It seems everyone with a beating pulse and a warm internet connection has already passed judgment on Lena Dunham’s TV show ‘Girls’, despite it only airing in the UK for the first time last night. There seems to be a consensus forming that while sure, it may be keenly observed, whip smart and downright hilarious, it speaks only to a narrow audience of young people who have enjoyed the same privileges and life chances as the characters it depicts. Most controversially, it’s been noted that despite a contemporary New York setting, all of these central characters are white.
Not everyone sees this as a problem. When I interviewed Nas for this magazine, I asked him what the best thing he’d seen on television recently was. This is what he said: “‘Girls’. It’s a new show on HBO. It’s dope. It’s real: it’s about real people, real things and it makes you feel like you’re not alone out here. There are more people who are more alike in ways that you would never know. And it’s funny, too!”
Nas, who quite famously is not a white female from a privileged background but does know a thing or two about New York, nails in a couple of sentences exactly what has made ‘Girls’ such a sensation and will make it essential viewing over the next nine weeks. Like all the best writing, Dunham’s skill is in crafting intensely personal stories that have a universal resonance. You don’t actually have to have been bankrolled and then cut off by your parents, as Lena’s character Hannah was in the first episode, to find it funny or to empathise with the challenge of meeting parental expectations.
The series barrels through a litany of life mistakes, from STDs to smothering relationships, and displays a savage self-awareness that the characters themselves often lack. There are plenty of all-too-easy-to-relate-to moments still to come in the series, like the weird emotional mix stirred up when Hannah returns to her parent’s home. Her awkwardness when attending a book release party for her rival Tally Schifrin is a spectacularly cringe-inducing highlight.
This being NME, we can’t miss an opportunity to talk about the music. Fortunately, the soundtrack is as spot-on as the writing. This being New York we get LCD Soundsystem at a gallery opening as well as the likes of Azealia Banks, Sleigh Bells and indie rock namesakes Girls. The Vaccines pop up over the credits of one episode, keeping the British end up, while when Chris O’Dowd’s embarrassing city boy attempts to DJ, Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine’ delivers a direct strike to the cheesy/nostalgia nexus.
Sadly there’s been no sign of Nas as yet, but maybe Dunham will draft in her new biggest fan for the second series, which will air in the States at the beginning of next year. He understands what the show’s critics seem to have missed: that over ten hours of fictional television, Dunham has created something more honest, more real, than the last five years of reality television.