TV on Disc: Lena Dunham and the 'Girls'
This is not the sexy, glamorous New York of 'Sex and the City'
"Girls: The Complete First Season" (HBO) is one of those shows that seemed to get more attention for what it wasn't than what it was.
Lena Dunham created the show on the strength of her independent, quasi-autobiographical film "Tiny Furniture," with Judd Apatow as producer and Dunham as star. As in her feature, she turns the lens on the lives that she knows best: young, educated women trying to carve out their own lives and loves and measuring the distance between their aspirations and their realities.
So the show was criticized for focusing on young women from lives of privilege, showcasing urban art types and would-be hipsters living in the margins of New York's creative culture, and for Dunham casting her friends, who all come from lives vaguely similar to the characters they portray. They're white, urban, eccentric, a little spoiled, and lost in their own confusions and compromises.
All true. But more importantly, they are distinctive characters in a show that presents lives we don't see to often on the screen with a frank, uncomfortable humor. Dunham places most of the humiliations on her own character, Hannah, an aspiring writer who wants her parents to support her financially so she doesn't have to quit her (unpaid) internship and get a job while she continues to not write her novel, and who puts up with a neglectful boyfriend (Adam Driver) as self-absorbed as she is, but in his own distinctive way.
Her friends -- roommate Marnie (Allison Williams), who works at an art gallery, nerdy pal Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), a chattering optimist and resident virgin ("I'm like the least virginy virgin ever"), and bohemian world traveler and impulsive free spirit Jessa (Jemima Kirke) -- have their own issues and aren't shy about talking about them. Or at least talking around them. There's a lot of that too.
"Girls" arrived just as a revival of shows focused on women characters was underway, but this isn't much like its sister shows. The sex is awkward, romance is uncomfortable rather than cute, and there's a lot of settling for what they have rather than insisting on what they want. And as the season progresses, they all turn out to be more interesting than they might appear in the first couple of episodes. Even the men in their lives.
More from David Bianculli at NPR: " The oldest piece of advice given to young writers is a four-word commandment: "Write what you know." Some people hear that advice and run from it. Others take it and run with it — which is what Dunham has done with Girls. As a result, the conversations sound like you've been eavesdropping. The sex scenes feel like you're watching voyeuristically — and they're unsettling for even more reasons than that. And what happens to Hannah, at least in the first few episodes, makes you fear that the poor girl just isn't going to make it. But don't believe it."
10 episodes on two discs on Blu-ray and DVD. There are five commentary tracks (including an extended commentary on Episode Six featuring Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow), two interview featurettes ("A Conversation with the Girls" and "A Conversation with Lena Dunham & Judd Apatow") and the brief "Inside the Episodes" featurettes that were produced as promotional extras for the HBO broadcasts.
The Blu-ray edition includes more supplements, plus bonus DVD and digital copies (redeemable via iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu) of every episode. There's the featurette "The Making of Girls," cast audition footage, table reads of the scripts, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, the audio-only interview with Lena Dunham on the NPR program "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross, and Lena Dunham's "Twitter Journal" in a booklet collecting the Tweets she sent during the production of the show.