It can be tricky to predict how well a new TV series will do before it airs and audiences are allowed an opportunity to voice their opinions. Sure, it can be hyped well in advance and boast two of the indie and comedy world’s current “to watch” names, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee its success.
Bearing that in mind, you’ll understand my initial trepidation regarding Girls, a new HBO series created and written by Lena Dunham, responsible for last year’s breakout indie success Tiny Furniture, and produced by, believe it or not, a man currently taking the comedy world by storm: Judd Apatow. Furthering my trepidation was the fact that Tiny Furniture, a film that, thanks to constant reviews, word-of-mouth and Dunham’s ever-growing profile, turned out to be underwhelming.
That said, the issues I had with Tiny Furniture were more to do with its tedious focus on one character and her selfish ways than the talents of Dunham or her skill at honing in the barrage of choices, feelings and emotions the youth of today are forced to deal with, especially in a world that’s experiencing one of the biggest social and economical crises we’ve ever known.
Thankfully, with Girls, Dunham has widened her scope and decided instead to focus on the day-to-day lives of four 20-somethings living in Brooklyn: Hannah (Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet). Of course, there’s other characters, particularly their romantic interests (Adam Driver, Christopher Abbott, et al.), that come in and out of the frame, and re-team Dunham with other talented members of the Tiny Furniture fold.
Where Sex and the City – which some critics and audience members have felt moronically compelled to compare Girls to – presented characters that were forever bemoaning their love lives and converging themselves in nonsensical situations, Girls takes on a different, less commercialised approach and, to its merits, presents scenarios that feel entirely realistic and believable not only to their own personalities, but also to their place within society.
Dunham has clearly found her niche; a place where she feels comfortable to bear her own skin, both literally and metaphorically speaking. It wouldn’t be too out there to make the assumption that some of the plot threads in Girls mirror Dunham’s own life experiences, but where in Tiny Furniture they felt a little too prolonged for their own good, Dunham appears to have learned when to tie a thread up or dedicate an episode to exploring one particular character rather than going back-and-forth between multiple threads, a skill that she’s perhaps picked up from her more than experienced mentor Apatow.
Girls’ success isn’t entirely down to Dunham, though, as there’s significant talent elsewhere, both in front of and behind the camera. The actors, for example, none of them well-known or overly experienced, never let their lack of knowledge show, constructing characters that not only feel real, but who never try to hide their respective flaws. And, with the aid of frequent directors Richard Shepherd, Jody Lee Lipes and Jesse Peretz, and a soundtrack that accentuates characters’ moods and feelings more than words ever could, there’s episode after episode of that particular combination of priceless comedy and organic drama that, in turn with the unspoken rule that everything will be laid bare and no stone left unturned, makes Girls something truly special.
With most of the first season having already aired in America, a second commissioned for next year and some considerable recognition coming its way from awarding bodies, Girls looks to have caught on in a big way with audiences on the look out for a TV series that comes bearing top-notch writing, a consistently on-form cast and a raw, unsentimental portrait of our youth that hits hard with every single episode. Sure, some are better than others and characters occasionally pop up that you’d rather wouldn’t, but Girls is very much here to stay.