Girls is an American television series that premiered on HBO on April 15, 2012. Created by and starring Lena Dunham, Girls is a comedy-drama following a close group of twenty-somethings living in New York City. The show's premise and major aspects of the main character were inspired by some of 27-year-old Dunham's real-life experiences.
Girls has concluded its third season, which consists of 12 episodes and premiered on January 12, 2014. The series has been renewed for a fourth season, which will premiere in 2015.
Lena Dunham's 2010 second feature, Tiny Furniture—which she wrote, directed and starred in—received positive reviews at festivals as well as awards attention, including Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest and Best First Screenplay at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards. The independent film's success earned her the opportunity to collaborate with Judd Apatow for an HBO pilot. Apatow said he was drawn to Dunham's imagination and added that Girls would provide men with an insight into "realistic females".
Some of the struggles facing Dunham's character Hannah—including being cut off financially from her parents, becoming a writer and making unfortunate decisions—are inspired by Dunham's real-life experiences. The show's unique and eclectic look is achieved by shopping at a number of vintage boutiques in New York, including Brooklyn Flea and Geminola owned by the mother of Jemima Kirke.
Dunham said Girls reflects a part of the population not portrayed in the 1998 HBO series Sex and the City. "Gossip Girl was teens duking it out on the Upper East Side and Sex and the City was women who figured out work and friends and now want to nail romance and family life. There was this 'hole-in-between' space that hadn't really been addressed," she said. The pilot intentionally references Sex and the City as producers wanted to make it clear that the driving force behind Girls is that the characters were inspired by the former HBO series and moved to New York to pursue their dreams. Dunham herself says she "revere[s] that show just as much as any girl of my generation."
As executive producer, Dunham and Jennifer Konner are both showrunners of the series while Dunham is also the head writer. Apatow is also executive producer, under his Apatow Productions label. Dunham wrote or co-wrote all ten episodes of the first season and directed five, including the pilot. Season one was filmed between April and August 2011 and consisted of 10 episodes.
The second season ran on HBO from January 13, 2013 to March 17, 2013 and also consisted of 10 episodes.
On April 4, 2013, Christopher Abbott left the series after sources reported he and Lena Dunham had differences with the direction that his reoccurring character Charlie was taking as the third season entered production. Lena Dunham announced via Instagram on September 6, 2013, that production for the third season had concluded. Season 3, which contained 12 episodes as opposed to the previous seasons 10 episodes, ran from January 12, 2014 to March 23, 2014. The fourth season of the series is set to start filming in April, 2014.
Promotional poster for the series premiere showing the cast. From left to right: Jemima Kirke (as Jessa), Allison Williams (Marnie), Lena Dunham (Hannah), and Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna).
Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath: an aspiring writer in her mid-twenties living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn whose parents cut her off financially. She unintentionally quits her unpaid internship after her request to be paid is denied. After a failed attempt at working in a clerical job at a law office, she takes a job at the coffee shop Ray manages.
Allison Williams as Marnie Marie Michaels: Hannah's best friend and, at the start of season 1, roommate. Along with Jessa, Charlie and Elijah, Marnie was a classmate of Hannah's at Oberlin College. She is a responsible and serious art gallery assistant. During a majority of the first season, Marnie struggles with whether or not to end her relationship with her college boyfriend Charlie. After he breaks up with her, she vows to get him back. When they do reconcile and have make-up sex, she then tells him that she wants to break up. Marnie then discovers that Charlie already has another girlfriend only two weeks after they broke up, which makes her feel depressed and unsure of herself. After having an emotional fight with Hannah, she moves out of their apartment to temporarily stay with Jessa and Shoshanna. In the episode "Weirdos Need Girlfriends Too", Marnie reveals that she lost her virginity to her first boyfriend at fourteen, and has been a serial dater ever since. In the second season premiere, she gets laid off after her art gallery downsizes, and has to take a hostess job in order to support herself.
Jemima Kirke as Jessa Johansson: Bohemian and an unpredictable world-traveler, she is newly back to New York City where she becomes roommates with her cousin Shoshanna in Nolita. In the pilot, Jessa reveals that she is pregnant. She plans on having an abortion, but ends up getting her period the day of her appointment. She takes a job as a babysitter for two young girls, but is fired when the father develops feelings for her. At the end of the first season, she marries Thomas John, a venture capitalist, in a surprise ceremony. They break up and divorce after an unpleasant dinner with Thomas's parents. In season three, Jessa struggles increasingly with drug addiction.
Zosia Mamet as Shoshanna Shapiro: Jessa's bubbly and innocent American cousin, 21 years old, who's a Mathematics major at New York University. Shoshanna is an avid fan of the Sex and the City franchise, and keeps a poster from the first movie in her apartment. Her "biggest baggage" is that she is a virgin. She does however lose her virginity to Ray in the season one finale. They have since begun dating.
Adam Driver as Adam Sackler: Hannah's aloof lover, part-time carpenter, and actor. Adam is usually seen in his apartment where he and Hannah have sex, but their relationship deepens over the course of the first season. Like Hannah, Adam is very defensive when it comes to his personal feelings. In the season one finale, he offers to move in to Hannah's apartment but then breaks up with her after he says he loves her, and she doesn't respond.
Alex Karpovsky as Ray Ploshansky (Season 2-present, recurring previously): Charlie's friend. He manages a coffee shop, where he later gives Hannah a job. A running joke in the series is that everyone assumes Ray is Jewish; in one painful scene, an angry woman hurls an anti-Semitic slur at him, leading Ray to angrily proclaim "I'm Greek Orthodox!" Ray is very protective of Charlie, and initially refuses to help Marnie get back together with him. He helps take care of Shoshanna after she accidentally smokes crack at a rave, and develops feelings for her. After Jessa's wedding, Shoshanna loses her virginity with Ray at the end of the first season finale. By the beginning of the second season, Ray and Shoshanna have begun dating. However, Ray feels insecure in the relationship because of their vast age difference (Ray is twelve years older than Shoshanna), and because he is actually homeless when he's not staying at Shoshanna's place. He and Marnie have begun a sexual relationship in the early part of Season 3.
Andrew Rannells as Elijah Krantz (Season 4, recurring previously): Hannah's ex-boyfriend from college who reveals to her that he is gay. Though Hannah had reason to suspect he was gay, she was nevertheless upset to find out several years later. He also apparently made out with Marnie once while they were in college; he abortively attempts sex with her in the season 2 premiere as part of an effort to prove to himself he is bisexual. He becomes Hannah's new roommate at the end of the first season finale but gets kicked out when Hannah finds out about Elijah and Marnie's sexual encounter.
Christopher Abbott as Charlie Dattolo (Seasons 1–2): Marnie's ex-boyfriend, with whom she became increasingly bored. In the episode "Hard Being Easy", Marnie attempts to find Charlie in order for him to take her back, but has difficulty since she has never been to his apartment. It's revealed via flashback that he and Marnie first met at a college party when Marnie had a bad reaction to marijuana brownies. He breaks up with Marnie after discovering that she views him as needy and desperate through entries in Hannah's journal. After briefly getting back together, Marnie is then the one to end their relationship. In "Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident", Charlie already has a new girlfriend named Audrey. He and Marnie run into each other at Jessa's surprise wedding, and seem to be on friendlier terms. He and Ray occasionally do gigs as a two-person band called Questionable Goods (whose first appearance is in the episode, "Hannah's Diary"). In the second season, Charlie becomes successful by creating and selling a smartphone app called "Forbid", which is designed to prevent users from calling an ex by charging a fee if they do; the idea was inspired by his relationship with Marnie. Marnie and Charlie get back together at the end of the second season, but the relationship ends off-screen before the events of season three begin. Marnie reveals in Season 3 that he told her was going to propose to her, then came back to their apartment with a friend and packed up all of his stuff, before telling Marnie he didn't love her and never had and then leaving forever; she also reports his seemingly successful company collapsed and he has since begun working as a carpenters' assistant.
Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari as Loreen and Tad Horvath: Hannah's parents, professors who live in East Lansing, MI. They cut her off in the pilot episode so that way she can be more independent and focused on her writing. She later visits them for their 30th anniversary, but does not share her recent financial problems to them.
Jon Glaser as Laird: Hannah's neighbor and a recovering addict.
Colin Quinn as Hermie: Ray's boss at the coffee shop who claims to be dying of an undisclosed illness.
Donald Glover as Sandy: Hannah's Republican ex-boyfriend whom she started dating after Adam. Elijah has a dislike for Sandy due to his conservative political beliefs, a subject that eventually ends his relationship with Hannah.
Kathryn Hahn and James LeGros as Katherine and Jeff Lavoyt: The parents of two young girls that Jessa babysat. Katherine is a documentary filmmaker, and Jeff is unemployed. Jeff develops a romantic interest in Jessa, which she eventually stops. She is fired, but is later visited by Katherine who offers her job back. Despite deciding not to see each other again, they have a heart-to-heart over Jeff and Jessa's inability to grow up.
Richard Masur as Rich Glatter: Hannah's boss at the law firm, who makes unwanted sexual advances toward her and her female co-workers.
Chris O'Dowd as Thomas-John, an affluent venture capitalist. After an earlier unpleasant encounter with Jessa and Marnie, he ends up marrying Jessa in a surprise ceremony at the end of the first season. They break up after an unpleasant dinner with Thomas's parents.
Jorma Taccone as Booth Jonathan: The conceptual artist that Marnie meets at her art gallery job. When Booth and Marnie first meet, he promises her that they will eventually have sex and says "I might scare you a little. Because I am a man, and I know how to do things." Marnie runs into Booth in Season 2 at her new job as a hostess; he takes her back to his studio/apartment to show her his artwork and the two have sex. In the episode "Boys," Booth asks Marnie to host a party he is having for a fellow artist. Booth tries to pay Marnie $500; Marnie turns down the money because she assumes the two are dating. Booth tells Marnie that he doesn't have a girlfriend. Marnie is embarrassed and leaves Booth's house after a tense conversation.
John Cameron Mitchell as David Pressler-Goings, Hannah's editor for her e-book. He is either bisexual or gay, as he downloaded the application Grindr in the Season 3 episode "She Said OK," but was also found to have a wife in the episode "Only Child." He is found dead in the episode "Dead Inside" with his funeral taking place at Only Child where it is revealed he had a wife, Annalise (Jennifer Westfeldt).
Vanessa Ray as Heather Travis, Hannah's old high school friend, the stereotypical ditzy blonde. She works at a coffee shop in their hometown. Heather moves to Los Angeles to become a professional dancer which Hannah finds laughable.
Critics lauded the show for its raw nature, humor, and refreshing tone, applauding Dunham's more realistic portrayal of women and their relationships than mainstream media tends to present.
On the review aggregator website Metacritic, the first season of the series holds an average of 87 based on 29 reviews. The website also lists the show as the highest-rated fictional series debut of 2012. James Poniewozik from Time reserved high praise for the series, calling it "raw, audacious, nuanced and richly, often excruciatingly funny." Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter called Girls "one of the most original, spot-on, no-missed-steps series in recent memory." Reviewing the first three episodes at the 2012 SXSW Festival, he said the series conveys "real female friendships, the angst of emerging adulthood, nuanced relationships, sexuality, self-esteem, body image, intimacy in a tech-savvy world that promotes distance, the bloodlust of surviving New York on very little money and the modern parenting of entitled children, among many other things—all laced together with humor and poignancy."The New York Times also applauded the series and said: "Girls may be the millennial generation's rebuttal to Sex and the City, but the first season was at times as cruelly insightful and bleakly funny as Louie on FX or Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO."
Despite many positive reviews, several critics criticized the characters themselves. Gawker's John Cook strongly criticised Girls, saying it was "a television program about the children of wealthy famous people and shitty music and Facebook and how hard it is to know who you are and Thought Catalog and sexually transmitted diseases and the exhaustion of ceaselessly dramatizing your own life while posing as someone who understands the fundamental emptiness and narcissism of that very self-dramatization." Renee Martin of Womanist-Musings.com described the show as being: "About a privileged group of vapid women whining about being forced to be even remotely responsible for themselves."
On the review aggregator website Metacritic, the second season of the series holds an average of 84 based on 19 reviews. Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter stated that Girls kicks off its second season even more assured of itself, able to deftly work strands of hard-earned drama into the free-flowing comedic moments of four postcollege girls trying to find their way in life." David Wiegland of the San Francisco Chronicle said that "The entire constellation of impetuous, ambitious, determined and insecure young urbanites in Girls is realigning in the new season, but at no point in the four episodes sent to critics for review do you feel that any of it is artificial." Verne Gay of Newsday said it is "Sharper, smarter, more richly layered, detailed and acted." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly felt that "As bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as it was in its first season, Girls may now be even spunkier, funnier, and riskier." In reference to the series' growth, Willa Paskin of Salon thought that Girls "has matured by leaps and bounds, comedically and structurally, but it has jettisoned some of its ambiguity, its sweetness, its own affection for its characters. It's more coherent, but it's also safer."
The premiere of the pilot was also met with criticism regarding the all-white main cast in the otherwise culturally diverse setting of New York City (the only black actors in the pilot were a homeless man and a taxi driver, and the only Asian actress had the sole trait of being good at Photoshop). Lesley Arfin, a writer for the show, responded to the controversy with the comment: "What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME," Arfin tweeted; she later deleted the comment following the uproar. Lena Dunham has given interviews where she talks about the diversity question with the series, stating that with HBO's renewal of the series for a second season, "these issues will be addressed."Donald Glover guest starred as Sandy, a black Republican and Hannah's love interest, in the first two episodes of season two.
Agreeing that there is a lack of racial diversity on Girls, a comment from The Huffington Post argues that the issue is the industry as a whole. "Where are the think pieces taking networks to task for the millionth procedural about a troubled male cop or the millionth comedy about a guy who has problems with women? Why are we holding Lena Dunham's feet to the fire, instead of the heads of networks and studios? That troubles me, not least because it's easier (and lazier) to attack a 25-year-old woman who's just starting out than to attack the men twice her age who actually control the industry. ...I have to say that I'm absolutely astonished that, of all shows, this is the one that is being attacked for being too white. I could list the shows on television with all-white casts, but then we'd be here all day." Dunham has publicly said, "I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me." She adds that she wanted to avoid tokenism in casting. The experience of a black character would involve a certain specificity, a type she could not speak to.
Girls has prompted debate about its possible feminist politics. It has been praised for its portrayal of women and female friendship, but criticized as classist, racist, transphobic and misguided. In an online review for Ms Magazine, Kerensa Cadenas argues, "Despite its lack of a serious class and race consciousness, Girls does address other feminist issues currently in play, among them body image, abortion, relationships within a social media age and street harassment. In another series, these issues might be the focus of one episode (i.e. the abortion episode of SATC), but in Girls they become everyday topics." On the other hand, Catherine Scott of The Independent asks, "What’s there to celebrate for feminism when black, Hispanic or Asian women are totally written out of a series that’s supposedly set in one of the most diverse cities on earth? But also, what’s there to celebrate for feminism when a show depicts four entirely self-interested young women and a lead character having the most depressing, disempowered sexual relationships imaginable?"
Girls premiered on April 15, 2012, on HBO in the United States. The first three episodes were screened at the 2012 SXSW Festival on March 12.
HBO renewed the series for a second season of ten episodes on April 30, 2012.
On January 7, 2014, the premiere of the third season of Girls was shown at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City. Models Karlie Kloss, Karen Elson, and Hilary Rhoda; designers Nicole Miller, Cynthia Rowley, and Zac Posen; and editors Anna Wintour, Joanna Coles, and Amy Astley were all in attendance. The after party was at the Allen Room and "hosted by HBO and the Cinema Society."