“L.A. Girls,” a web series that launched earlier this month, is the latest take-off of Lena Dunham’s provocative HBO comedy, attempting a California twist on the twentysomething struggles that Hannah and her friends experience on the show. It’s the most recent of what’s become an internet video subgenre — the “Girls” parody. Since its premiere last year, “Girls” has been one of television’s most divisive and discussed series, and also one of its most easily knocked off — with Peeps, by way of gay characters and, in a move that seems to miss the point, in porn. And “Girls” is all too easy to knock off. Just get together a group of friends, spout some lines of oblivious narcissism (and vulnerability), add some awkward comedy and an even more awkward hookup or two, and done! But capturing the sharp, self-lacerating edge that, at its best, makes ‘Girls” so irresistible isn’t simple — so we thought we’d put together a ranked list of the web parodies out there to look at which ones land their jokes and which ones would be better off abandoned on the F train with some cake.
Premise: “Girls,” but in L.A.
The idea of transporting “Girls” to the West Coast in some form or another is the basis for several of the spoofs below, and there’s certainly territory to be explored in terms of how twentysomething life and the aspirations that shape it differ in Los Angeles versus New York. Sadly, in the case of Funny or Die video “Chicks,” the premise just becomes the vehicle for a lot of jokes about validating parking and whether Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s is better for produce.
Premise: “Girls,” but in L.A. (again)
Despite a promising intro scene that offers a Hollywood spin on the one with Hannah and her parents that opened “Girls” — “My agent told me that I either have to lose 20 pounds or gain 100 pounds, because I apparently look too much like the typical American girl!” “L.A. Girls”‘ actress-Hannah sighs — this web series has quickly become a much broader take on its source material. Its version of Jessa arrives with a smuggled South African orphan named “Knick Knack” in tow and its Shoshanna spouts a never-ending monologue about her Jewishness. Three episodes in, it hasn’t exactly aimed for incisive satire of the show or the city, which is a shame, because its L.A. take on some of the characters has potential — like oddball Adam as a method actor who mainly does work as an extra in porn.
Premise: “Girls,” but with robots
It’s one joke, and it’s a dumb one, but that sex scene (“I’m not sure if there is a right place!”) makes it worthwhile.
Premise: “Girls,” but with squirrels
Cutting together “Girls” dialogue with squirrel footage from YouTube at least solves the pesky issues of relatability the HBO show has battled — who could find these fluffy creatures dislikable, no matter what their thoughts are about having to support themselves economically versus depending on their parents?
Premise: “Girls,” but with guys
Web series “Guys,” which bills itself a “tribute” to “Girls,” essential revisits specific scenes from the HBO series with the genders reversed, to the point where it’s credited as “written by Lena Dunham with alterations by Michael J. Robin and Thesy Surface.” So, for instance, Shoshanna’s relationship advice book becomes a pickup artist guide. It’s more an interesting exercise than funny unto itself, though it’s worth it to see how certain scenes play differently thanks to the reversal, particularly the one in which Hannah comes on to and then threatens to sue her grabby boss, which in “Guys” seems a lot less fraught as the female boss laughs the whole thing off.
Premise: “Girls,” but with guys, and in L.A.
Notable for earning the Twitter approval of “Girls” executive producer Judd Apatow, the trailer for the non-existent series “Boys” is another L.A.-set parody, this one with male characters. It does manage to come up with recognizable masculine versions of the four “Girls” leads, with the Jessa equivalent particularly convincing as a rakish, well-traveled British ladykiller. And while taking shots at the supposed nepotism that enabled “Girls” to be made generally comes across as ugly or at least weirdly gendered, “Guys” does it in a specific way that suggests how random and not that ideally placed the array of the cast’s parents is, claiming the “guys” are the offspring of Wolf Blitzer, Pat Benatar, John Patrick Shanley, and Daniel Craig (who apparently named his fictional grown son Craig in a spate of celebrity cruelty).
Premise: “Girls” at 65
“Happy Endings” writer/producer Gail Lerner presents a horrifying and very funny vision of the “Girls” characters several decades from now, still as self-involved and hapless as ever, even as age encroaches on their worn lifestyles. She has the help of some great talent, including original “Saturday Night Live” alum Laraine Newman as a near-geriatric Hannah and Wendie Malick as Marnie still waiting on Charlie, Miss Havisham-style, as well as Sally Kemp, Mindy Sterling and Martin Starr. The careless, inward-gazing, responsibility-free lifestyle you can enjoy in your twenties seems a lot less appealing when you’re no longer the ingenue, and while Hannah is, hopefully, growing in “Girls,” “Season 38” finds some nice (and some dark) jokes in the idea that maybe she won’t.
Premise: “Girls,” but with frat-type guys
It’s another manly “Girls,” only this web series (which is very slowly rolling out, with two teases so far for the second installment) is a more spirited and flat-out entertaining take off because it chooses cultural specificity rather than sticking too close to parody. While it’s also about entitled post-college kids leading underemployed lives, they’re of a type that involves living in Manhattan, drinking Long Island Iced Teas, watching sports and referring to everyone, including one’s father, as “dude.” “I don’t need a resume — I just have the gift of gab!” the main character declares when told by said parent to get a job, which is an amusing equivalent to Hannah’s “a voice of a generation” claim. “Bros” loses its way a little when it ventures into Brooklyn and somewhat familiar parodies of hipster culture, but its still got enough of a stand-along sensibility to potentially sustain more episodes.