ‘Good, and once I do this, I’m out. I don’t have to keep putting my life on hold to come back.'”
In terms of the writing process, the arrangement also takes a bit of the stress off Noxon in that she has sufficient time to finish out the show’s narrative. “We want to enable Marti to tell the story she always imagined for Abby McCarthy and her friends without the constraints of season-to-season orders, fully realized through to completion,” said Frances Berwick, president of lifestyle networks at NBCU Cable Entertainment. Of the spaced-out release strategy, she added: “[It] also keeps the series relevant and top-of-mind for viewers, with less waiting time between seasons.”
For Noxon, the unorthodox plan is a welcome one. “It’s a creative way to get to the end of the series, but also to maximize everybody’s time up in Vancouver [where Girlfriends’ Guide is shot] because it’s such a bear to stop production, have everybody come back, send everybody back again,” said Noxon, who previously served as a writer-producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “It was really smart of them.”
But the sped-up production schedule also means that Noxon and her writing team have to pen more scripts than usual at once. “It’s definitely challenging,” she acknowledges. What helps is that the shortened seasons make the larger order more manageable in terms of the storytelling, along with the fact that Noxon has had a final scene in mind for quite some time. “From the beginning, I’ve had an idea of how I’ve wanted the series to end, so at least I had that picture in my head,” she said.
In addition to serving as the showrunner on Girlfriends’ Guide, Noxon also is an executive producer on Lifetime’s Bachelor-skewering drama UnREAL, though she left the show after the second episode of season two. When asked if the rumors that she may be resuming a more active role in the third season are true, Noxon remained intentionally vague. “It’s an ongoing conversation,” she said, pausing before she added with a laugh, “she says cryptically.”
But whether Noxon will even have time to add another series into her already-crazed schedule is another question. “It would definitely strain the system, and … it’s already a little strained,” she admitted. Noxon has HBO miniseries Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams in the queue, too. The high-profile project, written by Gone Girl scribe Gillian Flynn, is set to start production in Los Angeles in March, just as Noxon wraps Girlfriends’ Guide.
Given all the behind-the-scenes drama on UnREAL, does Noxon even have a desire to go back to it? “Of course. I really love that world. I love the backdrop of reality television, and I think there’s still a lot to say in that world. I don’t think that that world is exhausted at all,” she said, adding that a potential return to the show is a “‘never say never’ situation.”
“And it’s hard not to want to drive those Maseratis,” Noxon laughed.
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