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Review: ‘Girls’ Unfortunately Stumbles Into Sitcom Territory

Review: 'Girls' Unfortunately Stumbles Into Sitcom Territory

Season 1, Episode 4: "Hannah's Diary"

As we mentioned in our review of the season premiere, "Girls" came out of the gate strong, exhibiting a fresh approach and confidence that many shows don't often have in their first season. Navigating the complexities of sex, relationships and friendships between young women in Manhattan, Lena Dunham's effort seemed to sidestep the usual structure and expectations of the half hour format for something a bit more direct and honest. And while we figured "Girls" would stumble at some point, or perhaps deliver an episode below the standard set thus far, we didn't expect it to be so soon, or done so sloppily.

As the title suggests, the plot of this episode surrounds Hannah's diary, and more importantly, what's discovered inside by Charlie (Christopher Abbott) and his friend Ray (Alex Karpovsky). It's a bit of a cheap narrative device, one that has been used in countless other shows, including, it should be noted, executive producer Judd Apatow's "Freaks & Geeks" (though to much better effect). Anyway, the two are at Hannah and Marnie's apartment where Charlie is building his girlfriend a coffee table as a surprise and doing some rudimentary rehearsals for his band's upcoming show, when Ray uses the opportunity of both girls being out of the house to start snooping around. One thing leads to another and soon he's found Hannah's diary….

….meanwhile, Hannah suddenly has a job this episode despite three straight shows chronicling her increasingly frustrating search to find employment. It's in a drab, almost outdated office, and while the position isn't exactly the kind of creative work Hannah would like to be doing, the problem she faces is the wandering hands of her boss, Rich. An older, married man, he likes to hand out massages to the women in his office and grabbing their asses when has a chance, all done in the kind of old fashioned, boys-will-be-boys way that wouldn't be out of place with the dudes on "Mad Men." Hannah's co-workers shrug it off, as Rich is essentially harmless and also, the job provides great benefits.

But before she can even tackle the issue at work, Hannah has a bigger problem on her hands. Adam (Adam Driver) opens the episode by texting Hannah a picture of his penis, only to quickly follow it up with another message saying cryptically, "SRY that wasn't for you." This later leads to a particularly brilliant showdown (one of the best dramatic moments of the series so far), in which Hannah attempts to break up with Adam, explaining quite clearly what she needs out of a relationship. She wants to be loved, to be important to somebody, to be exclusive — and yet, saying it out loud embarrases her because it makes her seem like a girl "who wants to go to brunch." It's a near-genius encapsulation of the fine line between dating and a relationship. But of course, they end up back together anyway, with Hannah unable to wrest herself free from Adam's charms, as repulsive and attractive as they are.

However, that's the one moment of pure honesty in an episode that feels particularly contrived. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) get little mini-subplots, with the former losing the kids she's babysitting, while their father Jeff (James LeGros) becomes increasingly attracted to her (yawn). Meanwhile, Shoshanna randomly hooks up with an old friend from camp and just when things are about to get hot and heavy, he backs out when she reveals the news that she's a virgin. The latter scenario would seem like one that would be particularly devastating, but by the climax of the show, she seems more or less fine, meeting with the other girls at the bar where Charlie and Ray's band is playing.

Charlie unveils his "new" song, titled "Hannah's Diary," which is essentially a verbatim excerpt over some sadly strummed guitar: "What is Marnie thinking of. She needs to know what's out there. How does it feel to date a man with a vagina. Doesn't she want to feel an actual penis? Marnie has stop whining and break up with him already. Of course, it will be painful but she's already in so much agony, stuck in a prison of his kindness. Just because someone is kind, doesn't mean they're right. Better to end it now and cut off the limb and let the stump heal. He'll find someone else, someone who appreciates his kind of smothering love." Ouch.

And while the moment is emotionally charged, it's not quite believable. Until now, Charlie has been rather meek and the idea that he would take this passive/aggressive route doesn't seem in tune with his character, especially for a guy who is so concerned with talking things out. But really, it's endemic of this episode as a whole, creating situations — discovery of the diary, the kids getting lost, virginal hookup, sexual harrassment — and then having the characters react against them, rather than it being built the other way around, out of an organic situation. It's the first time the show has truly let down Hannah and her pals, and looking ahead, this dichotomy will play out over the next couple episodes as well with mixed results. But hopefully before the season is out, the ship will be righted once again. [B-]

Songs in this episode: Juvenile "Who's Ya Daddy; Jake Rabinbach "Same Mistakes"

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Comments

Cat

I think people give Lena Dunham a lot of crap for nothing. She's talented. You can tell from her early work that she would have made it, if not on tv then as an art house filmmaker. She did struggle and she didn't come out of nowhere. She made a film with no budget and won awards. She's lucky but that's not the only reason she made it. You can see her first film Creative Non-Fiction here: http://fliction.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/lena-dunhams-first-film/

Brad

Just a heads up, James Le Gros characters, who is Jessa's boss, name on the show is Jeff not Charlie.

cinematic_high

Stop riding her cooch!

Lucy

I don't think the show is horrible but it's not good either. I'm the same age of the characters in the show but I find everyone expect Marnie annoying. Overall it's boring but at least I have Game of Thrones on HBO now just waiting for Homeland on Showtime to come back.

Ugh

Maybe it stumbles into sitcom territory is because of what the creators say to the contrary this IS A SITCOM. It may be a well-written Sitcom but it's still a damn sitcom. Situations come up on an episode to episode basis & are solved within the 30 minute running time leaving the characters open for the next episodic problem to come the following week.
Maybe it feels like a sitcom because it is a goddamn sitcom. At some point in one of the upcoming seasons they'll have the obligatory "Beach Episode", two of the girls will find themselves pursuing the same guy, one of the girls will fall for her boss, etc etc. This show isn't some grandstanding work of art, it's the same tropes always present in sitcom television, just with more 'unintentional anal sex' than usual.

Metal

Disagree. This episode was in keeping in the way the show is going. Great episode. This is simply the best new show on TV right now.

Fernando

IMO Girls is a "decent" show; and even though it doesn't deserve to be screening in the most coveted time-slot on HBO – and arguably television (the one hour break between the Game of Thrones episodes); it's still much better then VEEP.

Mike

Lena Dunham is the epitome of why nepotism hurts the entertainment industry. Untalented people like her are given opportunities left and right when truly talented people never get their own show. She is a horrible, horrible filmmaker than benefits from being a member of the lucky sperm club. Her work deserves to be shown at a midwestern public library screening for amateur filmmakers, not on HBO.

TM

The problems were in the writing. Shepard's just a hired gun.

a

Part of the reason might be that Richard Shepard directed it, whereas the last three were directed by Dunham.

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