by Tom Danehy
A few years back, I was given a writing assignment from a nationally known publication. They wanted me to write a humorous essay about the then-hit TV series, Sex and the City. I watched a few episodes, fought back the bile creeping up into the bottom of my throat, and then watched them again just in case I had missed something, like maybe the humor. With my deadline approaching, I finally sat down and wrote, “I’m sorry; I thought comedies were supposed to be funny.”
I sent it in and, amazingly, they paid me. (And yes, I’ve written for them since.)
Having said that, I would hereby like to announce that compared to Girls on HBO, Sex and the City (which I still despise) is the Citizen Kane of comedy series. “Girls” came to the small screen with advance fanfare rarely seen anywhere. The critics heaped praise on the show’s 26-year-old creator/writer/star, Lena Dunham, and called the series “groundbreaking.” It’s groundbreaking like if you dropped a bowling ball off a tall building.
When it comes to television, I don’t have particularly high standards. A comedy has to be funny, which is why I haven’t watched “The Office” ever since the cringe-to-laugh ratio tilted over in the wrong direction. I won’t watch any “reality” show about stupid white people. (Do you notice that there aren’t any such shows about stupid black people? Studio execs don’t want to be called racist, but it’s okay to put on all types of white trash.) And, as I’ve mentioned when it comes to Mad Men, I won’t watch a show where I want to punch every leading character in the face.
When it comes to Girls, I would gladly punch every slimy, wormy, scheming, lame-ass guy on the show and, for the females, I would hire Giada De Laurentiis to handle my business. (I love watching Giada cook, but she’s got some serious man hands going on there.)
It is my contention that there is this whole Emperor Has No Clothes thing going on. It’s not hip to dislike the show. Dunham is young, she’s talented, she has a voice, and, besides, Judd Apatow likes her. Well, her show blows.
I know, I’m old and I’m a man. I just don’t get it. I am a man, but I was raised by a mother and have six sisters and no brothers. I’ve also been coaching high-school girls’ sports for the past 20 years and I’m around high-school age kids on an almost daily basis. I don’t think I’ve ever known one kid who could possibly grow up to be as self-absorbed, whiny, and unlikable as every one of the “women” on Girls.
Dunham’s main character, Hannah, is an aspiring writer who, after graduating from college, has been supported by her parents for the past couple years while she tries to find herself. After her parents cut her off, she takes her first step into the real world by stealing the tip that her parents had left behind for the hotel maids. She’s just a pain in the ass; the other characters are really despicable.
There’s Jessa, a world traveler who moves in with her cousin. Jessa is terrified that she’s pregnant. She plans on having an abortion, but on the day of the appointment, she gets her period. (Raucous laughter.)
Then there’s Shoshonna, Jessa’s cousin. Shoshonna is a student at NYU and burdened by the fact that she’s still a virgin. (That’s knee-slapper stuff!). Well, writer Dunham takes care of that curse in a big damn hurry. Shoshonna loses her virginity to coffee-shop owner Ray, who takes care of her after she accidentally smokes crack at a rave. Yes, I just wrote the words “accidentally smokes crack,” as though that happens all the time. We’re supposed to give a crap about somebody who accidentally smokes crack at a rave. No thanks.
There are lots of other characters—slacker dudes and leering old men, women afraid of commitment and women apparently unable to spell “commitment.” It’s all so depressing. I have no doubt that there are people like that; Dunham’s drawing of the characters is pretty sharp. But I’m also certain that there are people who eat their own feces. I don’t want to watch a TV show about them, either.
When I first saw the Ron Shelton movie, White Men Can’t Jump, there was a scene in which the main character, played by Woody Harrelson, has to make a pressure basketball shot. If he misses, he loses his car and the love of his life. He must make a 75-foot shot, outdoors, at a basket with a bent rim, and it has to be a hook shot. When he made the shot, all of the 14-year-old boys in the theater ooh-ed and ahh-ed. I muttered aloud, “Get the f—k outta’ here!” There’s no way that anybody, ever, would make that shot. Ever.
Since then, it’s been one of my measuring sticks. If there’s a GTFOH moment in a movie or a TV show, that show sucks. Girls manages to have one or two every episode and they almost all involve sex. Apparently, sex among the privileged twentysomethings in New York City is boring and mundane. I’ve got a couple kids, so I’ve had sex at least twice. I had a considerable amount of sex in my 20s and not once was it boring or mundane. Either they’re not doing it right or they all accidentally smoked crack at a rave.
Gawker’s John Cook is one of the few brave souls to look behind the curtain. He writes: “(It’s) a television program about the children of wealthy 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.”
That’s wonderful. I’m not that clever, so I’ll just say that I hate these characters and I hate this show.