Everyone deserves a second chance right? At least that’s the assumption I was operating under when I gave HBO’s Girls another shot this Sunday night. In the time since I wrote my original post on the show, people have really piled on the series. Some of this was to be expected, after all, critics talked about Girls as if it were the best thing to happen to TV since Seinfeld, and then it wasn’t. Some of the criticisms (especially mine) are valid. Girls has a real nepotism problem, and is way too white for a show set in Brooklyn. Some of the criticisms are invalid. Lena Dunham being a bit chubby does not a bad show make. So keeping all this in mind, I approached the second episode of the series with a fresh set of eyes, and found myself pleasantly surprised.
Girls still isn’t a laugh riot, but it’s easier to relate to the characters when they’re not begging their parents for money or stealing tips from hotel maids. And there were some genuine moments of comedy in the episode, most notably the scene where Dunham’s character googles “stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms.” I would venture that many people have had similar experiences of neurosis when it comes to the risks associated with STDs, such is America in the age of politically correct sex education. It was also pleasant to see the excellent Mike Birbiglia making a cameo. Finally, Ashley Williams is really pretty.
On the other hand, some of the problems with the show persist. The characters still aren’t likable, although I guess this could be partly excused since some of them are dealing with real problems (some aren’t). I get that the show is trying to capture the hipster aesthetic, I just don’t know that hipsters are really a good source of comedy, or even a group to look to for a social message. For example, who the f*ck goes to a bar and orders a white russian? Ironic drink orders, not funny. And of course, it doesn’t help that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ new comedy Veep proved to be extremely funny in its first episode.
All in all, I’ve softened my take on the show a bit. I can definitely see what some of the glowing pre-premiere reviews were based on. I’m willing to give episode three a shot. Also, more Ashley Williams please.
All right, critics, here’s the deal. If you’re going to expend months and countless thousands of words talking about how good, smart, and important a show is; it actually has to be good. As a corollary to that rule I’ll add this: if you’re going to call something a comedy it actually has to be funny, and you don’t get off that hook by calling it a dark comedy. Let’s start with the second point. There’s been a rash of pay cable channels creating relatively undramatic dramas and then calling them comedies despite the fact that they contain no jokes. Perhaps the best example of this is Showtime’s Nurse Jackie which is somehow still running despite having no obvious appeal. In this vein, HBO’s new “comedy” Girls is not funny. I watched the premiere, twice, just to make sure, and I didn’t laugh once. As for how this ties into the first point, Girls is also not a good show.
How bad is it? It made me want to vote for Mitt Romney, because if this is the way my generation actually thinks then we might as well let our parents just burn this entire fucker down before we finally grow up. Of course, the characters (and even the cast) of Girls are hardly representative of everyone in their 20s. In fact, based on my own experience with being 24 years old, I have no idea where these people exist. As a point of reference, of my friends, the people I grew up with, met in college, and in the ensuing years, I’m probably one of the more shiftless individuals. In fact, I can find more than a few parallels between myself and Lena Dunham’s character on the show (I’m not making the effort to imdb this one so deal). I, like Dunham’s character, happen to be 24, with a very limited income. I’ve spent the last six months working on a novel, that objectively, kinda sucks. Unlike Dunham’s character, I wouldn’t be so pretentious as to attempt a memoir at 24, but potato, potahto amirite? Also, like Dunham’s character, I rely on my parents for financial assistance (though not to the same degree) and I have quite a few friends who do the same. The real difference between people like me, however, and people like the characters in Girls is that we don’t like the fact that we have to ask our parents for the occasional buck. In fact, it’s kind of a constant point of shame. I don’t think that I know anyone who’s quite as sociopathic as Dunham’s twat of an actor/woodworker (*double wanking motion*) boyfriend, who actually hits up his grandmother for money.
There would be nothing wrong if those two were the only characters on the show to hate. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single likable character in the entire cast. Not even Dunham’s parents, who are apparently smart enough to be professors, but not smart enough to realize that starting a blog is not the route to riches (trust me). I won’t go into the details of each character, because I’m lazy, but I will point you to this recap from Gawker, which sums things up pretty nicely. These people aren’t broad, idiotic stereotypes like the ones on 2 Broke Girls, but their navel-gazing angst, ennui, and senses of entitlement make them just as offensive.
Of course, a show can still be good if the characters are loathsome individuals. In fact, there’s a show that ran right before Girls which makes that fact abundantly clear. Eastbound and Down‘s Kenny Powers is probably a worse person than Lena Dunham’s character on Girls. He’s an unrepentantly racist, drug addled, man child wholly unconcerned with anyone but himself. Here’s the thing, you can make light of Kenny, or even root for him to pull his shit together because the show is funny, like a comedy should be. The only thing I’m rooting for Lena Dunham’s character to do at this point is get a job at McDonalds or something, I don’t care, writing is hard, I’ve gotta go call my mom and get some money. I think she has some left in her IRA.