We’ve seen countless comedy shows that centre on a group of young adult friends, from school age in The Inbetweeners, university age in Fresh Meat, to the numerous shows that portray the ever-growing segment of ‘young adult-hood’; in this category the retro Friends and Seinfeld share the stage with the more recent The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Peep Show and Gavin and Stacey. It’s becoming an increasingly difficult task (I presume) to conceive fresh ideas for comedy and unique set-ups in which that comedy occurs. How many times can we watch and enjoy watching roommates having funny arguments? How many settings are there to choose from wherein the beloved characters can come together and share their hilarious problems? These are questions that beg to be asked when something like Girls pops up, a new comedy drama centred on four young women living in New York, about ten years younger than the Sex and the City bunch.
Nevertheless this sitcom immediately has two things going for it, even before the first viewing of the pilot; the HBO stamp, and its writers. The creator is Lena Dunham, writer and director of independent film Tiny Furniture (look it up; an enjoyable watch), and Judd Apatow is a contributor in writing and producing. Around mid-way through the first season of Girls, it’s starting to become clear where this show marks its territory in the jungle of sitcom concepts. Like Sex and The City, a lot of the focus is on sex and relationships. The difference is that the sex in Girls as much more brutally honest than the over-the-top orgasmic wailing from Kim Cattrall we are subjected to in Sex and the City. Lena Dunham shows us the clumsy, awkward, confusing, and sometimes worrying side of sex, as in one episode her character Hannah obsesses over “the stuff that gets up the sides of condoms”. Relationships are depicted not as whirlwinds of romance and torture, but as things we try to find solace and happiness in, but rarely succeed. Hannah puzzles over what to make of the dynamic between her and constantly topless Adam, who features in a series of bizarre and funny sex scenes. Her best friend Marnie is restless in her long-term relationship but terrified of its end – not because of love or sex, but because of that fear we all have of changing our habits. Shoshanna brings back fond memories of the likes of American Pie and Superbad when she ashamedly confesses of her virginity, and idolises over her cousin Jessa, her complete opposite.
Characters in Girls could be assigned fairly accurate equivalents in Sex and the City, but then we must remember the necessity for television to exaggerate certain types of character for entertainment and forgive them that. The women in Sex and the City are in their thirties, established New Yorkers with very decent jobs and often very exciting relationships, whereas Girls shows us women who are not long out of college, not quite knowing where to put themselves in the world. The dialogue in Sex and the City is sharp and dense, nevertheless well-delivered but clearly well-rehearsed. The characters in Girls interact with one another that uncannily mimics reality; it comes across as improvised, it is often silly, not particularly clever but just as funny. This pretty much sums up Lena Dunham’s sitcom; not clever, but charming and funny.