Saturday, March 23, 2013

Girls - Some Thoughts

It's been two seasons in and I have to admit that I've avoided doing a blog on Girls in a big way but after seeing the second season finale, titled Together, I think it's time I let rip a little. Warning, this won't be filled with adulation but hopefully will be a balanced piece nonetheless.

Girls is the wonder child of writer/leading lady Lena Dunham, a show about four twenty something girls living in New York and making one mistake at a big time, whilst seemingly (not) learning from them as well. Lena's character is Hannah Horvath, a struggling writer cut off financially from her parents as she juggles through honing her craft, her bad choice in men as well as her friendships with free spirited Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke), former gallery assistant Marnie Michaels (Allison Brie) and the er, more bubbly Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet). Comparisons to Sex And The City have been inevitably made (though this show is for the more recession conscious) and in a funny way, this show has slightly enjoyed a similar rise in terms of media attention and general acclaim over the last year.

Every now and then, a show will come out and you'll get critics hyping it to the nth degree. Over the last few years, it's been the likes of Mad Men, Homeland and Breaking Bad but similarly Girls has enjoyed some of the adulation too and in the space of twenty episodes/two seasons, I've tried to see the hype myself but it's been hard to. I mean, the writing isn't bad, but it's not spectacularly amazing either and while the acting is pretty on point, there's been nothing performance wise that has really blown me away or shocked me (though hats off to them for getting guest stars like Chris O'Dowd and Rosanna Arquette etc). Then I watched the last episode of the second season and I realised what it is - I just don't believe in the characters.

Or specifically, I don't believe in the likes of Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa actually being friends in the slightest. The actresses have a decent enough on screen chemistry but unlike Sex And The City, which wasn't a paragon of realism but excelled with making you believe that Samantha, Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte were the best of pals, the friendships in Girls just don't ring true. In fact, Hannah's mean spirited and self-pitying rant left on Jessa's phone (completed with the most patronising answer message ever from the latter) highlighted that these four ladies feel less like friends and more like four people thrown together who at best are indifferent to each other but at worse, seem more intolerant of each other. It's kind of a shame really because for a show that tries to tackle some realistic issues (surviving on your own without a safety net, addictions, bad relationships, family issues, careers, etc), the friendships between the main ladies and the lack of interactions they had in the finale (Jessa wasn't even there, having left three episodes beforehand after a strop with her dad) really highlighted a big problem for the show - it lacks heart.

Maybe for some that isn't a big deal and for other shows, I wouldn't be that bothered but it does make watching the show something of a chore when the four main characters themselves don't seem to actually like each other that much. As for the show's depiction of men - it's hardly exemplary stuff with both Adam (Adam Driver) and Ray (Alex Karpovsky) being rather divisive characters, though the second season did make an effort to add some layers to both of them. Hopefully by the time the show's third season hits both HBO and SkyAtlantic, an actual marked improvement will appear in the writing and characters but until then, Girls is simply going to be one of those shows that will have it's moments but isn't quite as great as some critics make out it is. Still, there are far worse things on television and even Hannah has had some moments where she hasn't totally wrecked my head, though less stories about urinary tract infections and dangerous q-tips would be nice. Maybe her actually succeeding with her writing career for instance would be a good future plot line. Perhaps she could finish that e-book that's been causing her so much problems.

Girls recently finished up on HBO and SkyAtlantic. The first season is currently available on DVD.

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