HBO's “Girls”: A World Away From ‘Sex and the City' Going For Big Laughs Too

Writer-director Lena Dunham says real young NYC women face hard choices

HBO’s new latest women-muddling-through-relationships-in-NYC series “Girls” may not have the glitz and glam factor of “Sex In the City,” but it’s going just as many laughs.

Making an about-face from the style of its previous female-centric phenom, the pay cable network tapped Lena Dunham, the writer, director and star of the cult favorite indie comedy “Tiny Furniture” to be the writer, frequent director and star of a different take on love, sex, work and friendship. Focusing on four young women in their 20s struggling to find their footing in New York City, the show mines humor from their lack of worldly wisdom or experience. Dunham dishes on the show’s truer to life tone:

On providing an alternate take on the Carrie Bradshaw experience:

“This is about girls who aren't from New York. They grew up watching ‘Sex and the City’ and thought they were going to live the dream and now that they’ve arrived, it's something decidedly different…One of the best New Year's Eve of my life was watching a ‘Sex and the City’ marathon with my mother, maybe nine episodes in a row. I don't think I thought I would make a ‘Sex and the City’ show.  I think I thought I would move back to New York and have a really elegant boyfriend and a really incredible shoe closet, and that was not the reality that I was greeted with…In the pilot we have a sort of very loving ‘Sex and the City’ joke because we want to make it clear that these are girls moved here with the hope of a ‘Sex and the City" lifestyle, and that's almost this ghost that's following them around. Their sh----- boyfriend whose bed is on the floor is their Mr. Big. He literally does not have bed sheets.”

On the personal life origins of the series:

“It's closely based on my own experience of getting out of college and not having a sense of whether I would ever get to do the thing I wanted to do, and I was really miserable. I was working in a baby clothes store and just, like, excited that I got free cookies in the afternoon. It was a really kind of confusing, frustrating time, and I saw a lot of my friends going through the same thing, and it didn't feel like it was being reflected back at us. And I've always been someone who feels better if I see what I'm going through in a movie, I'm like, ‘OK – It's not the worst.’ So I really wanted that for me and for other people.”

On her character Hannah’s inability to make adult choices:

“I always say about her that you could place two decisions in front of her, and someone could be, like, ‘That is the right choice. This is the wrong choice. That one leads to delicious candy and bunnies, and that one is you in a fire,’ and she would be like, ‘What?’ She has no clue.”

On finding humor in the cluelessness of 20-somethings while keeping them interesting:

“I think we've all been really conscious of making sure that it's clear that they're trying their hardest and that they make mistakes, but they're also ‑‑ they are working toward something.  It's a "two-steps forward, one-step back" situation.  They do need to grow up.  That's what the show is about.  It's about that sort of effort to change.”

On the influence of executive producer Judd Apatow:

“I think you would be surprised to learn that a lot of what Judd brought to the show was some of the most emotional, connected, what people might think of as the most feminine content – like you're going to watch the show and go, like, ‘That handjob joke was Judd's, that crying girl was Lena's.’ Flip it. And I feel like I just brought my desire to sort of almost share my shame with the world and be comforted by how these personal experiences can feel really universal, and I love flawed female characters duking it out.”

On her own personal journey to success – or at least self-sufficiency:

“I got out of college in 2008, and for two years I was working as a baby-sitter and in a children's clothing store and as the worst law firm secretary you ever met in your life. And then I made ‘Tiny Furniture,’ and the entire time I was making ‘Tiny Furniture,’ I would have to take days off during shooting to fulfill my baby‑sitting obligations, and I remember someone being frustrated because I had to go to a film festival and couldn't pick their kid up from acrobatics class. So it was going on for a while, and then now I've been working with Jenni Konner and Judd for almost two years, and it's been amazing and sooner than I ever imagined that would happen…I remember asking my mom, like, four times one day, ‘Do you think that I will ever have enough money to live outside of your house?" And she would be like, ‘You know, you just never know. You don't know.’”


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