Episode Title: 'Pilot'
Writer: Lena Dunham
Director: Lena Dunham
You may have heard a little bit of buzz about director/writer Lena Dunham's "Girls" and it's very much warranted. HBO's latest is one of the sharpest, funniest half-hour comedies to come along in some time.
"Girls" is centered around a group of twenty-something women struggling to make their professional and personal lives work in New York City. The episode opens with aspiring writer, Hannah (Lena Dunham) having dinner with her visiting college professor parents, played by '80s sitcom vet, Peter Scolari and "Freaks and Geeks" star, Becky Ann Baker.
At first, it sounds like Hannah's on the fast-track to success. She's got a good job, a book in the works and a publisher lined up in her employer. But soon all is revealed. The "job" is an unpaid internship Hannah's had for two years now. The book is about four pages long, at present and Hannah's "groovy lifestyle," as her out of touch mother calls it, is being "bankrolled" by her parents.
Introducing the lead character as an entitled college grad threatening to become a drug addict and rack up a couple of abortions if her parents stop funding her may not sound terribly endearing. But Hannah refutes her parents,' well mostly her mother's argument that it's time she start supporting herself with surprisingly sound logic, as alarmist as it may be.
Judging by Hannah's quick wit and feisty spirit, we know she's unlikely to end up on drugs or in need of multiple abortions and yet her argument is still solid. She's their only child living in New York in the midst of an unpaid internship in the middle of a bad job marker. Surely, her mother's dream of buying a lake house can wait a couple more years.
The next morning, Hannah wakes up next to her roommate, Marnie (Allison Williams), who's trying to avoid her emasculated boyfriend, Charlie (Christophe Abbott). His super-sweet and overly-sensitive demeanor is starting to feel more like a creepy uncle than a boyfriend to Marnie. Like Hannah, Marnie's initial introduction may have been initially off-putting, but her maternal instincts towards Hannah surface when the free-spirited Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and her British accent arrive after a jaunt across Europe.
Jessa encourages Hannah to embrace her inner artist and convince her parents she's the Flaubert of her generation. The fact that Hannah's high on opium when she gets Jessa's pep talk only makes things worse. Hannah heads over to her parents' hotel room and insists they read her book, which doesn't take too long since it's about four pages long. Though impressed with her humorous prose, her mother reminds her that they "are not WaMu," just before Hannah passes out in an Opium-induced stupor. Meanwhile, after getting a lecture from Marnie about showing up to her own dinner party two hours late, Jessa tells her she's pregnant.
On the surface the premise of "Girls" may not sound particularly inspired but like any good television show, it's the characters that make this half-hour pilot so engaging. Dunham does an excellent job of taking jabs at city living culture while not succumbing to pure parody. Hannah's boss, Allister laments the fact that he won't be able to make good on his big plans for to take over the company's Twitter account now that she's leaving. The notion is both insulting and a spot-on accurate example of the plight of so many recent college grads looking to get a foot in the door. Jessa's cousin, Shoshanna tries to nail down her worldly relative's "Sex and the City" archetype while everything out of Jessa's mouth flies directly over Shoshanna's head.
Comparisons to the recently canceled "How to Make It in America," which also focused on hip youngins trying to get by in the big city, are bound to be drawn. But "How to Make It" was about two down and out wannabe designers whose ability to be in the right place at the right time led to their unlikely rise in New York's exclusive fashion and social scene. "Girls," on the other hand, depicts the string of disappoints that seem to follow Hannah and her friends as they navigate their quarter-life existence in a city where opportunity seems to eludes them.
Still, "Girls" is anything but a downer. The pilot episode, which could almost function as a short film, is full of the kind of charm, humor and snappy wit that makes me immediately want to see more of what promises to be HBO's next big comedy.