Why HBO's 'Girls' Deserves All the Hype It's Getting
Groundbreaking." "Fresh and wonderfully realized." "A brilliant gem." It's a lot for a new comedy from a young, unproven filmmaker to live up to. And yet in its first three episodes, HBO's "Girls" does just that, managing to capture the spirit of today's youth culture with unmatched clarity -- while also delivering more laughs in those three half-hours than most sitcoms have managed all season long. Here's one case where we don't mind jumping on the critical bandwagon: "Girls" is off to a very impressive start, and may be one of the best TV shows of the year, new or otherwise.
25-year-old Lena Dunham is the star, and it's okay if you've never heard of her: She's been busy writing and directing obscure indie films like 2010's proto-"Girls" comedy, "Tiny Furniture." She writes and directs here, too, and plays Hannah, a young aspiring writer who, after she's unceremoniously cut off by her parents, has to figure out how to scrape by with zero income in New York City. But she gets by with a little help from her friends: sweet, preppy Marnie (Allison Williams); foul-mouthed free spirit Jessa (Jemima Kirke); and annoyingly perky Shoshanna ("Mad Men's" Zosia Mamet). The girls also have a series of variously dissatisfying relationships with the opposite sex -- but who didn't at their age?
It makes perfect sense that a 25-year-old created this show, because the dialogue nails the rhythms young people speak in today, from their casual sarcasm to their stunning self-awareness. (Hannah puts herself down a lot, but she does it so eloquently, it's somehow charming.) There's also a sexual frankness to "Girls" that will probably cause some older viewers to clutch their pearls, with Dunham appearing in a few utterly unglamorous sex scenes that are not very sexy at all -- but are very funny. Her fearlessness as a writer and performer lends "Girls" an endearing authenticity that spreads throughout the entire series. (Another plus to having a 25-year-old running the show: The soundtrack is impeccable.)
Get a sneak peek at HBO's "Girls" with this extended trailer:
Dunham is undoubtedly the driving force behind "Girls," but there's another interesting name lurking in the credits: Judd Apatow. Yes, the man behind " The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and " Knocked Up" is an executive producer here, and it seems he's found a kindred spirit in Dunham, another profane chronicler of everyday problems. "Girls" actually works as a perfect companion piece to Apatow's great pre-"Virgin" TV efforts, " Freaks and Geeks" and " Undeclared"; those shows struck a similar balance between comedy and drama while focusing on the turbulent lives of young people -- a formula that we don't see on TV often enough these days.
In fact, it's surprising that for all the effort TV networks put into courting younger viewers (hence, all those annoying hashtags you see floating in the corner of your TV screen these days), there really aren't too many shows about people in their early 20s on the air right now. Oh, we get plenty of shows about thirty-year-olds acting younger than they are (see: "