For the debut season of Girls, the polarizing HBO comedy written by and starring the polarizing Lena Dunham, Slate’s Brow Beat blog convened a weekly panel of Slate guys to discuss the show. For Season 2, I’ll be chatting with one of those guys each week, and I’ll be inviting a few guys from outside Slate to chat about it, too—some of whom have been highly critical of the show, which has attracted its share of hate-watchers as well as more straightforward fans. (The women of Slate will be weighing in on the show over at the XX Factor.)
Even fans of the show have their concerns about where Dunham & Co. might take the series from here, as I learned when I asked my once and future Girls interlocutors to tell me about the plot twists and character developments they expect, hope for, and dread.
Many of the expectations and anxieties they shared were similar to my own—though I have one more to add: I hope the show manages to convey how truly unpredictable and erratic life can be in one’s 20s. That would mean having the characters drift apart and even fall out of touch, which is tough for a TV show to pull off—just consider the case of Friends, in which the lives of six young people in New York City managed to stay impossibly intertwined (and even more impossibly located in the same couple of apartments) for a decade. If Dunham and Konner and Apatow dared to try this, they would bring something genuinely new to television.
Here are a few other hopes and fears, courtesy of my Slate colleagues.
I am really hoping that the show manages to stay weird. I worry that HBO really smells an out-of-left-field hit here, and that Dunham’s pop sensibility will override her equally valuable art sensibility. Fingers crossed!
My worry is that it will start to lean harder on its traditional sitcom elements—Zosia Mamet's wacky line readings, punch lines that make fun of twentysomething Brooklyn folkways—and less on the uniquely bizarre energy that emerges when Lena Dunham examines her inner anxieties.
As a mostly unreserved fan of the show, here’s my Girls Season 2 baggage: My littlest baggage is that though I have more of a crush on Adam Driver than anyone else in the series, I worry he could take over the show à la “Dumbass Homer.” My medium baggage is that I fear that when the show responds to its critics, it won’t be as savvy about race as it was about class and gender. My biggest baggage is that I want to watch Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone) hang by his skinny little tie.
Adam was the most interesting character on TV last year because he was so feral and syncopated. The more they domesticated him over the course of the season, the duller he became. I hope they find a way to make him wild again.
Girls has thrived on self-consciousness (“Are you a Samantha or a Carrie?”), but I’m wary of its self-conscious move toward multiculturalism. I’m more curious to see how Adam stays involved in Hannah’s life—because he has to stay involved, right? And also if the show can convince me that Ray and Shoshanna would abide each other for more than 30 seconds.
I hope that we will see a level of diversity in keeping with the reality of New York life—and, with that accomplished, that the critical conversation can turn from somewhat tedious issues of representation to questions of the show’s quality and merit as a piece of television. In other words, maybe now we’ll get to talk about whether this show is actually as great as it wants to be. I’m not hopeful, but we shall see.
In Season 2, the show becomes an elaborate genre parody depicting Lena Dunham’s harrowing quest from Coney Island to destroy the One Cake by throwing it into the Cracks of Privilege in the heart of Mt. Greenpoint.
As much as I enjoyed the boys in the first season, I’d like to meet some this year whose personalities don’t contort quite so obviously to the show’s weekly whims. I hope Jessa’s marriage to Thomas John sticks, at least for a while (and not just because I like saying his name). I’d like Hannah’s personal failings to stop seeming so contrived.
But mostly I’m happy to have Girls back. Whatever its detours, the show mocked and reinvented itself many times last season. I hope the zeitgeisty embrace it received hasn’t smothered that desire—or ability—to evolve in surprising ways.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Irritating Confidante
John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.
My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee
Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?
Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?
Driving in Circles
The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.