We received a legal notice yesterday informing us that, as the last blog on the planet that has not yet offered up a review, social analysis or even a snarky aside about HBO’s new Girls, we have until today to achieve compliance or we will face prosecution. So here goes…
Girls is pretty close to unwatchable.
We are obviously caught up in the midst of a new culture war. Occupy Wall Street, while trying to revitalize the movement for May Day, is kind of last year. Gay marriage is basically a dead issue. What matters now to all of us, as Americans, is Girls. Are you part of the backlash or part of the anti-backlash?
People have had a lot of pretty unreasonable negative reactions to Girls, fueled by bizarre politics, contrarianism, or a sucking need to be part of the conversation. So, for the record, the following criticisms — though many of them are true — are not the reason I don’t like Girls:
1) It’s Not Funny
No, it’s really, really not. The show often aims for an Apatow-lite brand of awkward, cringe humor (no surprise considering Apatow’s involvement), but rarely hits the mark. The closest to laughs Girls ever gets is an occasional one-liner (usually from Lena Denham) that might induce a smirk of appreciation.
But a half-hour television show, even one that classifies itself as a comedy or sitcom, needn’t be funny to justify its existence. The comedy and drama labels are so nebulous at this point anyway that I don’t demand belly laughs from any show with a running time of 30 minutes. There are weeks when Louie doesn’t generate an escaped chuckle, yet that’s one of the best shows on TV. And, to be fair, Girls is funnier than some other purported comedies of recent ilk, including HBO’s own Hung and Bored to Death.
So: not funny. True, but so what?
2) The Characters Aren’t Likeable
Again, this is completely valid. But also again, a series doesn’t need to have likeable protagonists to be entertaining or artful.
Not one of the four main characters of Girls has even a passing familiarity with likeability. However, shows as disparate as Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Arrested Development manage to succeed with few agreeable characters.
The key difference is that with those shows, and many more like them, the characters have some kind of charisma that invests the viewer. There’s something about them that makes you want to keep watching. With Girls, the characters are hateful monsters, but not in an entertaining way. Instead of drawing you in, they compel you to turn the TV off.
3) There’s No Diversity
Yep. True. So, so, so many white people on this show.
Yet while it would certainly nice to see minorities better represented on television in general and on this New York-based show in particular, I think it’s unfair to hold a particular show accountable for a issue that’s macro and cultural in nature. If black characters weren’t part of Dunham’s vision for this show, trying to shoehorn them in for the sake of it would come across as awkward. Because trust me: shows have tried that, and you can always tell — the minority characters are ill-defined and don’t have anything to do.
4) This is Not the Voice of a Generation / This is Not a Unique Voice
Sorry, Lena, you brought this upon yourself with the line of dialogue in the pilot about you being the voice of a generation. What did you think was going to happen? If you thought: “I bet that line will lead to a lot of overwrought columns about how this show doesn’t represent an entire generation, and a lot of overwrought rebuttals about how yes it does and the haters just don’t understand that generation,” then you were dead fucking on.
So, no, of course Girls doesn’t represent a generation, or even a very thin slice of that generation (young white girls who live in Brooklyn). These characters are no more archetypes for American women that the morons on Sex and the City were. And Girls tries to gracefully deflect and Sex and the City comparisons by having its dumbest character be a huge fan of that show, to the point of putting a poster on her wall. But sorry, Girls — you’re a lot more like Carrie & co. then you would like to admit. You’re both collections of four vapid, materialistic twits — you’re just vapid and materialistic in slightly different ways.
Moreover, not only does Girls not have a perspective that’s representative of any significant collection of people, it doesn’t have a unique perspective at all. But as with these other criticisms, that’s not enough to condemn the show. Friends didn’t have a unique voice. Parks and Recreation doesn’t have a particularly unique voice. It’s not an essential ingredient — in the same way that you can make a great album with just guitar, bass, and drums.
5) Women Aren’t Funny
Well, it’s definitely not a good sign that in a series called Girls, the two highlights have been cameos by Peter Scolari and Chris Eigeman. But of course, women are just as funny as men. Just not in this show. So please don’t call my a misogynist. I have funny women friends!
OK, so none of those are the reasons that Girls is terrible — then just why is it so unwatchable?
It’s simple: the writing. Lena Dunham is not an engaging television writer in any way. Her characters are boring. There’s nothing to root for. The dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. And the writing is so blatantly self-satisfied that it’s off-putting. An utterly unearned arrogance of style.
It’s amazing that a show this dull and unoriginal could even create such a firestorm in the first place. The final scene of the third episodes features the main character dancing around her room by herself in an act of empowerment. I mean…are you fucking kidding me? This show is essentially Entourage, only with women, and Entourage is one of the worst television shows of our time.