April 23, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.
Previously… on GIRLS:  In a part of New York far downscale from where the pals on Sex and the City lived, 4 young women make their way through a thicket of men, finances and their own neuroses.  Hannah (Lena Dunham, the show’s creator/showrunner) has been cut off by her parents, needs a job, and endures less than ideal boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver).  Marnie (Allison Williams), on the other hand, can barely endure the touch of her longtime beau Charlie (Christopher Abbott).  Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is the youngest and most scattered of the group, thrilled when her worldly English cousin Jessa (Jemima Kirke) comes back to town.  Jessa, as it turns out, is pregnant.
Episode 2:  It’s rare that a show’s second episode is instantly funnier, more incisive and distinctive than its already-promising pilot, but such is the happy case with Girls.  Whether as a result of HBO’s development process, or just Dunham’s having time to think through her characters and their respective voices, the amorphousness of the pilot is gone, and Girls returns as a show with a strong, memorable point of view.

As though Dunham wants to clear away any lingering comparisons of her show with Sex and the City, the second episode begins with 2 of the least glamorous sex scenes in memory:  Hannah placidly accepting Adam’s distressing mid-intercourse fantasies, and then Marnie willing to do anything not to have to look at Charlie in the act.  Much of the rest of the episode concerns Jessa’s need for an abortion, to which the other 3 agree to accompany her, but for which Jessa, characteristically, doesn’t show up.  Along the way, we (and Marnie) learn that Shoshanna is a virgin, and Hannah decides she needs to have an AIDS test, even though Adam uses condoms, because she’s become obsessed with, as she puts it, the stuff that builds up around the sides.
Girls, in its series incarnation, seems like it’s going to be far more politically incorrect than the pilot suggested, in ways that are more natural and believable than the Ricky Gervais anything-for-a-laugh style.  Hannah talks herself out of a job with a horribly inappropriate date rape joke at her interview, and later, while undergoing her STD test (and to the shock of the doctor), she half talks herself into thinking that getting AIDS might not be such a bad thing.  These gags, like Adam’s fantasies, are startling, but feel true to the character.  
The second episode moves faster and more smoothly than the pilot did, with more genuine laughs, and establishes stronger identities for each of the lead characters.  Dunham, for now, gives herself the majority of the punchlines, but all the performances are first-rate.  Girls got off to an OK–not great–start in the ratings, but HBO has never been faulted for lack of patience.  In a season where network TV seemed determined to make primetime a festival of women’s sex jokes, Girls may be the show that actually has something to say on the subject. 
Original Verdict:  Potential DVR Alert
Pilot + 1:   Don’t Miss An Episode


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."