Just when it seemed like HBO was done one-upping everyone else, the network again waved its magic Emmy-winning wand — whose magic I have begun to suspect actually stems from unending resources (I’m onto you, HBO) — and this time, out popped Girls.
This dark and witty show created, written by and starring Lena Dunham, follows the lives of four recently graduated women attempting to “find themselves” amidst the roar of the Big Apple. The characters are nothing like anything we’ve seen before on television, but are everything like what we’ve seen in real life. With visually or abdominally-stimulating shows such as Game of Thrones and Eastbound and Down maturing like a Bordeaux Claret, it’s about time the network produced a show that’s mediocre in the most overachieving sense. Girls provides viewers with more examples of purposeful artistic mediocrity than is fathomable.
The pilot opens with main character Hannah (played by Dunham) at a dinner with a mother who no longer wants to be responsible for her financially, and a father who can’t bear the sight of his daughter unhappy. Hannah, whose only job is an unpaid writing internship, quickly crumbles under the pressure of having her funding permanently frozen and spends the episode doing things which are bad for her, both emotionally and physically.
Her best friend and roommate Marnie (Allison Williams) seems to be financially stable, but is distracted by her attempts to hide from her boyfriend, whose smothering love has recently begun to feel like “a weird uncle just putting his hand on my knee at Thanksgiving.”
At first glance, a summary of this show might look a lot like the plot of “2 Broke Girls,” but this is no Witney Cummings sitcom. These girls aren’t the usual “Rent”-inspired anorexic, artistic, NYC hipsters whom we are used to seeing on shows about poor twenty-somethings.
They’re not even really that destitute, but it’s their utterly uncomfortable normalcy which makes them so appealing. Hannah has this self-awareness which is almost painful to watch; most of it manifests through body-image problems, such as calling herself a “fat baby angel” next to her “Victoria’s Secret angel” roommate. Similarly, she tells her parents she thinks she may be the voice of her generation, immediately degrading it to “at least a voice of a generation.”
Hannah may be busy trying to “be who she is,” but like many a college graduate, she seems to have no concrete clue what that could possibly be.
The cliché social problems don’t seem so bad when they are held together with such simply self-aware dialogue. Hannah masochistically seeks out the company of Adam (Adam Driver). Adam’s snide remarks, amazing talent of finding and pointing out Hannah’s insecurities, and cavalier attitude toward sex are enough to make any girl swoon — and provide a convenient foil for Marnie’s suffocating lovebird, Charlie.
The list of destructive personalities grows when Hannah’s terrifyingly bohemian English friend, Jessa (Jemima Kirke), drops out of the sky and starts to stir things up, urging Hannah to follow in the footsteps of great artists such as Flaubert, Picasso, Mick Jagger and Jessa’s stepbrother.
The shining characteristic of this show is its ability to bring something to the table which none of us have seen for a while: mutability. I can’t tell whether this show is applauding its characters or making fun of them, and I’m totally okay with it.
The whole 30 minutes feels like a prophetic dream which will come true the second I throw my cap in the air, and as hard as it is to watch Dunham’s character fall to pieces, I realize that it’s more a warning of our not-so-far-off future than anything else. It’s dark, it’s real, it’s nightmare fuel, and I’ve already recommended it to anyone who will listen.