Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Girls just wanna have fun

HBO's newest series is Girls. Produced by Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up), and created by series star Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture), Girls follows the exploits of twenty-something females in New York. But Sex and the City this is not. These girls are cash poor, less focused on men, and much more realistic. In fact, when one of the characters relates herself and her cousin to Sex and the City characters, it comes across as cheesy and dumb. This is the gritty, more authentic version of Sex and the City, or at least an example of where those girls might have been before they found successful careers.

Hannah (Dunham) begins the "Pilot" by learning that her parents will be cutting her off financially. This is terrible news, because Hannah works an unpaid internship and is writing a memoir (yes, at her age!) that might just be the "voice of a generation," or so she says while high on opium. Thus, left with no source of income, Hannah has to quit her internship and seek actual employment. She is offended and angry, begging for just two more years of support. Her parents decline.

Hannah is the voice of a generation, in that many young people today count on their parents to pay for everything. Those who come from well-to-do families might get that, and have the resources to begin life as an author or working on another creative project. Most of us, though, have to work hard, sometimes multiple jobs, to take care of ourselves, and shove our ambitions into projects accomplished during scant free-time. Hannah isn't exactly likeable in this regard, but she is a familiar character, as every young person knows plenty like her, who expect, rather than are grateful, to be taken care of.

Luckily, that isn't all there is to Hannah. She's feisty, and she's a free spirit. She is determined, and viewers are definitely left with the impression she will overcome these stumbling blocks. She is funny and honest. She has casual-ish sex with a struggling actor named Adam (Adam Driver, You Don't Know Jack). All of these combine to make her a good character, despite the whiny qualities that come out when dealing with her parents. And really, who doesn't revert to childish behaviors a bit when dealing with the adults who raised you?

Hannah is surrounded by other interesting, seemingly layered, people. Hannah's gorgeous roommate, Marnie (Allison Williams, Will & Kate: Before Happily Ever After), is in a relationship with Charles (Christopher Abbott). She feels smothered by him, but won't break it off. Again, everyone knows a girl like that. Marnie's British friend, Jessa (Jemima Kirke, Tiny Furniture), just blows into town in the "Pilot," and is someone who lives in the clouds. Surely, though, she has some grasp on reality, and just pretends not to, or she wouldn't have survived thus far. Perhaps it's a coping mechanism? Lastly, Jessa crashes with younger cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet, Mad Men, United States of Tara), who naively believes her life can be explained by Sex and the City. It's annoying, but she'll mature soon enough.

The "Pilot" leaves one feeling like Girls is more than the sum of its parts. What this review contains is a sketch of what the show is about, but it's impossible to convey in words the quirky charm that comes across on screen. The success of Girls is all about tone, subtlety, nuance, and irony. It has that certain something not easily pinpointed. It will surely resonate with the generation it portrays.

Watch Girls Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on HBO.

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