It's good to have a few shows littered around the week to look forward to for their reasonably compelling entertainment value. HBO is serving up two on Sunday night with old pro Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Veep and those madcap Girls who are taking the Internet by storm. How did this jaded writer who hates everything, get obsessed with Girls. It might just be their charm.
Lena Dunham's feature film from 2010, Tiny Furniture, won Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest Music and Media Conference and Dunham herself played the lead role of Aura. The DVD was recently released on The Criterion Collection, no less. Her success brought her to the attention of celebrated director Judd Apatow, who would become the executive producer of her next project, Girls.
Dunham has a fistful of credits for Girls, written produced, created and starring. Many of Dunham's co-stars are daughters of famous names in the entertainment and media industry. Jemima Kirke, a high school friend of Dunham who also appeared in Tiny Furniture, is the daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke. Shoshana is played by Zosia Mamet, the daughter of playwright David Mamet; while Allison Williams, who is Marnie, is the daughter of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.
The early success of the show is such that it has already been renewed for a second season before the airing of the third episode of the first. The first three episodes had been screened at the most recent South By Southwest. Episode one is the pilot where Hannah gets cut-off by her obnoxious parents and Marnie hates her boyfriend. The second show is the abortion party at the clinic for Jessa, Shoshana's cousin from England, who has arrived, thinks she's pregnant. Hannah decided to get tested for an STD while at the clinic and in the third episode, find out that she has HPV. She meets up with an old boyfriend who turns to have become or always was gay. He tells her, "Nice to see you. You're dad is gay." That show ended with Marnie and Hannah dancing to Robyn. (Which got excellent snark from Gawker.)
I enjoy how the guys on Girls are just the worst. Self-centered Adam, wimpy Charlie, vicious Elijah, super-pretentious Booth Jonathan. They really are just prime examples of the worst kinds of boys and Dunham skewers them deliciously. But not all of her cuts are reserved for the, she points the knife at her own character and her friends just as sharply. Part of the early buzz of Girls centered on the idea that it was somewhat of a re-imagination of Sex and the City told "realistically." Of course, anyone who has ever worked on a play, TV show or movie that was "realistic" knows that reality is the hardest thing to portray with integrity and makes for much more work than fantasy. Fantasy is easy. Dunham's Girls never takes the easy route. In this age of reality TV, with its awkward voyeuristic numbing hours of ordinary spiced up with seconds of the truly horrifying, it is a pleasure to watch a show that is interesting. Even though one can detect a bit of improvisation that doesn't quite come together and occasionally some of the lines fall flat, there are just those moments of crystalline coolness to look forward to in the show.
Now the series has been picked up for a second season, despite somewhat modest rating. This is certainly more about the buzz for the show that the eyeballs on the screens. But, I don't know whether this is also because the show is really so good or the fact that almost all of broadcast TV is just warmed over retreads of older shows. This is not the first show that tells the story of a group of girlfriends, but it is perhaps one that is just not complete fake at its outset. And "not-fakeness" is really something in this day and age. But, yeah, also they are really charming. So there.
The bottom line is that, at the least, I am interested in finding out who these girls are beyond the set up of their characters in the first three episodes. Hapless Hanna, uptight Marnie, wild child Jessa and inexperienced Shoshanna are just the first layers of the girl onions. As was stated on the last episode, "I'm really loving this string cheese."
One slam against the show is the lack of diversity. Besides all of the girls being brunette on the show, there is apparently a need to include a non-white character in their group. However, at Clutch magazine, The Root contributing editor Demetria L. Lucas says she's not bothered by the racial makeup of HBO's Girls because her own group of friends isn't ethnically diverse, either.
I saw Lena Dunham on The Colbert Report (somewhat giddy) and Allison Williams on The Jimmy Fallon Show (really giddy). It just seems that the Girls are everywhere. But we knew that.
*Monday AM Addition* Part 4 cause quite a disparate amount of critiques among the bloggerati who use their criticism platform to demonstrate how smart they are, or at least smart-assy. This one wasn't directed by Dunham and some said it was the most sitcom-y. But there was a heck of a lot of stuff crammed into that half hour. Shoshana got her first large amount of screen time and was quite funny as she pursued changing her state as the "least virginal virgin ever." Hannah had a great scene with Adam. Marnie's boyfriend went off the rails. Jessa is in deep storyline that will no doubt emerge later. Definitely this show is worth tracking.