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TV REVIEW : ‘Girlfriend’: Deeply Affecting Drama About Racial Tensions

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The death of a classmate brings two high school girls together, but racial tensions threaten their friendship--one teen is African-American, the other is white--in “Girlfriend,” an intelligent, deeply affecting ABC Afterschool Special (today 3 p.m., channels 7, 3, 10, 42).

The drama opens with the drive-by murder of basketball star Trevor (Torrance Harvey). One moment he’s full of life, talking to friends, then he’s a statistic, a life wasted. The tragedy is later underscored by a moving flashback with Trevor and his friend LaChrista (Samaria Graham, a young actor with an arresting presence, heading a top-notch cast).

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The story really belongs to LaChrista, who finds herself through Trevor’s death and an unexpected friendship. LaChrista, a budding artist, joins a multiracial group of classmates to create a memorial mural for Trevor under the guidance of artist Jo Delancey (Lynn Thigpen), but she isn’t happy to be teamed up with Lynda (Rinnan Henderson), who is white.

As the two slowly get close, LaChrista earns angry taunts of “crossover” from her African-American friends, Stephanie (Kia Joy Goodwin) and Desiree (Lisa Nicole Carson), who also scorn the mural project as a meaningless “Band-Aid,” “propaganda” for a “rainbow crew.”

Indeed, the drama not only tries to remove social issues from the framework of color, while acknowledging cliches, it also give the opposing viewpoint a credible, if angry, voice: “I can see it all now,” sneers Desiree about impending local news coverage. “ ‘They all came together, despite their differences’ . . . " “Why now?” Stephanie asks. “Other brothers have gotten shot. I mean, they had names, too . . . “

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In the heated exchange, La-Christa equates their desire to tear down the efforts of others with the destructiveness that killed Trevor.

This sensitive OGW Production, directed by Lloyd Kramer, with an introduction by Oprah Winfrey, was written by Casey Kurtti, “loosely based” on an idea by New York high schooler Bich-na Nguyen.

It is one of the finest specials in the series to date.


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