When I first read about Girls, Lena Dunham's TV show about her and her friends' semi-Bohemian exploits in a less than romantic NYC, the show sounded like a gritty, mean-spirited version of Sex in the City (something nobody wants to see I don't think). So I forgot about it. I finally got around to watching the whole thing in its entirety on HBO on Demand this week, and surprisingly it's a revelation -- like someone took a Mary Gaitskill book of short stories, got rid of all the fusty/creepy self-hatred but kept the smart, off-kilter situations, and created a new way to represent young women without all the prissy finery and pretentious apologetics.
Dunham is overweight, neurotic, narcissistic, and full of desire, and her sexual exploits with her Asperger-y boyfriend are just so odd and joyful that you feel like these two people are completely original, not types typed up for a TV show, but creatures from some other world gracing ours so we can see how silly and wonderful people truly are. The boyfriend is played by Adam Sackler and is a pale body-builder with a melted Norman-Rockwell-paperboy face with a Russian shade of sadism shining out of his eyes. Their relationship truly is the sun the show orbits.
The other girls are not as odd sadly enough, but still have a charm and charge all their own. Obviously Sex in the City is a touchstone here, but it's also the mother all of them are making fun of. And the piss-poor economy also haunts the show, as Dunham's Hanna goes from crappy job to crappy job after being cut off by her professor parents. All the episodes have a home-made quality to them, but also are crafted like little movies. Tiny Furniture, Dunham's 2010 movie debut, was a bit twee, enjoyable but a little too enjoyable somehow -- as if Dunham was trying way too hard to be the next Woody Allen. In Girls she's just being herself thank God: unpleasantly plump, nervous, and unafraid of letting us in on all of it.