From writer/director/actor Lena Dunham and comedy veterans Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner, this scripted half-hour series focuses on a group of 20-something women in New York and their adventures in post-collegiate floundering. Two years out of liberal arts school, Hannah (Dunham) believes she has the talent to be a successful writer, and though she has yet to complete her memoir (she has to live it first), her parents cut her off financially without warning. Further complicating things for Hannah is her unrequited passion for eccentric actor Adam, with whom she occasionally has sex (when he can be bothered to respond to her text messages). As the harsh reality of rent and bills looms, Hannah leans on her very-put-together best friend and roommate Marnie, who has a real job at an art gallery and an even realer boyfriend (neither of which she can admit she might not love). Meanwhile, their gorgeous British friend Jessa, who has travelled to as many different countries as she’s had boyfriends, appears in the city and moves in with Shoshanna, her naïve younger cousin with Sex and the City lifestyle aspirations. Over the course of Season 1’s ten episodes, the four girls try to figure out what they want – from life, from boys, from themselves and each other. The answers aren’t always clear or easy, but the search is profoundly relatable and infinitely amusing.
Lena Dunham mocks the idea of being a voice to a generation, but there's no question she's captured something ineffably of the moment in her sitcom Girls
. Dunham writes and directs most episodes and stars as Hannah, a smart but self-flagellating writer floundering in the urban wilds of New York City. Both an homage and a counterpoint to Sex in the City
has its own quartet: Hannah, who's just been financially cut off by her parents; Marnie (Allison Williams), lovely but uptight, who's bored by her too devoted boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott); Jessa (Jemima Kirke), a transplant from England who keeps her true feelings hidden under a cool surface; and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), a hapless chatterbox who's ashamed that she's still a virgin. All of these girls, grappling with adult life, can be funny, irritating, embarrassing, and richly sympathetic--sometimes at the same time.
Girls doesn't tackle themes per episode; instead, it's a series of moments, vividly observed and often joltingly funny social interaction and sexual relationships (some graphically depicted, with all the freedom that cable television allows). Dunham doesn't explain everything all at once, but gives only glimpses into the characters in each episode. At first, Hannah's relationship with Adam (Adam Driver) seems horribly one-sided, but by the end of the 10-episode season, the picture changes completely (and going back to watch previous episodes with new eyes is rewarding). While Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna may suffer from the neurotic self-absorption of twentysomethings, Dunham and her cocreators do not; everyone in Girls is multidimensional, including parents and men on the periphery (Charlie's friend Ray, played by Alex Karpovsky, grows from some jerk to one of the more intriguing characters on the show). It's rare that comedy and compassion are so well-balanced. Like a microscope, Girls focuses on a tiny sliver of the world, but within that sliver lies abundant life. The Complete First Season also has an abundance of extra features, including auditions, deleted scenes, commentary tracks, interviews with the cast, and a revealing and lively conversation between Dunham and producer Judd Apatow. --Bret Fetzer