TV Review: Girls (***)

I’ve been trying to watch a bit more television these days, and it seems that whenever a new show catches my interest, it’s invariable on HBO, with ‘Girls’ being no exception. Aside from AMC’s ‘Comic Book Men’, the premium channel appears to be one of the few that I go to for new programming. Next week’s ‘Veep’ has my attention, and I’m very eager to see ‘The Newsroom’ this summer, but for now, I only have the union between Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow to try out, and so far ‘Girls’ is humorously awkward in almost all of the right ways. It’s as if Dunham’s film ‘Tiny Furniture’ had been directed by Apatow and filtered somewhat sarcastically through the ‘Sex and the City’ lens, yet despite that description, it’s incredibly original. It isn’t always perfectly on the mark, but when it hits, you can’t help but giggle. Much like the main character claims to be “the voice of my generation, or at least a voice of a generation”, this show is looking to be a realistic take on being a mid 20’s woman living in New York City. The pilot episode sets things up nicely, pretty much allowing the show to go wherever it pleases in the coming weeks. Apatow and Dunham are definitely on to something here and they certainly have me hooked.

The very loose story for the first episode of ‘Girls’ follows a small group of 20-something ladies living it up in New York City and experiencing all that life has to offer. Hannah (Dunham) is an aspiring author, but is still dependent on her parents for financial support, at least until they cut her off in the opening moments of the show, that is. She’s only got an unpaid internship going for her, but that changes when she asks to actually be paid for the work she’s doing. Marnie then runs into the unusual arms of her sort of companion Adam (Adam Driver), who only seems interested in her for sex (whenever he bothers to answer her texts, that is), and somewhat vice-versa. Her friends Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Jessa’s cousin/roommate Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) don’t have the financial issues that Hannah is dealing with (though Marnie is the only one who actually seems to have a paying job), but they all have their own problems, mostly involving relationships and sex. Marnie, for example, would rather spend time with Hannah (they’re roommates) than her actual boyfriend. There’s not a whole lot of plot in the pilot, but it does set things up rather nicely for things to come. Consider this a taste of the upcoming full course…

Lena Dunham wears a whole lot of hats on this show, but she never forgets to make a compelling lead character for herself, assisted by an excellent lead performance. Her self deprecating banter suggests a lot, but even when she’s just riffing on life, she does it incredibly well. The rest of the ensemble is on the ball as well, with the chemistry between everyone truly something to behold. Allison Williams and Jemima Kirke are going to be excellent foils, while they both play off of Dunham in a great way. Zosia Mamet mostly has an extended cameo here, but she’s going to be playing a bigger part in future episodes and got some good laughs here. The guys get a bit less attention, but that’s not the fault of Adam Driver and Christopher Abbot (as Marnie’s puppy-like boyfriend Charlie), who do fine work. There’s a lot still to be seen about this show, but the acting is definitely not going to be an issue here, that’s for sure. Their chemistry alone is worth giving this show a recommendation in my eyes.

In addition to starring, Dunham created the show, and at least for the pilot, also wrote and directed as well. While her filmmaking skills were on greater display in ‘Tiny Furniture’, there’s lots of potential here and I have confidence in her doing fine work in future episodes. The writing here especially is sharp and she’s fearless in including the most awkward and realistic sex scenes on television right now. She’s managed to put her head together with producer Judd Apatow in such a way that we get almost an alternate take on ‘Bridesmaids’, but with a very different vibe. Dunham is the real star of the show in every way possible, but this is another example of Apatow spinning almost anything that he touches into gold, no matter the level of his involvement.

‘Girls’ is pretty much unlike anything else on TV right now, and that’s one of the reasons I now have a new show to watch. Lena Dunham is one of the most interesting and talented young female artists in the business, so she’s one to watch. I can’t wait to see her make another film, but her foray into television is incredibly successful, so I’m hardly complaining. Dunham and Judd Apatow have a possible hit on their hands, and I hope HBO knows this as well. I can’t imagine the ‘Sex and the City’ crowd not gravitating towards this, but that statement does the work a disservice. Check this show out on Sunday nights…you’ll be glad that you did!

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