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HBO’s new “Girls” in town

From left: AllisWilliams JemimKirke LenDunham ZosiMamet 'Girls' HBO.

From left: Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, Zosia Mamet on "Girls" on HBO.

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‘GIRLS’
★★★½

9:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays on HBO

Updated: May 15, 2012 8:04AM



‘Girls” is an HBO series about four very different female friends finding their way in New York City.

The “Sex and the City” comparisons are inevitable, which is why this clever show addresses them head-on.

“You’re definitely, like, a Carrie, with, like, some Samantha aspects and Charlotte hair. That’s a really good combination,” an admiring Shoshanna tells an unimpressed Jessa in Sunday’s pilot (available to non-subscribers Monday on YouTube and hbo.com).

A giant “Sex and the City” poster hangs on their wall like a cruel joke: You thought this was going to be your life? A cosmo-swilling adventure filled with Manolo Blahniks, Mr. Bigs and Birkin bags? Well, think again. You’re going to have a hard time paying the rent on your cramped Brooklyn apartment. You’re going to struggle to communicate in this social-media age of texting, Twitter and Facebook. And buckle up, because you’re going to have plenty of degrading, unfulfilling sex.

“Girls” is a raw, unflinching look at the angst, self-doubt and confusion that plagues early twenty­some­thing females stuck in a purgatory between adolescence and full-blown adulthood. It’s a grittier and smarter “Reality Bites” for Millennials, told through the exploits of four budding women who have no idea of who they are or what they want out of life.

All of this may not sound very funny, but it is in the deft hands of series creator, writer, sometimes director and star, Lena Dunham, filmmaker of the 2010 indie comedy “Tiny Furniture.” Judd Apatow (“Bridesmaids,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) serves as an executive producer of the 10-episode series.

Dunham, 25, plays Hannah, the most compelling character of the quartet. A slightly pudgy aspiring writer, Hannah seesaws between her sense of entitlement and self-loathing, which explains her willingness to repeatedly hookup with a narcissistic tool like Adam (Adam Driver). (Her sex scenes with him make your heart ache and your toes curl.)

The pilot opens with Hannah’s parents taking her to dinner to break the news that they’re done bankrolling her “groovy lifestyle.” From now on, she’ll have to support herself. A distraught Hannah later tells her friends that she did the math and she “can last in New York for 3.5 days, maybe seven, if I don’t eat lunch.”

Hannah’s best friend and roommate is a beautiful, uptight art gallery employee named Marnie (Allison Williams, daughter of “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams). Marnie has been dating the same guy for four years and he’d do anything for her, which is part of the problem. She sees him more as a boy than a man.

While Marnie is the most mature of the bunch, at least on the outside, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet, playwright David Mamet’s daughter) is the ingenue. She’s more embarrassed about still being a virgin than Hannah is about having an STD.

Shoshanna’s British cousin and roomie, Jessa (Jemima Kirke, “Tiny Furniture”), is the seemingly fearless world traveler constantly in search of her next adventure. Free-spirited and pretentious, she shuns traditional conventions like dating. Instead of being on time for her abortion appointment, she walks into a bar and orders a white Russian because “these things never start on time.”

With storylines about abortions and STDs and plenty of uncomfortable-to-watch sex, “Girls” is bound to repel at least as many people as it attracts. Its distinctive voice makes it feel fresh and original, and the poignant comedy gets better with every episode. It may not be as pretty as “Sex and the City,” but it’s more relatable. Even if your early 20s are behind you, “Girls” can take you back there. (And suddenly, growing older doesn’t seem so bad.)

“You could not pay me enough to be 24 again,” Hannah’s gynecologist tells her.

“Yeah,” responds Hannah, in stirrups on the exam table, “well they’re not paying me at all.”



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