Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Firstening: HBO's Girls

Shit! The week damn near ended and I didn't follow up on a promise I made in an blog I write for. Also I brothe and slept this week. Still fully functional, it seems.

Remember how I said what I said about what I planned to do? I decided to start with HBO's Girls, starring and created by and written by and directed by and very possibly catered by Lena Dunham, on account of having heard (or imagined hearing, as previously discussed) it was good and Judd Apatow's name being attached to it (Apatow's like Spielberg in that if he's producing instead of directing it's still nearly guaranteed deadly). Now, what the plan was was to watch the first episode, write a few things down and move onto the next show in my list of planned newshow discoveries (including The Newsroom, Men Of A Certain Age, Louie and Justified), but instead I watched all of Girls' first season in that same sitting and didn't even notice it getting dark outside. I'm not sure when the last time I did something like was what but as I've gotten a little older and a lot rounder I'm considerably less diehard when it comes to TV and movie marathons and was sure I'd forgotten how to. Does it go without saying I enjoyed it that much? It should do. I didn't watch it all at once because I hated it. I'm not... Un-Paul. Look, you wanna meet me after the jump because this ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated. Yes, I wrote the introduction last...

Promise you won't roll your eyes or leave if I start with the whole White Elephant Sex And The City thing? Look, I'm good at this, all right, and I'm not going to discuss it in a dismissive way or anything and I think the comparisons run a little deeper than they appear on the surface. Besides, unlike a lot of dudes my age (also all other ages) I happen to really like most of Sex And The City and am incapable of arbitrarily criticizing it or its cast like so many of my peers. Still with it? Excellente.

So your friend says to you "hey, there's this new show on HBO about four young women living in New York and at first glance their relationships are defined completely through sexual exploits and there's a kinda slutty one and a cute naive one and one that's kinda hard to pin down* and, get this, arguably the least likeable one is the main one who's not just an aspiring writer but also apparently fond of quasi-abusive-dependent relationships and over the course of the show's entire broadcast run so far it morphs from a broad comedy to a drama sweetened with unique comic sensibilities and I think you should watch it" you'd be forgiven for saying "that's not new at all, you hickory smoked swine - that show is Sex And The City and is years old". These comparisons are inevitable but not detrimental and I imagine it'd be pretty hard to accuse Girls of ripping too much off from the former on account of how much its own show it is. Sure, Judd Apatow, founding father of the defining comic voice of a generation, is involved, but Lena Dunham's sweaty handprints are all over this show and really it's Friends to SATC's Seinfeld: same ballpark, different game. I don't know a lot about sports. I think at least one of the two games would have to be there illegally. Um...

It's worth noting that Dunham and co. were quick to get all that potential ugliness out of the way super quick with more than a passing reference to SATC in the first episode. In the same way that my life is in many ways heavily influenced by the culture (pop and otherwise) I grew up with, so too is roughly a generation of girls' whose admiration-to-reverence of that other show is sure to in some way shape their lives. The scope of its resonance is unfathomable and any show that both uses it as a loose template and acknowledges that in the opening minutes of its first episode is grounded in an appreciative sense of reality and debt that I can't help but admire myself.

Not only that, but they pretty much covered that show's whole six-year gamut of pregnancy, marriage, infidelity and beyond in ten episodes. Here's hoping a Geri Halliwell cameo isn't destined for season two. Girls' greatest strength is, well, its girls (and at least one of their squeezes), and how it comes down to the fact that ten hours and five hours' worth of TV later it's still really hard to get a solid grip on who these people are. That feels to me like a sort of bravery most TV shows shy away from. I rewatched the first episode of 24 again recently and even with the benefit of hindsight, by the time it ended I knew exactly all I needed to about Jack and Kim Bauer. I still feel like there's so much to come from Girls. Had I left a fucking minute between episodes I'm sure I would have looked forward to them with the ravenous curiosity of a looming date. I wanted to know more, I wanted more intimacy and as much disposablity. Moreover, these are characters you can put in pretty much any situation and mine gold from. Even sex scenes with particularly HBO-friendly and less law-friendly overtones. Bravery and baiting were, in the earlier episodes, a little harder to differentiate between, but on my own terms at least I was able to divine that this all stemmed from the show not knowing precisely what ground it wanted to tread in the comedy sense. It starts a lot funnier than it ends up, but it's not down to a decline in writing as much a decision on where to head. The later episodes are funny, but they're not episodes of a comedy show.

Don't let that fool you for a second into thinking I didn't think the show was superbly written. I swear, there are plot points in the later episodes that fucking snuck up on me out of nowhere but were developed, tenderized like a nice juicy TV steak, for weeks in advance. Here's another thing (I suppose this falls under the 'bravery' category as well, but that's far too boring to dwell on). I'm nearly certain I dislike Dunham's character Hannah. She's a hoot - fuck, she's hysterical at points - but boy does she get on my nerves. I've never been particularly fond of that old trope of teens and young adults that have trouble finding a place in the world and she falls into that category a little too neatly round about the last two episodes or so. I felt at times like I was expected to feel this way, and if that's the case, here are my claps, HBO and Girls. That I ended up liking her crazy boyfriend Adam the most outta the whole bunch was the biggest surprise given how I'd actually stated aloud earlier in the run "I don't like him". Writing is awesome. Well done you lot.


Some notes on bits of the cast, also. Despite the exposure to her oldladyboob, my defining image of Becky Ann Baker is still her reciting "Monster Mash" on Freaks And Geeks and making me really uncomfortable like I was watching an old fuck eat sloppy potatoes to keep him from dying, even though he only lives to eat those spuds. Speaking of spuds (witness ye now the worst link I have EVER written), Chris O' Dowd's accent is too strong to cast him as any other ethnicity than Irish, and I don't reckon it should be done. Connery got away with it for years, sure. You know James Bond is English, right? If you dinna it's Sean's fault.

It's sweeter'n a frosted sugar sandwich, too. Adam's bike in the back of the car had my face aching for minutes with a big glowing smile. Nice one.

Other factors - direction and music and that - don't really merit much of a mention. I was worried during the first episode it was going to follow that twee Napoleon Dynamite/ all indie cinema path of cutesie plinky plonky folk guitar music. Couple that with how Marnie's boyfriend acts in that same episode and colour me unimpressed. Thankfully this dropped from sight pretty quick and the rest of the episode got the hooks in me and most of America right and quick. Then the second episode opens with paedophile jokery. I swear, it's like the show is daring you to like it.

Here. Challenge accepted.

Not a single other mention of Girls but other neat things are ready for your male gaze right now at Rambleast.


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