The much hyped premiere of “Girls” aired on HBO Sunday night. No HBO, no problem. You can watch the pilot online gratis. The Guardian did a critic round up that covers it nicely, and while there are plenty of gripes, the consensus seems to be cautious optimism that it will be a show worth watching. I concur. It’s been reviewed to death, but what’s one more on the heap?
Twenty-four year old Hannah (played by writer-creator Lena Dunham) parents abruptly cut off her financial support. This is troublesome as she has no income stream of her own, and the cost of living in New York is high. Her reaction is petulant and adolescent, and it’s only downhill from there…
When she inquires about transitioning her unpaid internship into proper employment, she is flat out fired. In an effort to comfort herself, she seeks out physical affection from an equally entitled, self-involved, heinous (both in looks and personality) partner.
This romp causes her to be late to the dinner party thrown at her insistence to welcome home the allegedly glamorous, globetrotting Jessa. Hannah’s put upon roommate, Marnie, is saddled with the burden of stomaching her no-longer desired boyfriend, preparing dinner and entertaining unwanted guests. Marnie is justly annoyed by Hannah tardiness; more troubling still is the likelihood that Hannah won’t be able to make rent. Marnie encourages Hannah to appeal to her parents for temporary aid until she can bring in a pay check, but Jessa encourage her to push her parents to subsidize her lifestyle so she can focus on writing her memoir. Of course it’s a memoir! Guess who Hannah listens to?
And the bad decisions just keep coming. Hannah downs a mug of opium tea, and despite the late hour, barges into parent’s hotel room uninvited. She is out to prove to them once and for all she deserves a handsome monthly stipend in pursuit of writing. For added credibility, she promptly passes out. Her parents remain unimpressed and check out in the morning, leaving Hannah to sleep it off. After a failed attempt to order room service, she steals the tip left for the maid.
After watching the first episode, my feeling about “Girls” is staunchly neutral. My beef with the show is like that of so many others— the irksome references to Sex and the City, the contrived dialog, unlikable, privileged characters, the lack of diversity in the cast. I don’t know what you do with your free time, but I can honestly report I have never bathed with my friends or had a live conversation on or with someone on the toilet.
I can’t say I relate or sympathize with the characters, especially Hannah, from what I know so far. However, there are some elements that I did appreciate, like hard to watch highly unsexy sex scene between Hannah and Adam. It worked my gag reflex, but with purpose—an ugly act, spurred by ugly motives. I also found it refreshing that some of the cast members looked more like real people than actors. It would be easy and expected to play up Marnie’s more conventional Hollywood looks, but it’s fleshier Hannah that is unapologetically and often nude. I wonder how long it will be before Ms. Dunham drops 30 or so pounds due to “stress” or her busy schedule. Actually, that may be valid. She is getting mass amounts of pressure to be, as her cheekily written line goes, “the voice of a generation.”
All that said, I am not sure I understand Lena Dunham’s writing style and tone just yet, but that’s what will drive me to watch another episode. It could go one of two ways. My hope that Hannah will develop some redeeming qualities, that female friendships and all the crap that comes with them will be explored, career missteps worked through, and that healthy romantic relationships (which don’t necessarily mean long-term) relationships will be depicted. OR the show will continue down the myopic path it’s on. People will hate-watch it, believing that Hannah is an autobiographical depiction of Dunham. But hey, negative attention is still attention. Right?