“Girls” (HBO): Introduction & Season 1

Introduction

They’re definitely based on me, my circle of friends, and combined with the lives of my staff writers.

-Lena Dunham re: the characters

“Girls” premiered exactly 10 yrs ago today (April 15, 2012)! In the last 5 mos. of the pandemic, I’ve been watching the work of Adam Driver off/on; the actor (now 38 y.o.) was a regular cast member on this HBO show. Lena Dunham’s self-financed 2010 indie Tiny Furniture (2010) served as the template for the series, which also featured two of her close friends- Alex Karpovsky and Jemima Kirke. Judd Apatow (an experienced screenwriter/director/producer) emailed Dunham after becoming V impressed w/ her movie. He later stated that he “hoped the show would provide men w/ an insight into realistic females.” Apatow’s (Executive Producer) teen daughter (Maude) w/ wife (actress Leslie Mann) appears in S5.

Girls has sometimes been referred to as the “Millennial take on Sex and the City” (SATC). The stories are (mainly) set in/around Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The apts. of the main girls are NOT spacious or decorated w/ matching furnishings. Don’t expect to see many designer shoes (i.e. Manolos), clothes, or accessories here. The show subverts traditional rom com cliches, for the most part. The twists in the interpersonal connections are sometimes quite surprising. With time, romance becomes a key part of the show. In S5, the girls are caught up in their love lives, even if their choices are NOT working out. Music is integral to the show; Dunham wanted it to “complement the show w/o being a commentary.”

TV is usually the producer’s/writer’s medium; often showrunners write the eps. HBO teamed Dunham (then only 24 y.o.) w/ the more experienced- Jenni Konner- who became the co-showrunner. Konner directed 2 eps and wrote 17 eps; the two women became close friends and even started a production company (A Casual Romance). Dunham herself directed 19 eps. In 2017, Konner and Dunham put out a joint statement to The Hollywood Reporter, defending a staff writer (Murray Miller) against sexual assault allegations and claiming to have “insider knowledge” of his situation. Dunham later apologized for this statement and admitted that she and Konner had no “insider information” (so the claim had been a lie). Dunham issued a public apology to Aurora Perrineau (the alleged victim/daughter of actor Harold Perrineau); Konner has never issued a public apology.

The Women of “Girls”

I see some of you wondering: Am I supposed to like (or relate to) these upper middle-class/white girls? No, you don’t have to like a character for them to be interesting! They often act immature, narcissistic, and entitled. While the women on SATC (in their early 30s when that show began) were looking for husbands, dream jobs, etc, these characters don’t know what they want. Dunham plays Hannah Horvath, an aspiring writer who works as an editorial intern and lives in Greenpoint. Hannah was raised by parents who are academics in Michigan. Allison Williams (daughter of newsman Brian Williams) plays her roommate/best friend Marnie Michaels. She is tall/conventionally beautiful, wants to be an art curator, and has a serious boyfriend of several yrs. If you’ve seen SATC, you’ll no doubt find resemblance to Charlotte. Dunham explained that Hannah and Marnie’s V strong (yet complicated) friendship is based on her real-life experiences w/ her BFF- Audrey Gelman. Marnie was envisioned to have a different look than Williams, BUT she and Dunham got along from the first audition.

Jemima Kirke (who met Dunham in HS) plays Jessa Johansson; she’s British, bohemian, and beautiful. Jessa also attended Oberlin, but she left w/o graduating. Dunham had to convince Kirke (who had no intention to act) to take this role; she was a new mom and working as a painter. Jessa is the cousin of Shoshanna Shapiro (a senior at NYU); they live together as Jessa looks for a job. Dunham liked Zosia Mamet’s performance so much that kept her as a regular. She is typically “girly” (w/ a poster for SATC hung in her apt), loves fashion, and struggles w/ social anxiety. Many young/female viewers connected w/ Shosh. Zosia (fit/petite) is the daughter of filmmaker/playwright David Mamet and his ex-wife- actress Lindsay Crouse. “In a way, she is the most naive character, but in another way, she’s also the wisest,” Dunham explained.

The Men of Girls

I know people come up to Adam say “you’re a jerk” on the street all the time. I feel bad for him b/c he cannot hide. There is one person on the planet who looks like that… -Dunham

One of the first things I noticed on my (re-watch) was just how tall ALL the men were- LOL! Adam Sackler (Driver- who is 6’3″) is complicated, angry, weird, and seems to have little respect for Hannah (when we meet him in S1). He works w/ his hands (carpentry), wants to be an actor, and gets some money from his grandma. Dunham originally envisioned this character to be a handsome leading man type (w/ the looks of Taylor Kitsch from Friday Night Lights). Adam Sackler was based on one of her ex-bfs from her early 20s; Dunham thought he’d appear on a few eps in S1 as Hannah’s love interest. That all changed when she met 27 y.o. Driver at his audition; they instantly had great chemistry together (and were conversing like they’d known each other for years)! Driver (the first of the cast to gain fame) was flying back and forth between NYC and London between S3 and S4 to film Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).

Ray Ploshansky (Karpovsky- also 6’3″) is 33 y.o. (almost 10 yrs. older than the girls) and the manager of a coffee shop- Grumpy’s. He’s the “voice of reason” (as many critics have commented) in the show; he becomes interested in Shosh (who is just 21 y.o. and has a personality which intrigues him). Elijah Krantz (Andrew Rannells- 6’2″) is Hannah’s ex-bf who she reconnects w/ in S1 E3; they met in college and have a LOT of shared history. He also aspires to be an actor, BUT isn’t doing much about it. Rannells (33 y.o. when the show premiered, but looked much younger) had already appeared (along w/ Josh Gad) in the hit Broadway musical- The Book of Mormon. Dunham and Konner had loved him on stage and were V excited when he came to audition. More men will be appearing as prominent guest starts as the show goes on.

Season 1

Living the dream. One mistake at a time. -Tagline for the show

E1: Pilot

Hannah is a mix of natural intelligence and improbable stupidity. …an interesting mix of complete confidence and no self-worth. -Dunham

Hannah declares to her parents at dinner: “I could be the voice of my generation, or at least a voice of my generation.” They say the can’t financially support her anymore; her mom explains: “We can’t keep bankrolling your groovy lifestyle.” The more soft-hearted Tad (Peter Scolari, who passed away in 2020) and his stricter wife- Loreen (Becky Ann Baker)- will appear in 20 eps; these experienced actors really brought a LOT to the show. Hannah (3 yrs out of college; former English major) and Marnie wake up together in their humble apt. They discuss texting on the way to the subway; Marnie thinks is “the lowest form of communication.” Hannah is let go from being an intern; the small publishing company can’t afford to hire her F/T.

I’d say Adam is a friend w/ benefits, although the friendship part of that is not always clear. -Dunham

Hannah goes to see Adam at his apt; he was a Comp Lit major, but is trying to be an actor. He’s shirtless, wearing only jeans, and talking re: carpentry (“it’s more honest” than other work). They have a (awkward) hookup and we learn that Adam is the one who takes charge. (The partial nudity here is shot from the side.) Marnie looks bored in her relationship (of 4 yrs.) w/ Charlie (Christopher Abbott); the spark seems to have gone out (at least on her side). Later that night, Hannah’s friends are chatting and having a dinner party at her apt. Jessa arrived from her travels; she confides in Marnie that she’s pregnant. Hannah drinks a tea w/ opium pods, then goes to her parents’ hotel.

E2: Vagina Panic

When we’re together, he’s so there and so present. And then he disappears for 2 wks. and doesn’t answer any text messages, and I feel as though I invented him. -Hannah re: Adam

This ep opens w/ two scenes (shot in partly darkened rooms) which are NOT for (easily offended) viewers: Adam is saying “dirty talk” in bed (which Hannah doesn’t enjoy); Charlie is gentle/respectful (Marnie is turned off). Marnie had set up an appointment for Jessa to have an abortion at a clinic; Hannah (saying she has been w/ 2 1/2 men) wonders if she could have an STD. At her job interview, Hannah has great rapport w/ Brian (Mike Birbiglia) until she makes a V problematic joke; he is NOT amused. The girls have Froyo and talk re: men/relationships; Shosh pulls out a dating advice book (this reminded me of when Charlotte was reading The Rules early in S1 of SATC). The gynecologist who sees Hannah is played by Sakina Jaffrey (daughter of veteran actress Madhur Jaffrey- recently seen on And Just Like That). Jessa goes to a bar, hits on a young man, and learns that she’s NOT pregnant (anymore).

E3: All Adventurous Women Do

Hannah contracted HPV (which is quite common); it’s NOT from Adam (as she’d assumed). It turns out that Elijah (her bf during the last 2 yrs at college) gave that to her. Hannah meets him for a drink and learns that he’s gay- whoa! Marnie becomes interested in an up-and-coming artist, Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone), maybe b/c he’s SO different from that Charlie. (FYI: Taccone comes from an artistic family from California; he was once in a comedy trio w/ Andy Samberg.) Jessa starts work as a babysitter for the Lavoyts (who have 2 young daughters); the mom- Katherine (Kathryn Hahn)- is a fashion photographer and the dad- Jeff (James LeGros)- doesn’t seem to have much going on. Jessa treats her job in a laissez-faire attitude (as she does w/ everything in life).

E4: Hannah’s Diary

After getting a (shocking) photo from Adam, Hannah takes up “sexting” (though she feels weird about it). It turns out that Adam’s NSFW pic was for another girl! Marnie and Charlie are shocked and wonder what kind of weirdo would do that!? Shosh runs into a popular guy, Matt Kornstein (Skylar Astin), from their summer camp days. (FYI: Astin studied at NYU Tisch and was in the cast of Spring Awakening on Broadway.) Jessa gets distracted at her babysitting job. Ray and Charlie find and read Hannah’s diary- yikes!

E5: Hard Being Easy

Hannah pays a (surprise) visit to Adam’s apt, but he’s NOT amused. He wants his own space and time to work on whatever furniture he’s building. Jessa decides to meet w/ one of her ex-bfs; he has a new gf now, yet she has the need to run her game on him. (Their hookup scene reminded me more to what’d happen w/ Samantha in SATC.) Years later, Dunham said that it wasn’t the right scene for this show. Charlie reconsiders his relationship w/ Marnie after seeing what was in that diary.

E6: The Return

Hannah goes home to Michigan for her parents’ anniversary. She runs into one of her HS friends, Heather Travis (Vanessa Ray), who is planning to move to LA to become an actress. (FYI: Ray co-starred in the indie Not Waving, But Drowning w/ Driver- his 1st feature film.) Hannah decides to go on a to a charity benefit w/ an eager/young pharmacist, Eric (Lou Tyler Pucci). This is a view into how life could’ve been for Hannah if she’d stayed close to home.

E7: Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident

The girls go to a warehouse party where Marnie discovers Charlie has a new gf, Audrey (played by Dunham’s best friend- Audrey Gelman). Wait, Adam owns a shirt? LOL- this is the 1st time we see him wearing a shirt on the show! Hannah sees Adam dancing w/ a group of his lesbian BFFs; she learns that he’s in AA from one woman- Tako (Roberta Colindrez). We get to see some wacky dance moves from the cast/extras. Jeff comes to see Jessa (dressed in an unique outfit) at this party, but ends up in the ER. Shosh accidentally smokes crack (yikes); Ray keeps watch over her.

Hannah and Adam ride off on his bike; she admits that does want him to be her bf. Adam thinks she’s too self-involved; she doesn’t ask about his life. Suddenly, he stops the bike, and she falls off. Marnie is pissed off at Adam when she comes up in a cab, BUT they all three end up riding together. Hannah has a small smile on her face.

E8: Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too

Hannah is spending more time w/ Adam than ever. She goes to the “tech” (technical rehearsal) of a play Adam is doing w/ Gavin (Henry Zebrowski). Then, Adam acts out a scene where he’s quite vulnerable; we learn something from his youth. After Gavin makes some choices Adam doesn’t like, he suddenly quits. He declares that he doesn’t want to do anything that he doesn’t believe in fully. Marnie is miserable after learning (via Facebook) that Charlie went to Rome w/ Audrey. She wonders how he can recover SO fast!? Marnie and Jessa go to a classy-looking bar to talk; they meet a lonely venture capitalist, Thomas John (Chris O’Dowd- an Aussie actor).

E9: Leave Me Alone

The girls attend a book launch for Hannah’s college nemesis, Tally Schifrin (Jenny Slate). Hannah can’t help but feel jealous; Tally passive aggressively puts her down. Hannah sees one of her former writing profs, Powell Goldman (Michael Imperioli), at this party. He praises her talent and invites her to a “salon” (reading). Hannah also tries out for a job at Grumpy’s. She and Marnie get into a huge fight!

E10: She Did

Marnie moves out of the apt- wow! She finally admits that maybe NOT having a plan is a good thing for now. Hannah considers the idea of Adam moving in; he may even be open to it. Jessa (who has been out of touch for weeks) suddenly invites them to a surprise event- her wedding to Thomas John! Their vows are unusual, yet they look V happy. Look at the friends’ reactions at the ceremony/reception; each person is feeling something different. Marnie is trying to be chill/non-judgmental. She even acts nice to Elijah, who has a new relationship w/ an older man and seems more calm. Ray decides to tell Shosh how much he likes her; they get together.

Adam (who had watched the ceremony intently) looks full of strong emotions. Then he and Hannah act playful and have a slow dance. However, after the cake is cut and it’s almost time to leave, Adam and Hannah get into a fight. He thinks his love is being rejected now, after 6 mos. of Hannah chasing after him. Suddenly, a van drives by and side-swipes Adam (who’d been standing on the street)! When the ambulance comes, he tells the EMT to NOT let Hannah get onboard b/c she’s a “monster.” Hannah gets on the subway, falls asleep, and winds up at the end of the line (Coney Island). Her purse is gone- no surprise there. Hannah walks to the beach and eats a piece of the wedding cake in the quiet of early morning.

One thought on ““Girls” (HBO): Introduction & Season 1

  1. I never watched the show, but everything i read about it left me (white, middle class / upper-middle-class) feeling alienated! So I don’t know if race and class are the whole story here. I guess I’d have to watch some of it to know.

    Like

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