'Girls' is the ground-breaking new HBO comedy series from writer Lena Dunham, and in many ways, it follows the SatC formula to a T. Four girls; the sexually liberated one, the prissy sensible one and the classy gallery worker, their lives all narrated by the sassy writer. But, while 'Sex and the City' is an example of the way a lot of women wish their lives could be, 'Girls' is a sometimes painfully realistic portrayal of being a twenty-something going it alone in the big city. Hannah, Marni, Jessa and Shoshanna aren't racking up credit card bills by splashing out on $400 shoes whenever their boyfriends mess them around. They're struggling to pay rent, attempting to fly the nest but still relying on handouts - as one character says, "It's not adult life if your parents pay for your Blackberry" - and dealing with dysfunctional relationships of various kinds, from the virginal Shoshanna to the almost disturbingly perverted kinks of Adam, Hannah's not-quite boyfriend (not for the easily offended).
The sex scenes are distinctly unglamourised; no romping on the plush carpet of your brand new, well-lit walk-in closet here, Miss Bradshaw. It's awkward, graphic and often entirely unpleasurable. Dunham, who plays Hannah as well as penning the show, seems to have no problems with stripping off the camera and putting herself into all kinds of uncomfortable situations. Her frankness when approaching sexual taboos, along with the important social issue of body image within young women ("No, I have not tried a lot to lose weight. I've decided I'd have some other concerns in my life"), is central to the overwhelming success of the show thus far. It's refreshing to watch a programme in which not everyone is built like a Victoria's Secret angel and having mind-blowing sex every night.
Although this may not sound like a recipe for a comedy series, 'Girls' is wickedly funny. The writing is sharp and witty, and the characters say the things we're all thinking but often wouldn't dare to say. While the humour is undoubtedly black, I personally find it hilarious. Dunham's turn of the phrase is perfect and sets the overall tone of the show. There's a level of self-awareness within it which I particularly enjoy; in the first episode, there is a large 'Sex and the City' poster on the wall in Shoshanna's apartment and she proceeds to dissect herself and her friends in the way many women and girls have since the late nineties - "a Carrie, but with some Samantha aspects and Charlotte hair. That's like, a really good combination". It is impossible to escape SatC's influences; these girls will be the ones who moved to New York on the understanding that their lives would follow the same glamorous path they'd witnessed in those six seasons.
'Girls' has had some very high-blown statements thrown its way, including the branding of Lena Dunham as 'the voice of a generation' (a phrase which is in fact used in the first episode and has seemingly haunted Dunham ever since) as well as an awful lot of critical backlash towards almost every aspect of the show. Is it a recession-age 'Sex and the City', a refreshing new look at modern life, or yet another programme detailing the lives of privileged white America, of which many believe we have more than enough? Can we relate to these characters and their plights, or are they largely unlikeable? In my opinion, the potential unlikeability (is that a word?) of the characters is what makes them relateable. They're flawed, they're spoiled, they're realistic. Dunham doesn't offer these characters salvation from their negative qualities because that isn't how life works. Everyone is messed up and self-involved, and 'Girls' addresses that without flinching.
I won't get into the socioeconomic politics of the show, nor the racial issue which has plagued many reviews. All I will say is; I thoroughly enjoy this programme and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cleverly written comedy series. Although, as I said, not for the sexually squeamish and maybe don't watch this one with your parents or younger brother.
Have you watched 'Girls'? What did you think of it?