April 16, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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GIRLS – Sundays 10:30PM on HBO – Potential DVR Alert
The lion’s share of attention paid to HBO goes to its splashy, big-budget, big-name projects like Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Luck and True Blood.  But at the same time, the network has consistently produced smaller, idiosyncratic shows that are more akin to independent films, from Enlightened and In Treatment to Tell Me You Love Me and Bored To Death, and even the higher-concept Eastbound & Down. The new GIRLS is the latest and one of the most promising of this line.

Although Judd Apatow’s name is attached as an Executive Producer, and doubtless his track record helped the show get through the door, the voice behind Girls is unquestionably that of its creator/director/producer/star, filmmaker Lena Dunham, previously best known (to the extent she was known at all) for her 2010 film Tiny Furniture.  Dunham’s character in Girls, Hannah, describes herself as possibly the voice of her generation–or at least a voice of a generation, and that seems a fair characterization.
At one point in the pilot, one of Hannah’s friends compares herself to the women in Sex and the City, and the irony of the in-joke is clear, because while these girls have sex and live in the city, that’s about all they have in common with the privileged quartet of HBO’s signature comedy.  (If any of them got possession of a pair of Manolos, they’d probably pawn them.)  Hannah, an aspiring writer, is 24 years old and working as an unpaid intern at a publishing house (in what may be a nod to an earlier generation of indie film, Chris Eigeman of Whit Stillman’s 1990s comedies plays her boss).  When Hannah’s parents abruptly tell her they’ve supported her enough (“I want a lake house!” is her mother’s plaintive cry), she has to figure out how she can make a living and become the person she’s convinced she’s going to be, despite being jobless, penniless and burdened with a less than caring boyfriend  Her friend Marnie (Allison Williams) is trying to figure out how to tell her longterm beau she’s not attracted to him anymore; Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is glamorous and British (and pregnant), and blows intermittently into town; and Jessa’s cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) envies her relative and tries to find her inner Carrie. 
Tiny Furniture had a lot of incisive, observant humor, but in focusing so exclusively on the character Dunham played, it did its share of familiar first-film navel-gazing; if Dunham can successfully create and sustain 4 central characters and juggle their storylines, Girls has the potential to be a much more engaging piece of work.  Even in the first half-hour, the show establishes a distinctive generational angle on a familiar topic, with a look and tone more scripted than mumblecore and far more naturalistic than HBO’s more stylized excursions into this turf.  Girls, which starting next week will be paired with the new Julia Louis-Dreyfus vehicle Veep, is already one of the least homogenized series around.

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."