If you are a 20-something college grad, or soon to be one, HBO’s much hyped new series “Girls” will probably hit quite close to home. The pilot opens with executive producer, writer, director and lead star Lena Dunham in the role of Hannah — a writer two years out of college with an unpaid internship, at dinner with her parents who have been financially supporting her. The discussion sounds all too familiar: ‘What are your plans? You need to get a job’ — until her life-providers drop the oh-so-tactful “It’s time for one final push,” also known as “You’re cut off.” Hannah’s reaction is hilarious but also valid. She’s their only child, she points out, the economy is not exactly booming and they should be grateful that she’s not a drug dealer (I’ve definitely used that one before). But her attempts are in vain.
The mood set in this ill-fated family dinner permeates the rest of the episode, which follows Hannah, Marnie (Allison Williams ’10) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) through their encounters with internships turned sour, overly nice boyfriends and bad-advice-giving British cousins (Jessa, played by Jemima Kirke). The tone is one of realism that is so easy to identify with that it becomes uncomfortable and the only reaction you can have is to laugh at Hannah and, to some degree, yourself. Dunham masterfully melds true-to-life characters and situations — like Marnie’s inability to break up with her boyfriend Charlie because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings — with sitcom humor, which has the potential of feeling set up but usually arrives as an unexpected surprise.
Part of the success of “Girls” success is that Dunham isn’t afraid to bare it all, in both a literal and figurative sense. Probably the most memorable scene is when Hannah stops by Adam’s (Adam Sackler) apartment for a booty call and tries to take off her clothes while face down on the couch with her hands clasped behind her back. Unlike other shows, both Hannah and Adam’s bodies are far from glamorous, and instead of skipping from kissing to postcoital lying in bed, the entire interaction is shown, complete with painfully awkward dialogue.
The realistic angle explored in “Girls” is one not seen too frequently these days on TV. In the midst of guilty pleasures like “Jersey Shore” and thrillers like “Dexter,” “Girls” comes as a breath of fresh B.A.-delivered air. You can relate to the characters because they don’t live at the extremes of stock or ideal; they exist as patchworks of both likable traits and imperfections, held together but always about to collapse into a pile of post-grad-survival angst. One might think a show that recalls uncouth interactions you want to forget would not be a pleasant experience, but “Girls” avoids this problem by adding humor to the discomfort, making the situation not only bearable but extremely entertaining. I don’t know how long “Girls” will be able to keep up the laughs without making them feel planned, but for now, it’s certainly one to watch.