A voice of a generation? 'Girls' might be on to something . . .
TV REVIEW:THE GREAT THING about Girls (Sky Atlantic, Monday) finally starting on this side of the Atlantic is that it put a stop to those conversations where someone would say in a pitying sort of way, “Oh, really? You haven’t seen Girls?”, as if I had all the TV savvy of someone up a boreen in Ballygobackwards wondering why the telly was blank.
No. Just because the HBO-made comedy, which aired in the US in April, has had acres of newsprint raving about its zeitgeisty ability to capture the experience of urban twentysomethings, I didn’t feel the urge to do a spot of illegal downloading – which isn’t being high-horsey: more of a “why bother?”
But back to Girls. It’s great. It feels authentic, the dialogue is like an overheard conversation and the acting is deadpan: it’s more like a cool indie movie than a cable-TV series. Its star, writer and director, 26-year-old Lena Dunham, is extraordinary, oversharing about her life on an epic scale to create the drama. Also, she has to be the least vain person on TV: she’s not telly-standard stick insect and she’s naked a lot.
The first two episodes were shown back to back, with episode 1 introducing the characters, all middle-class graduates in their early 20s, wildly self-absorbed, working in New York as unpaid interns on the fringes of publishing and art but still living off their parents.
The crisis for wannabe writer Hannah (Dunham) is that her parents are cutting off her funds and she’ll have to get a paying job. High on opium, she makes her case to them, her unfinished manuscript in hand. “I think I might be the voice of my generation, or at least a voice of a generation.”
Her three friends are types – the controlling one, the hippy one, the naive one – and together they make up a quartet we’ve seen before, but this isn’t Sex and the City’s younger sister; no one could have accused that silly series of being as real, unflinching or representative.
Episode 2 was about one of the women having an abortion. Girls is categorised as comedy, a genre in which it has won awards, but I couldn’t find the laughs, though with writing this strong a permanent wry smile is probably good enough. I did grimace more than once at how pathetically grateful Hannah is for any affection from her porno-educated “sort of” boyfriend. All the sex in Girls – and there’s a lot of it – is horrible and deeply exploitative of the women.
THE HISTORICswitchover from analogue to digital made it a big week for TV – so the timing of TV50: What’s Happening to Television? (RTÉ One, Monday), a well-made, informed, cover-all-the-bases documentary, was a bit of a party pooper, given that several contributors were so downbeat about the future of TV that they should have been wearing black armbands.
Miriam O’Callaghan, its presenter, talked to commentators whose opinions ranged from “TV has a future” to “TV is dead”. The media maven Cindy Gallop summed up the feeling of many: “I see an industry that’s dying; the business model is broken.”
Balancing this is the present reality that people still love TV, it’s still the premier entertainment medium and we watch it in our millions, especially when there are big live events, such as a GAA final or the Eurovision.