A podcast about Girlfriends (2000-8)!
Interview with co-hosts of Let Go, Let Flo Stephanie Williams & Elizabeth Ajunwa
For much of the first decade of the 21st century, the TV network UPN churned out a handful of series that featured predominantly African American casts, written or directed - or both, by African American men and women. Today, let’s talk about Girlfriends, which aired from 2000 to 2008. Or better yet, let’s hear from the show’s creator, Mara Brock Akil and then by two Millennials who’ve given Akil’s show a new forum for discussion.
It’s pretty obvious that Twitter has the power to bring people of like mind and interest together. Stephanie Williams and Elizabeth Ajunwa, who I interviewed earlier this month, started a podcast to further explore a 4-female show that remains incredibly relevant.
Stephanie describes herself as an unapologetic blerd blogger and podcaster. She hosts or co-hosts three podcasts: The Lemonade Podcast, Misty Knight’s Uniformed Afro and the one we’re going to discuss further, Let Go Let Flo. Stephanie’s outspoken and razor sharp on the matters of representation of black women in comics and other fandoms.
Elizabeth Ajunwa you may know as LizTheMovie Girl, the podcaster, film lover and advocated of diverse representations in media - and - in her spare time - co-host of Let Go Let Flo. Liz contributes to YouTube via a popular nerd media outlet - Black Girl Needs and also co-hosts a web show called BGN Talks - movie reviews, nerd culture, connecting dots for those too busy to be looking…
So about that podcast…
These two are podcast veterans. They know their SEO, so I bet you too are wondering how it is that a podcast about four women, the four Girlfriends, ended up being called Let Go, Let Flo. I inquired….
There are certainly hundreds of podcasts out there that are dedicated to advancing the conversation about a single TV series. Stephanie and Liz, to my knowledge, are the only team conducting a deep and methodical analysis of Girlfriends. I was intrigued by the notion that at some point, they’d run out of episodes of our four favorite ladies. What would they do then?
Loyal listeners may recall an extensive interview I conducted with media and gender studies professor Wendy Burns-Ardolino. She teaches and wrote a book about the shows that depict four strong female characters - their similarities, how their fans relate to them. Very cool stuff. The professor included Girlfriends in her study. Liz and Steph and I discussed how Joan, Maya, Toni and Lynn are distinct and how they stack up when compared with the four women of another sitcom about 4 African American women, Living Single.
As we discussed ways in which Girlfriends depicted friendship among women, we mulled over the value of Los Angeles as its location.
Girlfriends was on for eight seasons. Sadly, its last season ended abruptly. We’ll talk about that more in a minute. In the 9 years since this show, which many claim ran below the general public’s radar, the four actresses have remained in the public eye. So when Steph and Liz are recording their analysis of a Girlfriends episode, they do so in the context of the four main characters as well as the careers of the actresses who brought them to life.
Going back to the professor’s work on four-female theory, most TV shows that feature four strong female characters identify one as a leader - Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women, Khadijah from Living Single, Dorothy from The Golden Girls. I was curious to hear from Steph and Liz how Joan Clayton, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, compares. Do they relate to Joan?
Girlfriends fans know full well that the series ended abruptly, without a finale. We discussed the implications and the possible reasons why UPN shut it down. It was a really solid show. It covered topics considered sensitive then and some might say are more so now - in our highly charged, polarized culture. Could its legacy simply be its relevance?
There’s no question that as a show oriented around the lives of women, the writers did a great job on focusing on the conflicts, challenges and celebrations that occur 365 days a year. To watch the show today - it’s available on YouTube, CWSeed.com and DVD - is to appreciate how much the focus was on the people and interactions and not really the surroundings.
Perhaps it’s the fresh conversation among women - they’re allowed to talk candidly about topics of the day. Watch Girlfriends or Designing Women or some episodes of The Golden Girls and you’re in for dialogue created by minds willing to challenge the status quo. We talked about a particularly memorable episode.
If a series aired in the late 80s until today and its writers have a social conscience, you can bet the HIV conversation was well done. As were so many that challenged the norms of the day. Which takes us back to why a podcast that offers up deep discussion on this award winning series is sorely needed - and worth subscribing to.
With a fresh set of eyes re-watching a show they first saw as, what, middle schoolers, Steph and Liz are uniquely suited to bring new meaning and insight to many of the topics Girlfriends explored, like the character of Yvonne, who appeared in the early seasons. If you watched these seasons, you couldn’t help but have an opinion about Yvonne and William and their relationship…
If you never caught Girlfriends the first time around or any time it may have appeared in syndication, now is your chance to get in on the conversation. Use Steph and Liz’s podcast, Let Go Let Flo as the companion to your progress, starting in the first season. Remember you can find it on YouTube, CWSeed.com or snap up the full series on DVD. Whether the episodes were fluffy or deep, the award-winning actresses, writers and producers delivered a quality show. Steph and Liz, with Let Go Let Flo, are keeping the conversation alive - insights a dozen years later about loyalty, fidelity, family, trust, judgment, work, dreams.
It was great fun having Steph and Liz on Advanced TV Herstory. Just as they found each other on Twitter, I was scrolling my feed one day and found a tweet promoting one of their episodes. I was intrigued and immediately reached out to see if they’d bring their insights to this podcast. Thank you ladies, for being with us today. We wish them all the best as they grow their audience and find new meaning in a great TV show.
Thanks for listening to this installment of Advanced TV Herstory. Subscribe on iTunes or at our hosting site Libsyn. Listen directly on from a player by going to www.tvherstory.com, which is also where you can leave feedback on Girlfriends or any other show that featured four strong women characters. Also, while you’re at the podcast website, you’ll find scripts and notes. Good stuff. This podcast is a member of the Core Temp Arts Network - a place where you’ll find shows just like Let Go Let Flo, shows that deliver deep analysis, episode by episode, of quality tv series and produced by independent podcasts - core temp arts.com. Since all roads lead to Twitter and amazing friendships can often be attributed to the platform, follow the podcast @TVHerstory.
Music from our introduction comes from that invaluable resource Free Music Archive - we’re featuring the work of Jazzer, called Take Me Higher. Audio wizardry by David Brown.
Thanks for listening and DO stay in touch! I’m your host, Cynthia Bemis Abrams