Sunday, 15 April 2012

NEW TV: GIRLS



What is it? Give me the set up. Four single twenty-something friends move to Brooklyn, attempting to find themselves and work out who they are, along with trying to achieve life's great aims: finding The Job, The House, and The Man.

Who's behind it? Done anything good? This is the hotly home brewed dramedy from Lena Dunham, who is igniting the indie scene in the US right now largely thanks to her last film - and only recently released over here - Tiny Furniture. Whilst I haven't seen TF as yet (this Tuesday, finally) it's had rave reviews for its depiction of a faltering female just outside of college. Dunham wrote, directed and stars in the festival hit and also extends her talents in this HBO series, greenlit on the back of her filmic success. The other biggie name to mention - and his influence will sure show its mark on the screen - is executive producer Judd Apatow, who is a big fan of Dunham's and wanted to help out on the project.

L-R: Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna), Jemima Kirke (Jessa), Lena Dunham (Hannah), Alison Williams (Marnie)

Who's in it? Should I care? Apart from Dunham (who also stars in upcoming The Innkeepers) the rest of the girly ensemble are relative newbies to the screen, so this is sure to be cause of their major breakout. Zosia Mamet (daughter of David Mamet, the playwright) is the most experienced of the cast, counting roles in The Kids Are All Right, Greenberg, United States of Tara and currently starring as Joyce in Mad Men. Allison Williams was picked for the part largely down to her comedic turns on You Tube and Funny or Die sketches where she impersonated Kate Middleton. Brit Jemima Kirke is the greenest of the bunch, but did star alongside Dunham in Tiny Furniture. It's a fresh-faced young cast all round - you won't find any lurking A-lister cameos here (unless you count Chris O'Dowd, gag), just new talent strutting their stuff.


Pilot me. HBO have commissioned 10 episodes for the first series. The opener sets up the girls' group in Brooklyn, giving us a taster of where they're currently at in their lives and establishing their individual quirks and personalities. Hannah (Dunham) is the driving force, finding herself newly financially independent after her parents tell her they're no longer going to help her out now she has graduated from college. She has aspirations of being a writer, but for the moment needs to work out how to make enough money to eat. She's living with best friend Marnie (Williams) whose role it is to stop Hannah making such awful decisions, whilst at the same time not being completely au fait with her own sensible and "mature" life choices. Hippie Jessa (Kirke) is just moving back to New York after nanny-ing abroad, and moves in with her cousin Shoshanna (Mamet), a pop loving, tracksuit wearing virgin who strives to be cooler than she actually is. The first episode also promises to include the most uncomfortably awkward sex scene in TV history. Er, hurrah!

And is it any good?
YES, one of the most lauded series of the last year, and it actually airing on HBO means the critics could actually be right for a change. It's been called original, smart, realistic, funny (in a grimacing deadpan sort of way) and just brilliant from the get-go. Unlike a lot of other - yes, I'll say it - Network shows, the Pilot is a superior quality of exposition, meaning we don't have to wait until Episode 2 for things to really find their way - they find their way immediately. The situations, characters and dialogue are all believable, in the sense that this isn't a glamorised version of being young, pretty and single in the dazzle of New York City - this is hard-work, making mistakes, things going wrong and feeling a bit lost: instead of being an escapism it's something to relate to, but also in a way to make you laugh. The only criticisms so far have been the tone - if you're not a fan of mumblecore-Apatow-indie fare of the Miranda July school then this probably isn't going to be for you. The characters aren't always likable, or beautiful, or sympathetic, and this being television, it's only realistic up to a point.


Anything else to intrigue me? Well, that brings me to my next question actually: Um...it's not like Sex and the City is it? Not much like SATC at all, but you can't ignore the still glaring comparisons. But the show is good natured and self aware enough to acknowledge the show, with goofy Shoshanna being a big fan of the series, and the girls all harbouring dreams of actually living out their lives in the style of the iconic TV (and HBO) show. Which is of course completely off piste seeing as they are starring in a TV show themselves... (ahem, remove the fourth wall). But apart from the city, the four girls, and the sexperiences, Girls is more akin to Bridesmaids in its, audacious at times, tone. And the clothes are nowhere near as haute couture, more shabby chic on the hanger. Dunham herself admits to being a big SATC fan, but believes Girls focuses of an often ignored gap in the ladder of life: the part before you get settled in. I (and I still surprise myself here) never watched any SATC, so this for me is a premise to be really excited about, despite my reservations of the Judd Apatow presence and the sneaky suspicion I'm going to find Lena Dunham horrendously annoying. If you're a girl in your mid twenties like me with a penchant for angsty friendship dramas set in trendy city districts, then chances are you're already sold (see below) on this. If you're not - Girls will probably irritate and terrify you in equal measure. If you're male, then. Sorry, Guys hasn't been created yet.

OK you've sold me - when's this thing on then?
Girls premieres tonight in America on HBO at 10.30pm and will be coming to Sky Atlantic later this Spring, and to all friendly tinterwebs tomorrow.




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