Last year’s Season 1 finale of HBO’s “Girls” ended with the surprise shabby-chic wedding of cynical, yet free-spirited Jessa and manipulative, yet sensitive Wall Streeter Thomas-John, whose greatest pre-marriage moment was watching her and her pal Marnie smooch for his entertainment.
The episode showcased both the appeal – and grating aspects – of creator and star Lena Dunham’s comic rendering of over-privileged and underemployed twentysomethings in New York. We saw plenty of the usual rampant self-obsession, impulsive bad decision-making and low-grade depressive whining from characters generally free of regular-folk worries. Still, Dunham’s undeniable wit and a glimmer of hope for love and the future peeked through the mopey morass of self-pity-fueled disillusionment.
The Golden Globe-nominated comedy returns Sunday as the show – like its confused characters – tries to seek its place in the world. We’re still trying to sort out our feelings, too – and we’re not quite ready to kiss off “Girls
The program has drawn comparisons to HBO’s previous girl-talk trendsetter, “Sex and the City.” Journalist Carrie Bradshaw’s world of “Sex” wielded a charm that was, by parts, aspirational, escapist and vicarious. The world of 26-year-old Dunham’s TV stand-in, wannabe writer Hannah Horvath, is smaller and bleaker, especially in the relationships realm.
It says much about “Girls” that the character who showed the greatest development during Season 1 was the most honest and repellent of the bunch: Adam, who went from being Hannah’s distant, creepy friend-with-benefits to her devoted, creepy boyfriend. The couple split in the season finale, and unlike with the Carrie-Mr. Big courtship, we can’t imagine anyone is rooting for Adam and Hannah to reunite and live happily ever after.
Give Dunham this: she’s not afraid to parade her characters’ foibles as they wallow in moneyed, post-collegiate malaise and delusion (as Hannah declared in the series’ first episode, "I may be the voice of my generation – or at least a voice, of a generation). Also give Dunham credit for not being afraid to squeeze the glamour of out sex scenes, especially the ones in which she stars.
Dunham, like her or not, excels at overexposure. Her topless cameo in last year’s Emmys opening skit, displayed a sense of humor about whatever place she’s trying to carve out in the popular culture. She recently notched a reported $3.7 million
book deal that no doubt demoralized legions of aspiring writers and perhaps inspired some of her acolytes.
Not that it likely matters, but the Dunham buzz machine generates less good (as the program returns Sunday on HBO, it’s up for two Golden Globes across the dial on NBC) than bad (criticism of the lack of diversity on “Girls”). There are signs, though, that Dunham is expanding her white-bred, rich-kid TV universe: Donald Glover, a strong young comedy writer (“30 Rock”) and performer (“Community”) reportedly
appears in “Girls” this season.
That talent infusion – which includes
old-school New Yorker Colin Quinn, another of our favorite
comics – offers an excuse to give “Girls” a chance. In the meantime, check out a preview below:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.
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