23/10/2012 01:00 | By Hilary Wardle, contributor, MSN TV

TV review: HBO's Girls not as funny as it thinks it is

Reviewed: HBO’s Girls, created by Lena Dunham and co-executive produced by Judd Apatow, kicked off on Sky Atlantic.

Cast of Girls, including Lena Dunham (© Cast of Girls, including Lena Dunham. Image Sky)


From the HBO stable, Lena Dunham's Girls is a New York-set comedy drama about the lives of four recent graduates in their early 20s. Pictured from left to right, they are: Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet).


The scene where Hannah's parents cut her off financially was great: "We've been supporting you for two years. I work hard: I want a lake house!" Good for them.


Hannah's borderline abusive boyfriend Adam. He looked like a Bill and Ted-era Keanu Reeves staring at himself in a broken mirror.

Full review

I remember my early 20s; you may possibly still be in your early 20s. If so, I'm terribly sorry as it really is an awful time; no money, a low-paying job (if you're lucky) and bad relationships.

There's nothing likeable about post-University wilderness years and, for me, while there may be much to admire, there's very little to actually like about Sky Atlantic's latest US import, Girls.

"Very little to actually like about Sky Atlantic's latest US import, Girls."

The hype for this show has been on a stratospheric scale; rave review has followed rave review, especially in the US where it's been praised for being 'edgy'.

But is it really? Or has everyone lost their mind because central character Hannah (show creator Lena Dunham) isn't stick thin and Hollywood-pretty?

The huge waves of praise baffle me. Here in the UK, we're regularly treated to real-looking, talented women every time we turn on the television; Dawn French, Jessica Hynes, Meera Syal, Catherine Tate, Kathy Burke, Miranda Hart, Jo Brand... the list goes on and on.

Perhaps Lena's youth is the real key; she's only 26 years of age, yet Girls isn't even her first project.

Lena helmed Tiny Furniture, an indie movie fave, and now she's written, created, directed and co-produced an award-winning comedy drama for HBO. A remarkable feat. Little wonder Girls has sparked so much positive word of mouth.

But take away the surprise of seeing an average-looking young woman doing normal 20-something things (like have bad sex), and all you're left with is a programme about four conflicted, vacant young flatmates with iffy chemistry and dodgy sex lives.

I personally can't imagine any of the characters being friends in real life: Hannah is both smart alecky and clueless; posh, worldly British girl Jessa is a free spirit; Marnie is an uptight gallery assistant and Shoshanna is Jessa's overly talkative cousin.

Girls and girl non-power

In addition to sharing an apartment, al four share a staggering sense of entitlement, summed up in Hannah's drugged-up request that her parents support her to the tune of $1100 a month so she can write her 'memoirs'.

While the performances are decent and the script is solid, this is not the small screen's Second Coming as some critics would have you believe.

Girls has been compared to Sex and the City - and it does invite this, to be fair. Both shows are about four women living in New York. Both regularly feature brutally frank language and eye-wateringly graphic sex scenes.

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    21 %
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But any comparison should be surface-level only because the two shows are very different in tone and content. Sex and the City was genuinely witty and cheerfully smutty as it presented adult relationships.

In contrast, Girls is more downbeat; unhappy girls in cartoon 'friendships' who have resigned themselves to terrible, depressing and/or dull sex with awful men.

At one point, Hannah tells her gynaecologist she hopes her boyfriend has given her AIDS because then she'd have a genuine reason to be annoyed with him.

It's meant to be funny and show what a ditsy hypochondriac she is, but it just sounds sad, empty and delusional - like watching a TV dramatisation of a particularly irritating Twitter account.

Girls is often gritty, and certainly 'real' in a sense. You could argue that it's Sex and the City for the recession-hit youth of today. But if so, did anyone ask all the other 20-somethings if they wanted Hannah and her friends to be the voice of their generation? I certainly wouldn't want them speaking for me.

It remains to be seen if Girls can forge ahead and develop its self-obsessed and, on the whole, not-very-likable characters to the point where we can actually care about what happens to them.

But if not, you can buy the Sex and the City box set for a fairly reasonable price.

  • Verdict: Girls is OK, but not as clever as it thinks it is.

    Star grade

What other reviews say

The Guardian - "I'm unqualified to write about Girls - but it feels real and it's hilarious."

The Arts Desk - "After sitting through the first episode, however, you might find yourself wondering just what the fuss was all about."

What people on Twitter said

@Angela_Griffin (Angela Griffin) - "No really, stop looking at twitter and watch Girls on SKy Atlantic now, everyone will be taking about it tomorrow #girls."

@actualalexmills - "Watching #Girls on Sky Atlantic. It scares me how much I am like Hannah."

The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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