Sunday, April 7, 2013

Stupid Girls (Season One)

The Good: One or two lines, Most of the cast
The Bad: Not terribly funny, Utterly unlikable (and dumb!) characters, Predictable, Not stellar on the acting front
The Basics: The first season of Girls presents four vacuous, stupid, and/or spoiled twentysomethings living in New York City who utterly fail to engage the viewer.

When it comes to television trends, there are very few shows that I won’t give a try, especially of the stuff that is recognized and acknowledged at award’s season. Sometimes, I find myself very much against the grain and with Girls I know I am in the minority. But, having just sat through the ten-episode Girls Season 1 DVD set, I find myself utterly uninterested in the series and the characters. In fact, with my issues with Girls leave me absolutely baffled as to how and why anyone who would nominate shows, actors, writers and/or directors for awards would give this show any attention.

Girls is yet another HBO show that tries to promote the idea that New York City is the center of the known universe and that everyone there does virtually every known form of drugs and indiscriminate sex. And, unlike the youth culture who continue to watch this show or HBO executives, I’m so over that. How the people who want to honor television’s best are not over the obvious, predictable, and repetitive HBO conceits gave Girls any notice leaves me, at best, disappointed. Girls is essentially the newer, younger, version of Sex And The City (season 1 reviewed here!), but unlike that show where the first season left me on the fence, Girls Season 1 left me disappointed, at best, and annoyed and bored most of the time.

Over ten episodes, Girls Season 1 presents half-hour episodes of “comedy” that do not rise to the level of intelligence that Judd Apatow’s prior television series, Freaks & Geeks (reviewed here!) rose to. Judd Apatow is the co-executive producer of Girls, but Lena Dunham who wrote, executive produced, and directed most of the episode and stars in the show as Hannah is the driving force behind the series.

Starting with Hannah having dinner with her professor parents, who decide it is time (two years after she graduated college) to cut her off from their financial support, Hannah realizes she is on her own in life. She goes to her internship and asks the boss to take her on full-time and is let go instead. While Jessa returns from her travels abroad, Hannah hooks up with Adam, who is mean to her pretty constantly. Hannah’s roommate, the working professional Marnie, and the innocent student Shoshanna try to be emotionally supportive as Hannah lists from interview to interview and crappy jobs under the pretense of being a writer who is working on a novel.

As Jessa gets a job as a nanny, Hannah blows an interview by making a terrible rape joke to the interviewer and then quitting her job at a law firm after threatening to sue her boss who might be touchy-feely, but is not interested in having an affair with her. Meanwhile, Shoshanna moves to her first sexual experience and Marnie struggles not to dump the boyfriend she is not interested in at all. When her boyfriend Charlie finds Hannah’s diary and realizes Marnie is just waiting it out, he dumps her and she pines for him.

There are so so so many things wrong with Girls Season 1. Immediately, Hannah is utterly unlikable. She is spoiled and boring and I have no idea what the hook is for her character or the series as a result. While I think it is wonderful to see a plus-sized protagonist (though Hannah is the Hollywood version of plus-size, not the real-world version of plus-size), Hannah is hardly a compelling character to make one want to watch her. As my wife was quick to point out, what is utterly inexplicable about Hannah is how she looks more or less normal, but every one of her friends and associates (from when she returns to Michigan) is a stick-figure who could be a model. Seriously, every one of the people in Hannah’s life could be a model, she is the only non-model person who exists in her world and yet they all have interest in being around her. I call bullshit.

It’s also important to note that I am not entirely unsympathetic to Hannah or her plight. One of the huge problems with Girls is that it exists without consequences. Hannah has had everything in her life handed to her until the first five minutes of the pilot episode. Okay. So, of course, she would be entirely unable to exist in the real world as it exists when she is forced to take care of herself. But the fundamental problem with this approach to television storytelling is that neglects the realism of the situation it sets up. Hannah Horvath is cut off from her parents and has no money survive on. But, just because she has a huge change in her life, the world she lives in does not change . . . except that in Girls the world completely changes around her. What I mean by this is that when Hannah loses her financial backing from her parents, her world should be thrown into utter chaos. But, it is not. Hannah does not starve, she does not get evicted, her friendships do not suffer when she cannot make her half of the rent. In fact, nothing happens to Hannah when she has no money living in New York City. She doesn’t even have to trudge miles a day to try to get to her job interviews or get frustrated because the cell phone she obsessively texts Adam on gets shut off because she can’t afford the bill any longer.

Damn, this show just pisses me off.

Like every HBO show, Girls hinges on having characters the writers and producers hope will engage the viewers. They do not. Still, the main characters in the first season are:

Hannah Horvath – A twentysomething woman who keeps a diary, but otherwise is never shown writing (she never, for example, misses a job interview because she gets lost in writing her novel and loses track of time), but seems to have plenty of time to text, tweet, and go visit her boyfriend who is not actually interested in her. She is self-centered, boring, and awkward,

Marnie – In a relationship with Charlie, a guy she does not love, but who does not dump because she acknowledges his love for her, she has a steady job and is Hannah’s best friend. She jerks Charlie around after he breaks up with her and almost ends up in a threesome with Jessa when they are hit on at a bar. For a woman who looks the way she does, has an amazing job, and double-digit friend requests waiting on Facebook, she unrealistically is unwilling to move on to any number of the other guys who must be expressing interest in her,

Jessa – Self-centered and self-absorbed, she loses her charges while trying to unionize the local nannies. She has a lot of sex, skips out on her abortion and comes close to seducing the guy she babysits for (only surprise of the season was that she does not actually have sex with him). Otherwise, she is a partier who is not sure what she wants,

Shoshanna – Jessa’s cousin who is still a student. She shows up, says delightfully na├»ve things until she goes on a date and the viewer has no investment in her,

and Adam - Hannah’s boyfriend who is utterly indifferent to her and might well be a creepy pedophile. Gross and not terribly smart, he makes one want to smack Hannah upside the head and say, “You can do better!”

Unfortunately, the longer the first season of Girls goes on, the more the viewer realizes that Hannah is not necessarily smart enough to do better than Adam. Adam is an idiot and creepy, but Hannah is self-centered, boring, and not terribly smart, so maybe they actually do deserve each other.  Moreover, none of her friends are particularly smart.  For example, Shoshanna makes a reference to <em>Sex And The City</em> to Jessa, who tells her she has never seen an episode or movie from that series.  Shoshanna then proceeds to go through the list of what character combinations of <em>Sex And The City</em> characters she is, apparently oblivious to the idea that that would mean absolutely nothing (listing what percentage of which character's name she is) to someone who had never seen the show.

On the acting front, Girls left me unimpressed as well. Lena Dunham’s performance style seems to be looking blankly and opening her mouth. Similarly, Jemima Kirke’s big acting moment as Jessa comes when she stares emotionlessly at the camera and slowly lets her jaw drop. Her ability to emote is limited with her voice and her presentation style is not particularly interesting or enough to get the viewer invested in her character. Allison Williams is the most dynamic of the performers and one has to hope Zosia Mamet is smarter than her character Shoshanna, making her a wonderful actress.

In its first season, Girls is an awkward, dull season of television with characters who are some range of emotionally or cognitively stupid. This might be a great point from which the characters can grow and develop, but the show is not engaging enough for me to care where any of the characters go from here. Like some lesser HBO works, Girls immediately strikes me as a show that may be a phenomenon now, but will be utterly forgotten when it is off the air.

For other shows from the 2011 – 2012 television season, please check out:
Parenthood - Season 3
True Blood - Season 5
Two Broke Girls - Season 1
Suburgatory - Season 1
Modern Family - Season 3
The Walking Dead - Season 2
30 Rock - Season 6
The Big Bang Theory - Season 5
Happy Endings - Season 2
New Girl - Season 1
Once Upon A Time - Season 1
Weeds - Season 7


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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