Maybe it was when Cece (Hannah Simone) and Schmidt (Max Greenfield) split up on New Girl, and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) didn’t spend any time comforting her with smiley-face cupcakes or tearful screenings of Bambi.
Or maybe it was when Mindy (Mindy Kaling) broke off her engagement to Pastor Casey (Anders Holm), and no one was there to help her fill that sad-single-girl-shaped hole in her heart with extra helpings of glass noodle salad.
At some point, I started to wonder: Do any women on TV have female friends anymore?
I miss the Lucys and Ethels, the Mary Tyler Moores and Rhodas, the Carries and Mirandas, women who could call each other on their flakiness, and still clink martini glasses afterward. For a while, it looked like Jess could’ve found the Laverne to her Shirley. New Girl might’ve started out by focusing on the sole woman in a house full of dudes, but Jess was always a girls’ girl, the type who could throw a mean bachelorette party, go clubbing with supermodels, and real-talk with her girlfriends about getting her egg count tested. But ever since Jess got serious with Nick, the women in her life have disappeared. Remember Sadie (June Diane Raphael), the lesbian gynecologist who used to join Jess for crochet night? Or Julia (Lizzy Caplan), who made fun of Jess for her big-eyed, “scared baby” schtick, but eventually became Jess’s ally? Even Cece, who’s supposed to be Jess’s best friend, has been mostly left to herself this season, trying to get over her breakup while Jess plays endless games of rouse the groundhog with Nick — and occasionally supervises his Glamour Shots alongside Schmidt and Winston (Lamorne Morris).
Hooking up with Nick has even crippled Jess’s ability to make new friends: in “Jacuzz,” she couldn’t fit in with the other teachers at school without him stepping in. (“You’re Nick Miller’s girl now,” he told her. “You’re my old lady. Whatever you need, you got it!”) Just a few episodes later, it seems like she never goes to work at all. All holed up in their love cocoon, Jess and Nick have been transformed into characters from a Luis Buñuel movie: some cosmic force seems to be preventing them from leaving their apartment. The show has gotten so claustrophobic that even a mundane trip to the bank last week felt like a gasp for fresh air for viewers who’ve been begging to be let out for a walk.
The Mindy Project also started out with more ladies’ nights. Mindy babysat for Gwen (Anna Camp), went partying with that woman in the wheelchair, and celebrated her birthday with that saucy brunette who everyone thinks is racist. But even though this season has been funnier than the last, it has lost any sense that Mindy has a life beyond the rom-com fantasies of the high-powered job and the muss-haired date-of-the-week. The implication is that career ladies like Dr. Lahiri can’t have it all: they have to choose between having a boyfriend or a best friend. But that seems ridiculous, considering how much free time Mindy wastes binge-watching Nora Ephron movies and planning her dream wedding to Draco Malfoy. It would be nice to learn more about her girlfriends, at least enough that we can refer to them as something besides That Woman in the Wheelchair and That Saucy Brunette Who Everyone Thinks Is Racist. It’s a little shocking that a show set in an OB/GYN clinic devotes so little time to female characters.
Maybe these shows are just brilliant critiques of women who neglect their girlfriends once they get into relationships. But even those TV heroines who aren’t newly attached seem awfully lonely when they aren’t talking to men. Who can Scandal‘s Olivia (Kerry Washington) gossip with about the president? Who does Nashville‘s Rayna (Connie Britton) turn to when she wants to bitch about Juliette (Hayden Panettiere)? (Her sister, Tandy, might be the only option. Sisters are often the exception to this rule, since they’re forced to stand by their family: just look at Skyler and Marie on Breaking Bad, or Carrie and Maggie on Homeland.) True, many of these shows are about women surviving in largely male worlds: D.C. politics, country music, post-collegiate bro dens. Still, it’s strange that the only time grown-up female characters gather together outside of work is if they’re stirring a cauldron. And as fun as they are to spend time with, the ladies of American Horror Story: Coven and Witches of East End aren’t exactly “friends.”
It’s an especially terrible time for Rashida Jones to depart Parks and Recreation and Sandra Oh to leave Grey’s Anatomy, because two of the best (platonic) couples on television — Leslie and Ann, Meredith and Cristina — are doomed to split up. You know we’re in a bad place when 2 Broke Girls is the one network show that actually focuses on two young women who are bound together for good, no matter how many times they roll their eyes at each other. (I’ll admit, I was moved by a recent fight between them, which ended with Max telling Caroline that she loves her.) Lately, watching Jess and Mindy ditch their girlfriends on New Girl and The Mindy Project just reminds me of that Sex and the City episode when Carrie flaked on a dinner date with Miranda so that Big could cook her some veal. “You blew me off for a piece of politically incorrect meat?” Miranda huffed. It was hard to tell whether she was talking about Big or the baby cow he made for dinner. Either way, she wasn’t going to stand by while Carrie passed her over for a guy. And it’s hard to believe that Cece or Gwen or any woman worth her crochet-night needles would, either.