Competition is rife among cable shows in America. Right off the bat viewing figures and hype are critical in deciding their fate in the dog-eat-dog world of American TV networks. With the new series of Mad Men/Game of Thrones/The Good Wife, and now Girls, all on Sunday night, the evening in question is set to become the weekly world cup of telly-mania.
Despite it variously being reported as “the most hyped TV premiere of all time” (just Google “HBO Girls hype”) new contender Girls’ premiere was vexingly modest a debut, albeit thoroughly promising. Unfortunately this seems to have incurred a not altogether unsurprising backlash, instilling in people the natural instinct to sabotage hype. General consensus drawn from various comments boards: “these characters are whinging about the economy and their financial/sexual/identity crises and yet they’re all posh white privileged like-yaah girls.” What baffles me about these remarks is that at no point did this show purport to be anything but.
However, before underestimating the publicity department of this show, it seems perfectly feasible that this love it/hate it feud being teased out by the backlash will work in the show’s favour, inciting a schism in the audience of viewers who get their rocks off basking in the luxury of Mad Men’s mise-en-scene but who would be at pains to note less lectured social injustices that are purveyed in a place such as Girls’ contemporary New York setting. After being confronted by her parents with the prospect of a halt in financial support, Hannah, the protagonist, renounces even the idea of getting such a low-level job as working in McDonalds. Later she steals the tip-money her parents have left for their hotel housekeeping maid before right afterwards dodging a homeless man vying for her attention. It’s shocking and gratuitous for sure, but it is also funny, and it also drives home some economic disparities that Mad Men can occasionally seem eager to prematurely historicise.
Precociously titled ‘Girls’, as if universally relevant and relatable (another irreverent in-joke in my opinion on the part of creator and star Lena Dunham), the show somewhat follows in the wake of 2011’s Bridesmaids in portraying the egotistic and comical escapades of a certain class of privileged well-educated and mostly white American female, though in this case a younger generation not yet bothered about marriage. Direct and indirect references to Sex and the City also abound. The question with Bridesmaids, and the question with Girls, is that when the world seems to have had so much time for morally questionable, physically imperfect, irresponsible, prejudiced, and yet somehow lovable, male comedic characters, (Alf Garnett, Men Behaving Badly, Homer Simpson, David Brent, Two and a Half Men etc ad infinitum) can the same now apply on behalf of a young narcissistic and altogether good-looking cast of female characters dealing with abortion, the workplace, dysfunctional sexual relationships, body image and virginity? It remains to be seen whether these confessional topics, rendered discourteously humorous in a primetime American cable slot, will perhaps incur the rolling of eyes, barking of reactionary hysteria and disgruntled changing of channels. Stay tuned.
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