Sunday, April 15, 2012

Girls on HBO: Not a SATC Rehash

Trying to decide if you should watch HBO’s new comedy series, Girls? Worried it’s going to be too much of a Sex and the City ripoff? Well, worry no more. While a knowledge of Sex and the City is almost a necessary precursor to fully understand the subtle humour in this show, Girls is a very different series.

Starring series creator and writer Lena Dunham in the lead role of Hannah, it’s about four women who have come to NYC to find the awesome that they had watched on Sex and the City, and instead find it’s a really expensive place with not as much to offer for four regular girls who don’t look like (or have the seemingly bottomless income of) Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte.

The opening moments of the show give it a Rushmore feel – that awkward dinner conversation where one’s life changes completely. From there Hannah, who thought she had the world in her hands with her free internship as a copy editor, her tiny apartment she can barely afford, and her occasional hook-up with her fuck-buddy (you simply cannot call him a boyfriend), suddenly has to find a real job and wake up to not being carried by her parents any longer. After 25 years, they’ve decided it really is time for her to be independent.

The best way to describe the dialogue on the show is Michael Cera–like. Dunham is wonderful in the lead role, and talks with the unfinished sentences hanging in the air like Cera is known to do. “I thought we were going out tonight but now I see you have other plans, so…” Zosia Mamet, who plays Peggy’s friend Joyce on Mad Men (where I often think her dialogue falls really flat because they just don’t give her the right lines), is awkward and lovable in this show as the girl who rarely stops talking, wants everyone to be her friend, and is pretending to be someone far more experienced than she is. She is the one who brings up Sex and the City most overtly with an onrunning monologue about which character she most identifies with.

Allison Williams plays Hannah’s roommate, the pretty girl who’s tired of her well-meaning, good-looking, but tres boring boyfriend. Jemima Kirke rounds out the girls as Jessa, the Brit expat who is cool because she’s a Brit, who has experienced more than the other girls, but it hasn’t exactly made her a better person. In fact, as we quickly discover, it’s created some serious problems for her.

Girls is produced by Judd Apatow (whose last outing on TV was the amazing Freaks and Geeks) and arose from Lena Dunham’s indie film, Tiny Furniture (for which she won best first screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards). It has a very rep feel to it, and the actors on the show feel fresh and inexperienced, exactly the way they should. This show does not have the polish of Sex and the City, and often feels as uncomfortable as a Ricky Gervais show, but because of both of these things, it feels unique and new, not something recycled. I worry that many people will avoid this show thinking it’s some sort of Sex and the City retread, when in fact, this show is very much its own, and while it doesn’t try to be the voice of a generation, it’s certainly a voice… of… some generation.

Girls debuts tonight on HBO Canada at 10:30.


Lawrence said...

Insightful post about the show =)

Suzanne Gardner said...

Really looking forward to trying this show - thanks for your post, Nikki! Wish I had HBO so that I could watch it live tonight, but alas, will have to wait until later this week to check it out. :)

Zach Z said...

I am going to stick out a few more episodes of this show mainly because of bloggers, like Alan Sepinwall, Dan Fienberg and Todd VanDerWerff, absolute and unabashed love and support they have been giving this show the past week or so leading up to the premier. But after the premier I was very meh on it. Maybe because as a half-hour comedy I didn't come close to laughing out loud once to it being a problem. And the other is I didn't like a single character on the show. Maybe because I know people like this being in my mid 20's and despise them in real life, but maybe there is more to them then this first impression gave me. But I don't see me sticking with it unless the show makes me laugh, because if I find most of the character's unlikable then I at least need to find them funny like say Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down which ended it's 3rd (and final?) season right before this premiered who is a totally despicable human being but I can laugh at him...

Nikki Stafford said...

Zach: I don't blame you, actually. The reason people are raving about it is because the screeners had the first three episodes, and I was a little meh on the first episode, too. It was the second one that won me over and had me laughing. So see what you think after the next couple of eps. :)

Blam said...

I'm not a huge fan of "discomfort comedy" or Gen-x (lowercase x, as in whatever generation) aimlessness 'n' angst, but thankfully Girls is grounded in more than just snark and cleverness for its own sake. Also thankfully it works even for someone like me who knows the broad strokes of Sex and the City and has seen a couple of episodes but no more than that (despite an old friend writing for it; I didn't have HBO at the time and mostly haven't been moved to seek it out).

I didn't get to see Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture in theaters and it only just came out on DVD, but it's high in my on-hold (too much TV right now) Netflix queue. I'm glad to see that Judd Apatow seems to have been nurturing but not overbearing in letting Dunham write, cast, and shoot the series. Zosia Mamet in particular is, as you say, a revelation in contrast to her cool Mad Men role, a testament to both her and the series' casting directors.