During the spring and summer, most network TV series are winding down, but HBO is just ramping up with a slate of new shows, and they’re getting killer reviews. Lena Dunham’s Girls, which debuted two weeks ago (and stars NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams’s daughter, Allison Williams), scored 83/100 on Metacritic — a number the site calls “universal acclaim.”
If you’re in a certain segment of the population — say a privileged, college-educated young adult or parent of a young adult in the New York metro area — it’s easy to see why Girls racked up such great reviews. With only two episodes under its belt, the situations the main characters find themselves in are instantly relatable: trying to land a job (and only finding internships); awful and awkward interviews; counseling your smart friend who somehow doesn’t realize how awful her boyfriend is; dealing with that one person who’s good for a night out but just can’t seem to show up to anything on time. While Sex and the City (the obligatory comparison) and Gossip Girl take place in a fantasy version of New York, Girls is more content to revel in the uglier side of things, and that’s a relief of sorts for people whose lives are not all that glamorous.
It’s that relatability that also gets Girls into trouble: People can see so much of themselves in the show, they wonder why they can’t see even more. Despite what Metacritic says, the series doesn’t actually have universally positive reviews. For one, there’s the opinion that the lack of diversity on the show is a detriment. See Jezebel’s round-up of complaints about the Girls cast. “Does Girls have the right to be all-white?” the article asks. “Of course. But we, the public, have the right to critique the insular, homogenous world a young woman with the good fortune to have her own TV show has chosen to present. Because it’s exclusionary, disappointing, unrealistic, and upsetting. And it perpetuates a sad trend.”
Flavorwire has a good counter-argument: “It isn’t one show’s responsibility to be all things to all people,” the article states. “Girls doesn’t speak to everyone, but everyone deserves a Girls of their own.”
It’s an interesting conundrum. The show is about four friends from college. How would making the cast more diverse change the basic nature of the show? Would it be more or less realistic? Would it add to, take away from, or change the issues that the show is trying to address? How long before you morph Girls into Community, which seems carefully calibrated to have people of all ages, races, and identities?
And while we’re complaining about lack of representation, let’s throw us in there. Why do shows about four friends trying to make it in the world always take place in New York City (and we only get the family sitcoms)? I’d love to have a Girls of my own: Suburban Girls. It could be a show about four college friends who go on awkward interviews, have awful boyfriends, show up late to things, go out drinking, and complain about how their only pop-culture representation are the people on Suburgatory.