HBO’s Girls: TV Show as “Generational Event”

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Lena Dunham of HBO's "Girls"

To say that Girls, premiering this Sunday, April 15th, on HBO, is the most hyped TV pilot of the year so far would be a huge understatement.  Entertainment journalists, constantly concerned as they (we) are with entertainments that purportedly “capture the zeitgeist” or reflect the essence of a generation in some way, have spilled more ink and pixels on the show before the pilot has even aired than they have for any other show in recent memory. Further, because so many of these writers share the gender, skin-pigmentation-level, and socio-economic status of the series’ protagonists, this show has already become something very personal for many of them. In a charmingly self-aware rave for the show Willa Paskin, staff TV writer for Salon, calls the “zeitgeist-crashing series” a “Generational Event” while also admitting:

I’ve been worried about “Girls” too. My concern was that “Girls” speaks so specifically and accurately to the experience of me and my census buddies — and to be clear, that’s urban white girls with safety nets; have at us in the comments — that people would either write it off as navel-gazing, snark at the innate privilege undergirding the whole thing, or find it unrelatable.

If you’ve somehow avoided the magazine cover stories, the rave reviews, the hilarious contrarian pans, the discussions of what the show has to say about sexual mores, generational conflicts etc.

Here’s a brief primer on why the show is getting so much press: The show is the creation of 25-year-old writer/director/star Lena Dunham, whose only real credit before landing this unprecedented deal with HBO for someone her age was the minor hit indie film Tiny Furniture, a film about a girl returning from college to live in her artist mother’s awesome loft in the ultra-affluent Manhattan neighborhood of TriBeCa which, coincidentally, she filmed in her artist mother’s awesome TriBeCa loft after she got out of college. The show is also produced by Judd Apatow, who is comparing it to the more critically acclaimed, character based work of his earlier career such as Freaks and Geeks, and Undeclared as well as making it part of his continual quest to prove to Jerry Lewis that women can be funny. Oh, and if this wasn’t enough one of the girls (the “hot one”) is played by Brian Williams’s daughter and another one is played by David Mamet’s daughter.

The basic idea of the show seems to be to move the aimless post-collegiate milieu of Tiny Furniture a few years down the road by telling the story of four (wait for it) girls in their mid-to-late 20s living (tentatively) on their own in gentrified Brooklyn, dealing with crappy internships, bad boyfriends, “awkward” sex, and other “first world problems”.  What supposedly separates the show from every other single girls trying to make it in the big city comedy, besides the greater freedom in dialogue and content that comes from being on HBO, is that it’s uncommonly true-to-life, accurate, and well observed, perhaps more show than any such show ever, according to the people who’ve seen the first couple episodes and loved them.

Whether Girls can possibly live up to the avalanche of hype, if any show could, remains to be seen. If you’re curious (and have HBO) tune in Sunday at 10:30 to find out.

Tiny Furniture (Criterion Collection)
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