The cat’s been out of the bag for several days now; “GIRLS” has arrived, and it’s probably the most disappointing debut of a show in recent memory. It’s a wasted premise on a group of, as of now, uninteresting characters, that lacks a strong immediate conflict, and appeals to a narrow audience.
Women in their mid-20’s, in this country, in this economy, don’t have the kind of grounded representation in entertainment the way they need to. This is a ripe market that’s desperate for content. And here it is, “GIRLS,” or as a friend of mine brilliantly renamed it “Vacuous, Socially Awkward, Privileged White People Who Find Themselves Interesting But Are Unable To Stop Talking In A Fake New York City, Devoid of Real Conflict.”
I don’t mind unsympathetic characters. I kind of prefer them. They’re meatier. And this show has a fantastic premise that does represent a lot of people, men and women, in their mid-20’s, who are mooching off their family, who do lack work ethic, who are going to be the first generation of Americans in the history of the country to have a lower standard of living than their parents. That’s a story that hasn’t yet been captured. We’re living in a society that’s not yet had the kind of lens on television that illustrates the enormity of the crisis and allows all of us to relate to the severity of it. “GIRLS” could have been that, instead it’s a mediocre in-joke, at best, and at worst it’s an alienation of what it’s trying to represent.
People have hailed this thing as the next great American television show, but let’s look at the facts: Its debut was modest. 1.1 million viewers across 2 airings. It lost more than a third of its lead-in audience from “Eastbound & Down” and “Game of Thrones” pulls in over 4 million viewers every Sunday night.
The entire show has the feel of someone having lunch and thinking, “Hey, let’s make a show about us.” I could even imagine it happening over the course of the “dinner party” scene in this past week’s pilot. And that’s fine if you’re a film student, but not if you’re getting the Judd Apatow stamp of approval and a major HBO premiere.
Let’s go even further. Let’s take away the demographics and ratings and focus on the quality of the show itself:
The girls: First of all, kudos to putting on a female show full of women who look like real women. Gold star.
The inciting incident: After 2 years a mid-20’s girl with no direction in life is cut off from her parents and has to enter the real world without a safety net. FANTASTIC!
The pacing: Off (note the opening dinner scene that dragged on for too many jokes and reaction shots, or the “good angel vs. bad angel” scene in the bedroom with our protagonist high on opium). The shooting style is reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s work, but misses the tone and the fact that Anderson is painting a world that’s not quite like our own, whereas this show is trying too hard to be naturalistic.
The acting: Flat as a board with the exception, maybe, of a couple nice moments from Allison Williams.
The humor (it’s billed as a comedy after all): You can literally notice a beat after every joke as if they’re waiting for a laugh track “I may be the voice of my generation. Or a voice of a generation.” [pause for laughter]
It’s failing on the basic levels of storytelling in a visual medium. It’s not necessarily a bad cast and it’s a phenomenal idea, but the execution is supremely disappointing. The jokes are stilted, one of my favorite exchanges was the oh-so-clever: “I’m not on Facebook.” “You’re so classy.” [pause for laughter] Because no one’s made jokes about Facebook with such biting wit since, oh right, The Social Network! The drama’s muted, as evidenced by the blink-and-miss-it preggers revelation by the foreign cousin while squatting on the toilet, and the look of the show is bland as f*ck, as evidenced by the hipster actor’s apartment (Sooooo much brown…).
And you know what? It’s going to get renewed. HBO doesn’t have a high bar when it comes to viewership and they’d have a major hole in their programming. Too much money’s been invested. Unless a horse dies on set of course. The main reason it will get picked up for a second season is because the masses DON’T have a show like this on television. And in a starving marketplace, the consumer will buy the single option available. “GIRLS” may end up being THE representative of a generation of women, but by default.
One Viewer’s Opinion,