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'Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce,' 9 p.m. Tuesdays on Bravo beginning tonight (Dec. 2)

Three stars (out of four)

"There are times when I would watch my husband sleeping and I would think, if he would just die, it would be so much easier," Abby McCarthy (Lisa Edelstein) says of her soon-to-be-ex in the premiere of "Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce."

Abby, a famous self-help author known for sharing her perfect life with women to get them through their own struggles, is about to flame out as "Girfriends' Guide" opens. She and husband Jake (Paul Adelstein), a boorish cheater, are on the brink of a split that will be scandalously public.

So far, they're faking it for the kids, and because her new advice book is about (irony alert) being happily married, but he's coming home at dawn smelling of another woman.

When Abby finds out he's having an affair with the young star of a CW network series ("Does she play a parent?" she asks hopefully), she's had it.

By going public with her divorce, Abby will also destroy her career. Luckily, she has friends on whom to lean, lawyer Lyla (Janeane Garofalo) and model Phoebe (Beau Garrett). Or, as Abby's gay brother, Max (Patrick Heusinger) calls them, “the poster moms for divorce.”

"Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce" feels very familiar, and anything that happens in the first hour could easily happen on one of Bravo's "Real Housewives" shows.

But in the hands of Marti Noxon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), loosely adapting books by Vicki Iovine, the dramedy is more than entertaining trash. It's also, as the line quoted above suggests, a raw and honest look at a woman in her 40s, trying to pick up the pieces of her life and put it back together in a better, more satisfying way.

This includes, needless to say, sex with a much younger man. But it also includes fighting an emotional connection to a married man, dealing with her ex's pubescent girlfriend, trying out the club scene again and considering a breast lift because this one doctor does amazing work.

Meanwhile, friend Lyla is coming out of a vicious divorce, irked at the huge alimony she's paying, and Phoebe is making a little bling from an occasional booty call.

Along with Noxon's scripting, Edelstein, best known as Cutty on "House," is the key to making "Girlfriends' Guide" work. Luckily, she's just right, making viewers feel the right amount of empathy (or at least sympathy) while also cringing for her, laughing at her or even disliking her from time to time.

Forget the terrible title and wacky promos with Bravo seems to be trying to drive off all but the most devoted "Real Housewives" fans. "Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce" is a smart, solid examination of just how messy relationships are and how hard it is to make them work.