Have thirty minutes? You should watch the premiere episode of Girls from Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. It aired on HBO this week and chances are you didn’t see it. But thanks to YouTube and bad ratings, now you can.
For a pilot episode, it’s very good. There is depth to the characters, we get a clear sense of story and plot, and we know where the show is heading. It’s not the most laugh-out-loud comedy or the best drama, but it has a strong voice and a crystal clear point of view. I think most of the backlash for Girls stems from old people just not getting it. This is an honest show from a young comic about living in New York after college. This is not Sex and the City (which is handled nicely with a tip of the cap in the pilot) and it’s certainly not Friends.
Whether viewers want to admit or acknowledge, Girls is painfully accurate in all it’s cringe-inducing moments. Yes, twenty-somethings leech money off their parents like it’s their birth rite. Yes, girls sleep around and have self-esteem problems. Yes, friends are can be assholes. This is the new Big City dream for thousands of college graduates every year. Move to New York from wherever, try to pursue your dreams while being subsidized by family members, and hope the free ride doesn’t end before you get your shit together.
My favorite scene is the opener where Hannah’s parents break the news they are cutting her off. In typical millennial fashion, she doesn’t know how to handle it and reverts to defending everything she’s not in hopes of becoming who she wants to be. Hannah can’t fathom that her parents are cutting her off; she’s not addicted to pills and doesn’t have abortions! They should be congratulating her and giving her more money as a reward! It’s a symptom of modern youth–entitlement mixed with financial irresponsibility and a lack of understanding on how to become an adult*. Hannah wants the life but as she suggests, she needs to live it first.
*[Rather than critics bashing a television show over this fact, they should examine this problem in the real world.]
My guess is that Girls will only get one season unless it picks up steam or HBO gives it time to grow. And that’s sad. Not because Girls is like, OMG my new favy show, but because it’s different. It’s telling a real and different narrative, a kind that rarely makes it on to television. It addresses topics that girls really talk about whether you want to admit it or not, and not in an exploitative way.
Most TV is bullshit. It’s escape and entertainment and for most of America, a way to reinforce stupidity. But if shows like Mad Men, The Wire and Louie have taught us anything, television can also be smart, ambitious and challenging. Characters don’t have to be likable to be successful. Thought-provocation shouldn’t be a negative reaction. If a show like Girls can’t make it on HBO, then it probably can’t make it anywhere and that’s not good thing for television or our culture.