Review: Girls (HBO) 1×1

Looking for a good, indie time

In the US: Sundays, 10.30pm, HBO

And so HBO’s quest for the new Sex and the City continues. Take four women, stick them in a city, let them talk to each other a lot, particularly about sex. Hey presto! You have a new Sex and the City. Magic or what?

Clearly, it’s not as easy as all that, though, or Cashmere Mafia, Lipstick Jungle, Women’s Murder Club, and all the other SatC knock-offs US TV has thrown at us over the past half-decade or so all would be hit TV shows and movies by now.

However, HBO’s Girls has a lot better chance of being the new Sex and the City. I think. Trouble is, unlike Sex and the City which really was a truly universal show (if you took the trouble to watch it), Girls is a show that maybe only girls will watch. And I mean girls – or at least young women, here – because this is a show that (probably) has its finger so close to the pulse of young American women’s lives (or at least East Coast, white, straight, middle to upper-middle class women’s lives) that if it gets any closer, there’ll be arterial spray hitting the walls in thousands of houses. And by girls, I also mean girls who love indie movies since this is effectively Sex and the City if it had been written by Ibsen on one of his cheerier days.

But I’m not a girl, so how should I know?

If you’re in the US, you can see for yourself with the whole of the first episode on YouTube:

Otherwise, you’ll have to make do with this trailer:

Created by and starring Lena Dunham (“Tiny Furniture”), the show is a comic look at the assorted humiliations and rare triumphs of a group of girls in their early 20s. Dunham wrote and directed the pilot of the series, which she executive produces along with Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner. The cast also includes Jemima Kirke, Allison Williams, Adam Driver and Zosia Mamet. Episodes were shot in New York. The ten-episode season debuts in 2012.

Is it any good?
Written by, directed by, starring and executive produced by Lena Durham who made the rather similar Tiny Furniture

…this is a show that tries to depict the problems of modern life for (a certain demographic subset of) young women in a semi-humorous fashion. It faces two problems here:

  1. It’s trying to do all of these problems at the same time
  2. It makes the same mistake as early Sex and the City by essentially making all the female characters thoroughly unlikable.

Take. for example, unpaid interning. This is a terrible problem that’s afflicting the job markets in both the US and the UK. But Girls has Lena Durham’s unpaid intern being possibly the biggest ingrate imaginable, demanding that her parents pay her over $1,000 a month for over two years so that she can finish writing her memoirs (she’s 24), rather than get an actual job and/or skills that her English literature degree didn’t provide her with. You kind of wish Erica from Being Erica would turn up from behind a door to help her fix her life and herself.

And it’s all like that. With every possible problem for Durham and her friends that arises, be it pregnancy, bad boyfriends or a dinner party, you end up wishing hellfire to rain down on all of them because they’re all so insufferably spoilt. It’s like a female indie version of Whit Stillman. Yes, an indie version of Whit Stillman – that’s how indie this is.

Now, this could all be very well observed stuff and it’s all a lot more watchable than HBO’s Enlightened, which trod a similar path with Laura Dern’s older character. There’s wit and intelligence in practically every line. Like Sex and the City, there’s also sex and a good percentage of the first episode looks at young women’s (and men’s) attitudes to sex, which it handles in a relatively humorous way.

But, again, the desperate need for fire and brimstone to rain down upon the characters will fill your every thought as you watch this. If you can take that, particularly if you’re a girl, this could be the show for you. After all, there are plenty of shows and movies with spoilt, douchebag male characters as their leads. Archer, for example, is awesome. But then Archer is funny. Girls isn’t. It’s witty. It’s not funny.

At the moment, though, I can only marvel at the talent of Lena Durham, wonder how she managed to surround herself with so many non-descript other actresses who make no impression beyond their accent (in the British character’s case), and hope that she goes on to give us something better, either in later episodes or in a completely different project.

By the way, Judd Apatow is another exec producer on this. Yes, the producer of The Hangover, Bridesmaids, etc. How odd.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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