HBO firmly entrenched with ‘Girls’

Dunham announces third-season pickup on podcast

HBO’s third-season renewal for “Girls” is another indication of how much the pay cabler’s brass believes both in Lena Dunham’s future and the series itself.

Dunham — the show’s exec producer, director, star and writer — announced earlier this week on a podcast with Alec Baldwin that HBO had ordered a new season.

“We’re starting season three at the end of March,” Dunham said. “I’m so excited.”

During the chat, she also revealed that she has a six-year deal with HBO.

“HBO contractually has me, I think, as an actor for six years,” she said, although it was unclear if that deal also kept her on board as a writer and director as well. “I should pay more attention to my deals, but I’m just so excited to have my job, I just go, ‘OK, whatever you say.’ ”

Despite middling ratings, “Girls” is probably HBO’s hottest and most-buzzed about comedy since “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Sex and the City.”

Dunham came to HBO after gaining attention with her 2010 indie film “Tiny Furniture.” She and UTA agent Peter Benedek took meetings around town looking to possibly hook up as a writer for an existing series. Eventually, there was strong interest from HBO for a new series. The net teamed her with fellow UTA client Judd Apatow to help cement the comedy foundation for “Girls.”

“Girls” is in the middle of its second season, which began Jan. 13. The season opener drew 866,000 for its initial 9 p.m. telecast and 1.6 million over three telecasts, according to Nielsen.

Since then, the show has accumulated 3.8 million viewers via DVR usage, linear repeats and online viewing. Those don’t include live-plus-7 numbers, however, so there should be considerable uptick once those figures are available.

The first season of “Girls,” which last year ran from April to June, averaged a cumulative 4.6 million viewers per episode.

For last Sunday’s most recent episode, “Girls” garnered 572,000 for its 9 p.m. telecast and 519,000 for a repeat an hour later.

Sandwiched in-between is Laura Dern starrer “Enlightened,” which drew only 202,000 viewers in that 9:30 timeslot. Interestingly, “Enlightened” performed slightly better (233,000) in its repeat telecast at 10:30.

HBO and all other nets were forced to compete against the 47.7 million who watched CBS’ coverage of the AFC Championship game, when Baltimore upset New England and will now head to the Super Bowl to face the San Francisco 49ers.

“Girls” clearly picked up plenty of PR steam at the Golden Globes, which coincidentally aired directly opposite the Jan. 13 season premiere of “Girls.” The series was named best television comedy and Dunham was tabbed by Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. voters for lead comedy actress.

Dunham said “Girls” would be shooting the third season in Silvercup Studios in Gotham, the same stage that Baldwin’s series “30 Rock” used to call home. “30 Rock” is wrapping up its final season now on NBC.

On “Girls,” Dunham and co-stars Zosia Mamet, Allison Williams and Jemima Kirke try to figure out both their professional and messy personal lives.

In looking at the show’s arc, Dunham said she already has an idea of where she would like to se the twentysomething characters end up in the last episode — whenever that may be.

“In my bible the ideal finale to the show would be they don’t have to have kids or husbands, but you look at them and you know they’re on their way,” she said. “They’re more OK than when they started, or they’re less OK but we have an idea of what kind of adult they’re going to be.”

“Girls” is exec produced by Dunham, Apatow, Jenni Konner, Ilene S. Landress and Bruce Eric Kaplan.