‘Girls’ review: Does HBO’s new show try too hard?

“Girls” is getting rave reviews.

Sometimes, you have shows that come across as just naturally cool — and then, you have shows that really seem to be begging for your affection for whatever reasons. HBO’s new series “Girls” is a show that wants to be edgy, be relevant, and be the network’s first major female-driven ensemble comedy since “Sex and the City” (even though these girls are a far cry from Carrie Bradshaw and company). Does it succeed? If writer / star Lena Dunham had eased up on the tension a little bit, we’d be claiming it to be one of the most refreshing shows on television.

Instead, there was a prevailing problem through the pilot episode that, even though the show is well-produced and contains some great performances, makes us hesitant to watch again — it was depressing. We understand that there are other dramedies out there in between “Nursie Jackie” and “The Big C,” but at least those two series still had their moments of giggles. This pilot just felt despondent, a far fry from the often over-the-top comedies HBO has produced in the past. We had a main character in Hannah (Dunhan) basically begging her parents for more money while she lived in New York City, tried drugs, and had a rather explicit experience with a man that her friends refer to as an “animal.” We don’t really have any reason to root for any of these people just yet, and that’s a major problem.

Dunham also potentially limits her show’s accessibility by casting four women who look far too similar on the surface for anyone to really know who is who. We had a similar problem with “True Blood” at first, and after a few episodes we ended up getting over it since we were able to figure it out. However, this does make it harder for viewers to come in midway through the series and figure out what is going on.

Ultimately, we admit to being a little hard on “Girls” here versus the actual quality of the show. Rather than producing a feel of a big-budget comedy a la “Sex and the City” or “Entourage,” HBO has a show here that feels genuinely more like an arthouse comedy than almost anything on their schedule (outside of maybe “Enlightened”). The characters are at least interesting, and it could develop a cult following over time. Like an arthouse comedy, it’s also going to be polarizing. There are some shows on TV (think “Mad Men”) whose style causes viewers to either love it or claim it is vastly overrated. This is probably what will happen here.

“Girls” is a fascinating show, and some of the stories set up during the premiere (whether it be dysfunctional relationships or an unplanned pregnancy) will hopefully develop moving forward this season. We only hope that somewhere along the way these women find a reason to smile.

Photo: HBO

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