Even after 11 years since leaving our tv screens, UPN’s Girlfriends remains one of America’s most recognized sitcoms, and it is not just for its theme song (fans would know) -it was for its unique portrayal of black femme friendship on television.
The popular sitcom, which followed the lives of four African American women, was one of the highest-rated television shows in the 2000s.
But like many other noteworthy sitcoms that have come and gone, the series had its ups and downs, including severe rating falls when a fan-favorite character Toni, disappeared from Girlfriends.
What is Girlfriends?
Girlfriends is an American sitcom series that premiered on 11 September 2000. It follows the lives of four black women, played by Golden Brooks (Maya Denise), Persia White (Lynn Searcy), Tracee Ellis Ross (Joan Clayton ), and Jill Marie Jones (Toni Childs ) – who navigate their professional and personal lives in Los Angelos.
Though the sitcom focuses on the tight-knit but sometimes complicated friendship between the four, the show also regularly featured American Actor Reggie Hayes as William Dent and Khalil Khan as Maya’s husband, Darnell.
For a couple of seasons, the television series aired on UPN before moving to its successor network, The CW. After two years on The CW, the popular sitcom came to an abrupt end in 2008. With the show’s landscape changing for a while leading up to its eighth season, some fans might agree that the show’s end was forthcoming.
One noteworthy change occurred after the sitcom’s sixth season when Fan-favourite Antoinette “Toni” Marie Childs-Garrett, played by Jill Marie Jones, disappeared from the show.
Fans were dismayed by her departure, with scores taking to social media to share their feelings of the show never being the same without Toni.
Why did Toni (Jill Marie Jones) leave Girlfriends?
‘Toni’ Marie Childs-Garrett’s character was an opening for black girls to visualize themselves as adults leading luxurious lives. Toni, a go-getter who begins the show as a real estate agent, ventures into opening up her brokerage and overall enjoys an expensive lifestyle (sometimes above her means).
Although Toni Childs seems financially better off, like the other girls, she experiences her fair share of disappointment, including falling out with the girls a couple of times and experiencing tough romantic relationships.
The closest thing we see her get to stability when it comes to her romantic life is when she marries Jewish Plastic Surgeon Todd Garrett. However, in her final season, we see Toni settling her custody battle with Todd, this being the last that fans got to see of their show favorite.
Toni’s departure was surrounded by numerous rumors, including as per The Grape Juice, Tracee Ellis Ross insinuating that the girls never received a raise that they were expecting, and hence why Jill left.
The American Actress would quickly debunk that claim, revealing to Essence that she wanted to explore more with her personal career.
“I left because I wanted to do movies. My contract was up after my sixth season, and people forget that just like the network can choose whether or not to renew your contract, I can also choose and evaluate whether or not I want to come back,” she said.
“There is so much more I want to do in my career, and so much I want to know and learn, but my departure had nothing to do with money,” she continued.
Fans have a hard time accepting her departure
According to Nicki Swift, showrunners replaced Toni with Monica Brooks, played by Keesha Sharp. The lively character captured the viewer’s attention. However, the show’s ratings plummetted down after Toni’s departure.
According to USA Today, Girlfriends had a rating of 4.2 million viewers by its second season but recorded just 2.1 million viewers as per ABC Medianet, after its sixth season.
YBF reported that an inside source revealed that Jones’ departure was the “biggest complaint that the cast and crew have encountered about the show.” leaving us to believe the show’s considerable decline in ratings was mainly in part due to Toni’s exit.
Recently, Jill reunited with the talented actors of Girlfriends on ABC’s Black-ish. On a Black-ish episode titled feminists, the former cast members got to relive their days of sharing a screen on their once-hit show.
In an interview after the Girlfriends reunion episode on Black-ish award-winning actress Tracee Ellis Ross spoke about Toni’s departure and how it affected the sitcom.
“That is one of the things that bothered me when I would hear people say, ‘What are you guys going to do without Toni?’ These women are still doing a show,” Ross said. “But it was hard without you, Jill,” Ross added.
Why did Girlfriends get canceled?
After its eighth season, the show came to an end with two back-to-back episodes. A representative from
The CW announced the show would not receive a proper series finale as it would be too expensive. The CW representative’s explanation revealed that the show got canceled due to expensive financial costs.
A CW spokesperson at the time confirmed this by stating, “This was a very difficult decision for us and was based solely on the considerable cost to license each episode in an extremely unusual business environment.”
Despite an abrupt end and an unbefitting finale, Girlfriends will always be remembered as a significant show for black women – paving the way for more black women on television post the 2000s.
The show’s game-changing presence was so overwhelming it went on to receive a spin-off series called The Game. In addition, in 2020, Netflix announced it would include every season of Girlfriends on its streaming platform.
What is Jill Marie Jones up to now?
Ending her six-year-long work relationship with Girlfriends in 2006, Jill Marie Jones went on to obtain a handful of clap-worthy achievements.
According to Essence, Jill acted in movies like The Perfect Holiday alongside Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, and the Black-ensemble cast film 35 & Ticking.
She also starred in shows such as Sleepy Hollow, American Horror Story, and Ash vs. Evil Dead.
With the future looking bright for the accomplished actress, viewers are only likely to keep seeing her hit the screens in the best of productions.