Monday, April 16, 2012

I SAW HER, YEAH I SAW HER WITH HER BLACK TONGUE TIED 'ROUND THE ROSES, FIST POUNDING ON A VENDING MACHINE, TOY DIAMOND RING STUCK ON HER FINGER: HBO's Girls debuted last night (as perhaps you know, if you have synapses). It was very funny, crisply and efficiently written in a way that pilots rarely are. I was kind of afraid of it, because of the "Sex and the City without Manolos" synopsis that has been making the rounds, but that, thankfully, is a gross and superficial mischaracterization, like saying that Entourage is just "Reservoir Dogs without guns," because it is about a bunch of guys in Los Angeles who are obsessed with status and money. In its first episode, Girls observed its characters more sharply than SatC ever did and deftly avoided, while at the same time acknowledging, the latter show's impulse toward reductive taxonomies of women.

My only complaint, which is possibly unfair, is that the show has a pretty narrow world view. It's not clear to me whether the show expects the audience to sympathize with the central conflict in the pilot -- will Hannah's parents continue to support her, two years after she graduated from college? I didn't. And I get that we're supposed to recognize that Hannah makes bad choices and is not entirely sympathetic, but it also irritated me that Marnie (who, on Hannah's shoulders, wears the white gown) and Jessa (red gown and horns) disagreed on tactics but agreed that the only strategy was to beg the parents for more money. The show is funny, well-acted, and well-timed, but I'm not sure how long I can take it if it's going to be just a bunch of stunted young adults lamenting about how unfair it is that they can't live beyond their means.

Nope, one other complaint. Hilde Desmond and Jean Weir are the same age? Impossible.


  1. I'm probably in the minority here, but I kind of hated it.  Which I didn't expect at all, given my love for other dark/edgy/stripped-down shows.

  2. I'm wondering if seeing the next two episodes will make my opinion significantly more favorable, as most reviews were based on the first three.  I thought it was good - interesting, but only moderately amusing.  I'm pretty stunned that critics are already comparing it to Louie.

  3. Rebecca2:45 PM

    I just watched it for a second time, while cleaning my Williamsburg loft. I say that because I'm exactly in the target demo, I'm 24, white, and get to stay home watching HBO at noon on a Monday (although in my case it's because I'm a bartender/yoga instructor, my professor parents haven't financially supported me since I was 18).

    And I'm with Russ. I kind of hated it. I didn't totally hate it, but wasn't this show supposed to be written for me? I have more empathy for Louie. And Stringer Bell. And freaking Sansa from Game of Thrones and I don't like her very much at all (actually, Sansa would probably fit into the cast of Girls really well. I enjoy Marnie approximately as much as I enjoy Sansa).

    I'm still watching it, and I'm still wanting to like it, and next week's Vagina Panic episode will probably go a long ways towards making or breaking it for me. I was pretty deeply irritated by the fact that they played the pregnancy card so early. Essentially every bit of media about young women involves a pregnancy scare which is A)pretty, albeit not completely avoidable in this educated, affluent millieu and B) just boring. There are myriad ways in which the life of a young woman can be interesting that do not involve her uterus. Got it? Awesome. Thanks. Also, that Jessa reveals her pregnancy in a way that she wants us and Marnie to believe that it explains her behavior. Know what's more interesting than a young women who spends the first two episodes of a series pregnant (because clearly we're taking a trip to abobo-town)? A woman who's just kind of an unabashed selfish prick.

    And I know this is a family blog, but I really hope we learn that little Shoshana has a rocking sex life in the next episode. Because if the show's going to revolve around sex this much, I need it to be just a tiny little bit sex positive. I mean, sex is fun, can't someone be enjoying it just a little? I don't want my 19 year old sister watching a show where the main characters constantly talk about sex but are completely incapable of communicating their needs to their partners. I'm really not asking the show to be a primer in feminism, but I refuse to believe that any group of friends is collectively this bad at conducting their intimate relations.  

    I did like the part where Hannah got soft-fired from her non-job by Digger Stiles. That was pretty real. I feel like later episodes might be more enjoyable, not only because I've heard they're stronger, but because I haven't already heard all the best laugh lines in trailers and reviews. I want to like it, but as I said on Alan's blog, I don't know anyone who's this bad at life, and I'm not sure I want to.

  4. Just watched it at lunch on the HBOgo app. Nothing like watching awkward sex at lunch at Panera! I was hoping to like it more than I did, but I'll reserve judgment for a few more episodes. I'm hoping my reaction is entirely based on the fact that I just had to let go a 28-year-old employee whose parents have been supporting her for her entire life. Maybe other episodes won't be about whining about how to afford your life?

  5. christy in nyc5:17 PM

    I will also give it through the third episode, but I can't really say I enjoyed it that much either. I've been trying to articulate why, and I'm not sure.

    It might have to do with that fine line between "I relate to this material" and "I am so close to this material that watching it feels like work." I was never supported by my parents after college, and I only have a small handful of peers that I know were, but there was trying to find a job in publishing, there were roommates, there were awkward encounters with know, I'm just not all that sure I'm keen to relive those years.

    But I think it's plausible that once the premise and characters are firmly in place, it won't really feel like that anymore.

  6. isaac_spaceman8:56 PM

    Geez, tough crowd.  I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to have known nothing and gone in with no expectations.  No love for the "hungry" line?  The guy talking about McDonald's while brewing opium tea?  Hannah's mom with the "I want a lake house" line?  Best thing about it, though, is Lena Dunham's completely plausible, naturalistic delivery of every line.  99 out of 100 actresses would have overbaked the "a voice of a generation" line, but Dunham is great at softening some pretty sharp dialogue.  The show made me laugh a bunch of times.  The only problem I have with it is contextual, with all of the main characters being such sponges (a problem heightened by the fact that at least three of the actresses come from so much fame and money, which really heightens the "we're just slumming" sense of it).   

  7. 1.  I think Dunham is a fine actress and a solid writer, but could have used a stronger director to help steer things.  Also, I think having her be writer/director/star makes it too hard to separate her from the character and makes it very easy to read Hannah as a Mary Sue, which I think and hope is not the intention.

    2.  Personally, I found Hannah's parents far more sympathetic than Hannah.

  8. isaac_spaceman9:46 PM

    I liked the direction.  It was funny, it moved briskly, it introduced everybody without the clunky exposition you get in most pilots, there was some nice cinematography (great use of row houses in the tracking shots), and the actors came across pretty well.  One could quibble with Jessa's lack of projection or Shoshana's (stagey) surfeit of it, but they're not really big issues to me.  As for Hannah as a Mary Sue, that would be the biggest Mary Sue failure of all time.  I thought the point of the Mary Sue was to transparently try to make yourself look good, thereby in fact making yourself look bad.  Dunham makes Hannah look terrible.  Hannah leeches off her parents, chats through pathetic sex, refers to herself as a "fat baby angel," gets fired from an unpaid internship, passes out from opium tea in front of her parents, who promptly ditch her in a hotel room.  Nothing good happens to her, and it is all completely her fault.  For a Mary Sue, Hannah could take some lessons from irresistable sex machine/middle-aged paunchy smoker Mikael Blomkvist or whatever charming and articulate Sorkin stand-in is being played by Bradley Whitford this time around. 

  9. Nigel from Cameroon12:15 PM

    Me too. Maybe it's a show for chicks (well, obviously it is, but you know what I mean (maybe)). I thought the characters were all quasi-hipsters and/or various degrees of douchebags. So, just not likeable and not for me

  10. Like some other commenters, I'm still trying to figure out how much I liked it, but I am certain of one thing--I can't remember watching anything else that made me (early 30s with husband, baby, job, mortgage, and student loans) feel quite so ancient.

  11. isaac_spaceman2:37 PM

    What?  They're just like you, except 10 years younger with boyfriends they hate, abortions, nothing to do all day long, rent, and their parents' credit cards.