Lena Denham’s Girls has been a constant source of amusement, enjoyment and frustration. Last night’s episode (Boys) was like watching a compendium of everything that makes the show so great, with all of the things that make it drag left out.
Each episode of this series has felt like its a stand-alone film, complete with unique intro and outro music, and the show’s title sequence uses different coloured-backgrounds very similar to those used by Godard in his most insurrectionary sixties movies.
Alison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Lena Denham and Zosia Mamet.
The previous episode, in which Hannah spent the night and day, then night again, with a man whose rubbish bin she had been using, was the closest the show has come to romantic comedy, but it was laced with the sour, bitter ironies of a young and poor woman with a successful older man, as though Neil La Bute were directing an episode of Friends. That episode starred Patrick Wilson a doctor whose outer handsomness belied a dark inner core.
It must be said that the setup of Girls is completly unfluffy, with none of the brash camaraderie of Sex and the City, or the sweet and un-challenging platitudes of Friends.
Episode Six gave more time to some of the male characters who make up a counterpart to the women of Girls. Likable coffee -shop worker Ray, and Hannah‘s sociopathic ex-boyfriend Adam bonded over a dog which the extremely volatile Adam had taken from outside on the street. The episode saw them leaving Manhattan to take the ferry to Staten island, along the way they shared their view on relationships, both agreeing that very young much older women make the best partners. their burgeoning friendship was sharply abrupted when Adam turned on Ray, accusing him of not being in love with Shoshanna, only being with her due to not wanting a real relationship. The men in Girls can seem in a greater sense of emotional turmoil than the women, especially the primal and sometimes violent Adam, who spent most of the first few episodes of this season laid up in bed after being run-over.
Watching an episode of Girls is to be constantly confounded and surprised, perhaps there is only one show that matches this very literary quality, Mad Men; the two shows share an actress in Zosia Mamet. Things are introduced to us and we think we know where the episode is going, we think we know because in all tv programmes there is a certain expecatation that events will follow a clear pattern, that we are being led down a certain path. I suggest that Girls is unique in refusing to follow this schematic tradition. At the beginning of this episode Marni was in bed with Booth, white-sheets wrapped around her, a classic image of sexual satisfaction that suggested that their relationship was in a good place and would end in marriage only a few episodes later. Then the artist’s personal assistant walked in and we realised we had got it wrong, this artist was an arrogant exploiter, of his assistant and his girlfriend, promptly firing her after she admitted to taking a spoonful of his ice-cream. If that wasn’t enough, he had the temerity to expect Marni to replace his ex-PA at a party he was giving. That scene showed just how conflicted and confused these characters are. Marni was at once delighted to be asked, wearing an elaborate, perspex-layered dress, and then appalled by his attempts to pay her for her work. It turned out that Booth was under no impression that they were dating, and Marni was immediately brought back to a state of unease and uncertainty, which all four girls seem to experience, though virginal Shosh has been less afflicted and may be the most balanced of the group.
Much has been made of the show’s sexual frankness, as well as censorious distaste at the slightly overweight nude body of Denham, whose character barely makes it to the end without being seen naked. Hannah, needless to say, would never make an extra in the Central Perk coffee shop in Friends. If Hannah is sexually promiscuous, Marni (privileged, tall, brunette) is the archetypal attractive best friend, who pursues conventional relationships but is rarely satisfied. Adorable and kind-hearted Shoshanna started the show a virgin, but the show made no apologies for this, actually Shoshanna has been given as interesting character as the other ‘girls’ – accidentally smoking crack at a warehouse party last season, her sayings have inspired a webpage -‘stupid things Shoshanna says’. There is one more girl, Jessa, to complete the foursome, though her scene was short and made less of an impression. Such a range of women, coming from different backgrounds and cultures, argue more than they agree, and the social world of Manhattan is as stratified as high school. The awful party that Marni attended was a microcosm of this world, in which people fear saying the wrong thing and worry about what they wear, 100 years ago Henry James and Edith Wharton would have based their novels around these environments. It was a party at which Hannah felt unwelcome, reluctantly staying until insulted by a guest (‘just an ebook’) and leaving alone.
The show reached an emotional highpointt after the party. Marni was on the phone to Hannah, asking why she left early. Neither was able to say what they really wanted to, in Hannah’s case, she hadn’t been able to start her novel, whilst Marni wanted to sound happy and upbeat, despite her heartbreak. Filmed lovingly in brilliant cinematography, the scene highlighted the gap between the image of the life Marni wanted and the reality of the one she was living, it was gorgeously done, and very moving. No less sad was the shot of Adam, sitting on the bench at sunlight, talking to the dog whose owner he couln’t locate “You think I’m hopeless don’t you, my life is going nowhere.”
The show loves its characters even when they behave appallingly, which they often do, they don’t make up at the end of each lesson or spend each episode discussing their sex lives over Cosmopolitans. The show is light years ahead of any other sitcoms made in New York, it is under no circumstances to be linked to New Girl or 2 Broke Girls, with which it shares a noun. It speaks about who we are, this generation of lost souls, like the characters in Fitzgerald’s stories, they are beautiful, but as yet not damned. they are certainly a ,more thoughtful and decent lot than the amoral and hedonistic eighties brats of Bret Easton Ellis novels.
Yes, this show is really going somewhere, but no-one knows exactly where.