'Girls': The Bizarro 'Seinfeld' (Opinion)

The HBO series can be fascinating in how it depicts darkness, but is it insightful about that darkness?

For all the noise, “Girls” is just a new-fashioned romance. At least, that’s the case right now.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” would easily have worked as an alternate title.

Sunday’s season finale turned everything the show has laid out for two years into a 21st-century version of a Jane Austen novel – which surely is enough for some people, but is just another reason for the show to generate such diverse opinion – as it no doubt will come Emmy season.

“Girls” is kind of fascinating in how it depicts darkness, but not particularly insightful about that darkness. Its achievement is in not shying away, as my colleague AJ Marechal pointed out last week, but it still leaves me unsatisfied because I already know people are weird and that life can be really depressing and full of false starts and lost progress. And that right or wrong, whether someone loves you or not can mean everything.

As brutally honest as the show can be, the show still has too many moments that are phony and spends too much time discovering the obvious – namely, that life is hard. To back that up, ask yourself this: Did any character on the show in season two learn anything, other than a confirmation of whom they like or don’t like? The show’s statement is that ultimately, everything these people do, they do for love – which again, is more of a point of view than a revelation about our world.

There’s no growth on “Girls” – not yet, anyway. In this respect, despite all the comparisons to “Sex and the City,” it’s really more like “Seinfeld” (complete with Adam, whose apartment-centric life and ability to live on his own terms in New York make him seem like he trained at Kramerica Industries). It’s a hijinx show about dating. And that’s fine – that can even be great under the right circumstances. At a minimum, it sure can be entertaining and provide great conversation fodder despite its low viewership. But until it shows a path for these characters to reach a new level that isn’t dependent on love or being loved, a hijinx dating show is all “Girls” is, and it shouldn’t get credit for being more. It’s the pretense that it has more insight to offer than a “Seinfeld,” that it demands to be taken more seriously, that hits me sideways.

“Seinfeld,” erroneously characterized as a show about nothing, told us at least as much about life as “Girls” does. It just chose to do so without the pain. “Girls” chooses to do it the opposite way. To each their own. A controversial scene like last week’s bedroom collision between Adam and Natalia creates a discussion but contributes little to that discussion.

Despite the bombastically swooning music capping Sunday’s events, I do think “Girls” at least allows for the possibility that we’re not supposed be swept away by these romances the way the characters are. At least, I can hope so. Above all, Lena Dunham’s Hannah is deeply soul-sick, independent of whatever physical and mental illness she faces, and I say that with sympathy. If the show can show a path toward truly dealing with that soul-sickness that isn’t dependent on love,  that will be something.

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