Now that the world’s television critics have moved on to eviscerating the work of Aaron Sorkin (because that guy sucks, obviously), it seems like a good time to reflect on the first season of “Girls” — the last polarizing HBO series that television critics gnawed to the bone.
There’s a marathon on HBOZone right now (a #girlsathon, if you’re cool), and the show not only holds up, but actually seems better. The character development among the peripheral “girls” feels much stronger — especially for Jessa (Jemima Kirke), who made the crazypants decision to marry Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd) during the season finale. Watching “Girls” as it was probably meant to be consumed — in one sitting — makes the slight show feel less trivial, something that would certainly please Ray (Alex Karpovsky).
Anyway, I’m a fan. “Girls” never again achieved the sublime greatness that it did when Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Marnie (Allison Williams) were dancing to Robyn at the end of episode three, but the first season was pretty spectacular.
If there was one thing I didn’t understand about the reaction to “Girls,” it was the critique that these people were all awful because they were so selfish. That, to a man and woman, the characters on “Girls” were some aliens who don’t exist in real life. As if, (a) television isn’t filled with selfish characters (“Parks and Recreation” not withstanding), and (b) all people are selfish? We all think we’re right; we all think we’re good friends, good boyfriends, good girlfriends, good workers; we all think we’re doing the best we possibly can. Even Yankees fans probably think they’re on the side of angels.
Dunham was criticized because she pretended to speak for a generation. (She actually said those words in the pilot episode; never mind that it was a joke on Hannah’s self-involved world view.) Which is a fine critique, I guess, but what if she kinda does? Not just a generation of confused, 23-year-old women trying to figure it all out, but a generation of Peter Pans who never grew up and still think they’re destined for some greatness. In that regard, “Girls” works best for those who have a certain level of self-awareness: The dreamers like Hannah, constantly making mistakes and selfishly thinking they’re starring in some profound narrative feature about their lives.
Regardless of all that naval gazing, the show is funny. Dunham is whip smart, she writes the hell out of jokes big and small, and has an ear for dialogue that recalls Woody Allen.
So there’s that, if you’re still on the fence.