During an interview with Girls creator Lena Durham she admitted that when coming up with titles for the ground breaking show one of the names suggested was Tampon City. If this name had stuck Girls would have looked, from the surface, like just another mediocre sitcom about quirky women who shock with their talk of periods and sex but do it in the acceptable cute way. This would have been an awful step back for the TV show as it is the exact opposite of what Girls is trying to do both for comedy and the portrayal of women on television. Yes, periods are mentioned, like when Hannah and Marnie are talking about being organised and Hannah says “you’re really lucky because I never know when I’m getting my period. It’s always a surprise, which is why all of my underwear is covered in weird stains.” But so is sex (“that was so good, I almost came“), unemployment (“I can last in New York three-and-a-half more days, maybe seven if I don’t eat lunch.”), abortions (“you are a really good friend and you threw a really great abortion”) all in the same vein. These issues aren’t brought up in Girls as a way of shocking the audience by saying controversial things, but in a casual, ‘these things happen every day to normal people’ fashion, which is what makes the show so great.
It is based around four young twenty-somethings living in New York, all struggling with finding themselves in this big bad world. Hannah, played by creator Lena Durham, is an aspiring personal essay writer, covered in tattoos of children’s illustrations, who has just been cut off financially by her parents. Marnie is her flatmate who is trying to face up to the fact that she isn’t attracted to her long term boyfriend anymore, and the sweeter he is to her the more she hates him. Jessa, their English friend from college, bursts back into their life in a flash of feathers and flowing skirts after travelling the world alone. She moves in with her cousin Shoshanna, a insecure, pop culture loving, virgin.
These girls are gritty and real, their storylines come with bite and the comedy flows naturally out of their depressing situations. As characters they can be annoying, self-centred, unlikeable and a breath of fresh air. It is almost a relief to watch a programme which doesn’t command you to love the main characters all the time but gives you the freedom to think “I would never be friends with these people.”
If the format sounds familiar, four girls waltzing around Manhattan talking about sex and relationships, it must be made clear that Girls is not a new version of Sex and the City. For starters, the characters are all different sizes and shapes, something that is not made an issue of. Instead it is presented to you in the form of a half naked, curvy Hannah, laid bare for you to think what you will and then move on. And they don’t sit around contemplating their mistakes but make some, then go out and make them all over again, like real people in the real world would.
This show doesn’t only change the perspective of women on television; men are portrayed in a new light too. They are not just one dimensional beings who are judged on what is inside their wallet and their boxers. The men in these girls’ lives have layers and complex personalities. They don’t say soppy romantic things into the girls ear when making love but sometimes pretend the girl is a school girl they are about to send back to her parents “covered in cum”.
Adam, Hannah’s love interest, is one of the most original characters to have come out of a TV show in a long time. From the first episode he seems to be acting like a horrible person who Hannah should not be wasting her time on. However, as the series develops, so does his character and as you start to feel different about him you also start to see how he actually hasn’t been that horrible, you just didn’t know him before. Chris O’Dowd and Jorma Taccone also feature to add to the fantastic, uncliched cast.
Finally a comedy has arrived that we can watch with our head in our hands, whispering shamefully: “I’ve done that before, too.” Kind of like Geordie Shore but with less tan and better English.