Five reasons to love Lena Dunham and 'Girls'

Caroline McGinn on why ‘Girls’ has more balls than anything else you’ll see on telly this autumn

Lena Dunham (third from left) pauses for thought in 'Girls' Lena Dunham (third from left) pauses for thought in 'Girls'

It was made by one hell of a girl…

Twenty-six-year-old Lena Dunham has had the biggest breakout in US TV comedy since Tina Fey played Sarah Palin on ‘Saturday Night Live’. The creator of ‘Girls’ became the first of the YouTube generation of filmmakers to hit the mainstream after her homemade debut film earned her a contract with HBO. ‘Tiny Furniture’ basically involved Dunham padding naked round her parents’ Tribeca loft doing life, dating and self-loathing like a female Woody Allen for generation Y. Her HBO show ‘Girls’ is that, multiplied by four, plus attitude, minus the bland sitcommery that killed ‘Friends’. Dunham co-writes it, stars in it, occasionally directs it and exec produces it along with major comedy player Judd Apatow. That’s a level of creative control that makes Woody look like a twentysomething newbie.

…who acts in it herself, instead of being played by a younger, skinnier, prettier girl

‘Girls’ was nominated for four Emmys and is the most talked-about show on TV, but Dunham’s thighs have almost eclipsed her talent. Pale, tattooed, with small breasts, chunky legs and a floppy tummy, her body is big news because it’s totally normal and sometimes naked on screen. A realistic girl having realistic sex, jogging or even taking a dump without being caricatured is a rare sight on telly. Which is probably why it’s revolted thousands of poor deluded souls who have been raised on hairless netporn and the myth that the girl next door looks like Jennifer Aniston.

The sex is gross. Realistically gross

With four experimental lasses braving STDs in the Big Apple, ‘Girls’ has boldly ripped off ‘Sex and the City’s formula. But Hannah (the writer), her Kate Middleton-alike flatmate Marnie (the career girl), and their friends Jessa (the wild child) and Shoshanna (the virginal one) have messier, realer sex than their cosmopolitan-swigging aunts, who sounded  like they were scripted by gay men and were out to have sex like men, with lots of orgasms and not much baggage. Like ‘SATC’, ‘Girls’ has a watercooler moment with anal sex – Hannah politely resisting it while still desperately trying to act hot in a doggy-style encounter with her manic fuckbuddy Adam. But sex in ‘Girls’ is about icky comedy, not glamorous consumers choosing men and vibrators. Example? ‘SATC’ asked, ‘Since when was the ass on the menu?’ ‘Girls’ asks, ‘If he never texts me back, is he my boyfriend?’

No one has a cool job or Manolos

Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte were successful fantasy women for the generation that partied hard, worked harder and forgot to have babies. Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna and their pals work in coffee shops and shitty McJobs, babysit the ‘SATC’ generation’s petri dish kids and can’t pay their rent without help from their parents. It’s a more neurotic and more honest moment for a comedy to be in right now.

It’s not just for girls

The punchline, without which ‘Girls’ would be just another piece of emotional screen-filler for laydeez who love too much, is that it’s really, really funny. It loves awkward moments, like dealing with your naked father’s sex injury or making a rape joke in a job interview. It’s funny in the way your friends are funny – not in the way ‘Friends’ was funny. Its characters are so real that you sometimes want to smack them. But ‘Girls’ itself isn’t smackable, because it takes the piss out of its characters’ quest to ‘become who they are’, preferably without having to work too hard. ‘I don’t want to freak you out,’ says Hannah to her parents, ‘but I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or a voice. Of a generation.’ ‘Girls’ isn’t the only voice of that generation, but it’s the sharpest one out there.

‘Girls’ starts on Monday October 22, 10pm, Sky Atlantic. Read the Time Out review here.