I spent far too much time in high school watching entire seasons of Sex and the City with my friends. At least one of the girls on Girls did too, based on the prominently placed poster on her bedroom wall. So it seems only appropriate that the first season of Girls is now available on Blu-ray, with that tempting "Play All" button and the same promise of a glimpse inside the lives of young women in new York City. It's 10 years later, and Girls is a very different HBO show from the one that came before it, but is it still the same kind of addictive hit that only gets better when you can watch it all at once?
The world of Girls can be a little exhausting, to be honest, both with the way-too-true moments of awkwardness and the characters themselves, chief among them creator Lena Dunham's Hannah. There was no limit of media attention to Hannah's declaration in the pilot episode that "I might be the voice of my generation… or a voice of a generation," but the pleasure of the first season was seeing just how many layers of self-awareness and humor were underneath that bold and ridiculous claim. Dunham takes every assumption the world might have about a 26-year-old writer/director overnight success and gives them to Hannah, whose confidence and ambitions generally outweigh her actual talent.
The other three central characters of the show aren't as rigidly differentiated from each other as the women of Sex and the City, but all provide wildly divergent directions for the story to go. there's free-wheeling Jessa's (Jemima Kirke) experiments with home-wrecking and surprise wedding; there's virginal Shoshanna's (Zosia Mamet) accidental drug trip; most touchingly, there's Marnie's (Allison Williams) protracted breakup with the sweet, doting and incredibly frustrating Charlie (Christopher Abbott), who asks her at one point to "act like my life is real." Not everything that happens to them feels real, and that's OK-- the show's funniest moments sometimes come from its most outlandish, and TV has to take off somehow. But the dynamic among the women is consistently honest, from the way that Marnie and Hannah drive each other crazy after years of friendship to Jessa's doting attention to lonely Shoshanna-- even when the characters are still developing, the relationships are spot-on from the very start.
As the show grew more comfortable with itself and expanded its world, the male characters emerged to be just as fascinating-- it's impressive that, in a show called Girls, the clear breakout character was Adam Driver's oddball sorta-boyfriend character Adam. And as Girls prepares to return for Season 2 in January, it's fun to dig back through Season 1 and see the episodes that got all these characters to where they were now. There were some growing pains early on, and it's a little hard to remember some of these episodes without the media hype that surrounded them, but that's the beauty in getting lost in a marathon of a show. Dig deep into the world of Girls, watch it grow up in front of your eyes, and allow yourself to believe in all that hype.
For a relatively small show shot largely on location on unglamorous New York streets or on sound stages, Girls comes with an impressive lineup of bonus features. This being a show from HBO, which loves to promote the dickens out of its show while it's on the air, many of them aired on HBO to promote the show while it was airing, like the "Inside Girls" segments that aired after each episode. If you're unfamiliar with the show entirely, though, it might be worth checking out "A Conversation between Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham"-- Apatow is obviously a more famous name, and as executive producer of the show he's helping shepherd it to a wider audience, which he does over the course of this short video as well.
For the diehards there's plenty of good stuff too, including a solid number of deleted scenes-- I love that there are two classic awkward ones from the season's silliest episode, "The Crackcident." Some of the deleted scenes are surprisingly detailed, like a second appearance from Jenny Slate's Tally Schifrin posing for a magazine photoshoot on a crashed car, and while they might have made the individual episodes feel overlong, it's fun to get an expanded sense of the show's universe. The gag reels-- two of them!-- have a similar effect, but for the world behind the show. Seeing Andrew Rannells mess with Allison Williams by saying she looks like "my onetime boyhood crush, Brian Williams" is a weird inside joke that gives a lot of insight into their relationship; same for a scene in which four different actors ruin the take by cracking up after a series of improvs.
The videotaped table reads give similar kinds of details, but they might be a step beyond what the average viewer is going to be interested in-- same for the inclusion of Lena Dunham's twitter jounrla, documenting the production of the first season in 2011. . And the single episode-length commentary, with Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow, doesn't have nearly as much to say as you might expect, since the two seem to be trying harder to make each other laugh than actually tell stories. But for as few episodes there are in a season of Girls, there's still more than enough good bonus stuff to dig through here-- not to mention the option of just mainlining then entire season, which is the best feature of a Blu-ray set of any TV show by far.
Length: 563 minutes
Distributor:HBO Home Video
Release Date:December 11, 2012
Starring:Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, Christopher Abbott
Directed by:Lena Dunham, Jesse Peretz, Jody Lee Lipes, Richard Shepard
Created by: Lena Dunham