January 14, 2013



GIRLS:  Sunday 9PM on HBO

The newly Golden Globe-winning GIRLS has returned, despite all its intervening success and attention, with its messiness intact.  “Messy” is a relative term in the world of Girls, of course, because although the lives of its characters are in complete disarray, auteur Lena Dunham’s vision (carried out with writing partners who include uber-mentor Judd Apatow and day-to-day showrunner Jenni Konner) is extremely precise, as structurally well-tooled as any sitcom on the air.  The show’s ability to meld those seemingly at-odds aesthetics together, along with its general zeitgeisty sense of immediacy (even for those of us far too old to know whether it’s accurately reflecting any zeitgeist except Dunham’s own) have made it instant appointment television.

For a few minutes at the start of Girls Season 2, the show seems to be taking place in a bizarro, and far more interesting, parallel universe of NBC:  Hannah (Dunham) is now living with gay (bisexual?) Elijah (The New Normal‘s Andrew Rannells), and her new boyfriend–although she’d never use that word to describe him–is Sandy (Community‘s Donald Glover).  Ah, if only a show like this could exist at the Peacock, shooing away Guys With Kids, Whitney and 1600 Penn!  But no, this is why HBO exists.  Anyway, despite all this activity in her life, we see in the premiere (written by Dunham and Konner and directed by Dunham) that Hannah is also still tied in with Adam (Adam Driver), who was hit by a truck at the end of Season 1 and now wears a hip-length cast, needing Hannah to help him go to the bathroom, among other things.  Adam is now firmly in love with her, and she hasn’t been able to tell him that she’s found someone else.

The rest of the gang isn’t any more settled.  Marnie (Allison Williams) has been fired (um, “downsized”) from her art gallery job, and we get our first glimpse of her relationship with her mother (guest star Rita Wilson), a woman who thinks mostly about the 35 pounds she’s just lost.  Marnie has a very abortive tryst with Elijah, and has to acknowledge that she still has feelings for Charlie (Christopher Abbott), even though he’s moved on, for the moment at least, to obnoxious Audrey.  Also ambiguous is the relationship between Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Ray (Alex Karpovsky) now that she’s lost her virginity to him.  (“I’ve been deflowered, but I’m not devalued.”)  We only catch a glimpse of Jessa (Jemima Kirke) returning from her honeymoon with Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd), but it’s enough to establish that she still doesn’t know his (now their) address.

Girls is in love with ambiguity and ambivalence, with the self-obsession and narcissism and sexiness and irresponsibility of being at the center of your own universe, sometimes feeling guilty about putting yourself first, sometimes worrying about consequences, but not enough to change.  As self-indulgent and aimless as its characters are, though, Girls itself is tightly focused.  Tonight’s premiere took place mostly at a party thrown by Hannah and Elijah where all the major plotlines criss-crossed, and there wasn’t a beat missed from last season, or a mixed message that was inefficiently conveyed.   None of this would be possible, of course, if not for the wonderful ensemble, a group of (mostly) young actors who can squeeze a half-dozen contradictory emotions into a single reaction shot.

Despite some cavils aimed at the family backgrounds of the stars and their supposed fame (ten bucks to anyone who would have recognized the name of Dunham’s artist mother before the show debuted), the mostly unintegrated cast, and the general tenor of the stories, Girls became increasingly successful as its first season went on, winding up with about a million viewers and a 0.5 rating in 18-49s on its initial airings.  Those numbers, to be sure, came with HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones and True Blood as lead-ins for various weeks, so the show still has something to prove.  It seems like a textbook example of a series that should have grown over hiatus as people had a chance to catch up with it on its various platforms, and there’s the excellent chance that we’ll have the pleasure of watching Girls, and its titular characters, grow up for some time to come.

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."