i Need Media
Girls and Bs: A crop of new shows by women, for women, but not necessarily about women
By Matthew Singer 05/03/2012
It is quite a time for women on TV. As a genetically certified male, I don’t know if I’m qualified to comment on whether or not it is a particularly good or bad time for women on television, but from simple observation, I can at least say it is some kind of time indeed. In the last few months, there has been an influx of new shows written and created by women and focused on female characters, most of which identify that fact in the title: New Girl, Girls, Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23 (the “B” stands for bitch). There’s also Best Friends Forever on NBC, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet — oh wait, it’s already been canceled? Never mind.
I’ve felt compelled to discuss this growing field of comedies, but again, didn’t feel qualified. Also, outside the gender commonality, I had trouble identifying a linking thread. Then I realized something: Despite their titles, none of these shows — with the exception of HBO’s much-hyped, much-debated Girls — appears to be interested in saying much explicitly about the nature of contemporary womanhood.
Again, I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But it’s something.
Where a show like Sex and the City proclaimed itself the voice of an entire gender — never mind it was only speaking for about 1 percent of it — the fact that New Girl and Don’t Trust the B both center on women in their late 20s often feels more like pure happenstance than commentary. In fact, New Girl has shifted away from being about Zooey Deschanel’s titular new girl to become more of a true ensemble comedy, and as such Deschanel’s “adorkableness” (ugh) has become more tolerable and the show itself is now one of TV’s funniest. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine swapping in guys for Don’t Trust the B (which I guess would make it Don’t Trust the D-Bag), which casually perpetuates the stereotype that girls are horrifically cruel to one another. Then again, the show is so cartoonish — and, thus far, dreadfully unfunny — it’s hard to justify getting upset about.
But then there’s Girls. Three episodes in and the show has already polarized the Internet. Created by and starring emerging indie-film scribe Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture), it starts with Dunham’s jobless Brooklynite getting cut off the parental teat, and the rest of the series will presumably follow her struggle to survive in New York without a financial tether. Some have called it agonizingly authentic, while detractors say it’s nothing more than entitled white girls whining about money.
On the basis of the pilot, my opinion falls somewhere in the middle. It is moderately funny, but it’s unclear so far whether Dunham is asking us to feel empathetic or resentful toward the plight of its severely unlikable group of characters, and that’s a crucial distinction that will make or break the show going forward. I did, however, spot a Sex and the City poster in the background of the first episode. That can’t be a good sign.
I Need Media is a biweekly media column. Matthew Singer watches everything from PBS documentaries to Community and Showtime’s Gigolos, but mostly he’s just filling the void until Breaking Bad starts again. Follow him on Twitter @mpsinger.