January 12, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Girls”


GIRLS:  Sunday 9PM on HBO

Watching the Season 4 premiere of GIRLS on the same night as this year’s Golden Globes was a reminder of how quickly things move in today’s pop culture from being state-of-the-art, cutting-edge phenomena to… if not yesterday’s news, certainly farther back from the Twitterverse heat than tonight’s winners Transparent and Jane the Virgin currently are.  Girls is a story about transitions, and this season premiere was one as well, both in the sense of promising a series that will be somewhat different from Seasons 1-3 and also because it’s likely that the show will be getting less attention than it has in the past from those seeking a grand statement about creator/star Lena Dunham’s generation, and operate instead as simply another television dramedy.

The major event of Season 3’s conclusion was the acceptance of Hannah (Dunham, who directed and with Judd Apatow co-wrote tonight’s episode) to a graduate writing program in Iowa, and the premiere took place in the days immediately preceding her departure from New York.  It’s not clear how Girls intends to deal with the fact that its main character will now be a considerable distance from all the other characters, although it hasn’t caused any of the New York cast to be cut–on the contrary, recurring characters Elijah (Andrew Rannels) and Desi (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) are now regulars.  The centerpiece of the episode provided an opportunity for all the characters to get together in one place, as Marnie (Allison Williams) and Desi performed at a jazz brunch, attended by Hannah, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet, whose speed-mumble is approaching the closed-captioning level), as well as the various men in their lives, including Hannah’s boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver), and Ray (Alex Karpovsky), who’s been with both Marnie and Shosh.

Everyone’s life was a mess, as usual.  Hannah’s acceptance to the Iowa program may be bringing great joy to her parents (Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker), but her relationship with the always-intense Adam will undergo an extreme test.  Marnie is now having a torrid affair with Desi, who’s still engaged to the unknowing Clementine (Natalie Morales), and Marnie’s equilibrium remains fragile enough that a single rude child at the jazz brunch drove her off the stage.  Shosh has just (finally) graduated from college, and in this episode we met her extremely dysfunctional divorced parents, played by Anthony Edwards and Ana Gasteyer.  Jessa lost her job as companion to Beadie (Louise Lasser) when Beadie’s daughter (Natasha Lyonne, a brief but welcome presence) found out Jessa had participated in Beadie’s assisted suicide attempt, and as usual with Jessa, there was no Plan B.

It all suggests that Dunham may plan to wipe the slate clean for many of her characters.  This episode wasn’t Girls at its best–other half-hours that have featured group events for all the characters have been denser and more deftly constructed, like Season 1’s “Welcome to Bushwick”–but there were effective moments, especially in Hannah’s parting from Marnie and Adam in the last sequence.  Adam’s very method acting is always good for a laugh, here where he furiously criticized the editing of the commercial he’d done for a depression medication.  Dunham is particularly good at the way her arrested development protagonists interact with their parents, and there were no less than 3 sets of them in this episode, thanks to the return of Evie (Rita Wilson), Marnie’s mother.

Lyonne’s character was only around long enough to deliver a vituperative attack on the women of Dunham’s generation, and it felt rather meta, a starting place for wherever Dunham plans on taking those characters from here on.  Before this 4th season even began, HBO renewed Girls for a 5th year, so Dunham has plenty of time to let her ideas play out, and the new Iowa setting will give her a fresh canvas.  Now that Girls no longer has the burden of being The Great American Whatever, in a way her work is just getting started.


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."