With the addition of a more-or-less reliable AppleTV interface now, I’ve been delving pretty deeply into HBOGo and getting caught up on some current and not-so-current HBO programming that I’ve never watched before.
While it’s no Deadwood, I now admit that I was hasty in my initial opinion of the currently running Lena Dunham comedy-ish Girls. I’ll say it: it’s not a bad show.
To back up, I bear none of the visceral antipathy toward Dunham that many haters of the show seem to carry. I mostly enjoyed her feature Tiny Furniture and am generally appreciative of any media that seeks to portray young people in honest, entertaining ways. But in the scattered episodes of Girls that I did watch, I found everything about it annoying and distasteful, the main characters irredeemable, and the banter overly-precious.
But, having watched the entire two seasons from start to finish, I have to revise my opinion of the show and upgrade my opinion to solidly lukewarm. So, why the change of heart?
When I watched individual episodes of Girls in a vacuum, the sheer vapid self-indulgence of its leads was too much to endure. When watched from the beginning, so I had an opportunity to absorb all the facets of their degrading, neurotic journeys, they become more sympathetic, their decisions become more understandable (if not justifiable), and the occasional warmth and humor of their relationships come out.
But is it a good show? Hard to say. Its lack of a likable protagonist is its biggest problem. Jessa is still literally the absolute worst person in the history of sitcoms. Marnie’s downward spiral was handled in fits and starts so it played more for simple comedy than anything else and left her looking like a gold-digging word-I-shouldn’t-type by the end of the two seasons. Hannah, at the very least, suffers the consequences of her actions in a believable way that elicits sympathy.
(Shoshanna is mostly hilarious but has yet to have a big enough role in the show to really consider her part of its core relationship trinity.)
This is no doubt partly my own gender bias, but I find the show’s two male leads, Adam and Ray, the most interesting characters on the show. They’re the only characters who are self-reflective, honest, and occasionally take action and make choices that are not steeped entirely in self-interest.
I’ll leave my assessment like this: I appreciate Girls. I’m glad it’s on the air. At times, it can be one of the sharpest, funniest shows on television. But it is just so maddeningly flawed–its most glaring error being that now after two seasons the show has circled back to where it started except that Shoshanna is no longer a virgin and Hannah is even worse off–that I think its legacy will be akin to Oz or Jim Jarmusch movies: extended moments of brilliance overshadowed by meandering self-indulgence and overt, perhaps deliberate, dislike-ability.