The very first scene of "Girls," HBO's new comedy about the lives of four young women in New York City, is set in the kind of upscale restaurant that once would have housed Carrie, Samantha, and the rest of the "Sex and the City" gang. But Mr. Big isn't picking up the tab this time. Hannah Horvath -- played by series creator Lena Dunham -- and her father are wolfing down food as fast as they can. Her mother accuses them of behaving as if someone is about to take their food away -- which isn't so far from the truth. A few moments later, Hannah's parents announce that they are cutting her off. Her days of interning and working on her memoirs are over.
The ghost of "Sex and the City" hovers over "Girls," calling attention to how much we -- and HBO -- have changed. But the truth is, the world depicted in "Girls" looks a lot like the reality most of us were living back when those girls were clicking up to the bar for another round of Cosmos.
Another truth: HBO still knows how to throw the kind of swanky party that would give Hannah an anxiety attack, as it proved at last night's screening, held at the SVA Theater in Manhattan's Chelsea district. The cast and creators were joined by a host of actors (Claire Danes, Edward Norton, Chloe Sevigny, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwich, Sandra Bernhardt, Tony Danza, Steve Buscemi, Richard Dreyfuss), media heavyweights (WSJ Magazine's Deborah Needleman and Brekke Fletcher, The Washington Post's Anna Holmes, The New York Times' David Carr and Dave Itzkoff, HuffPost's Tim O'Brien, Salon's Irin Carmon) and assorted New York City circuit fixtures (Fran Lebowitz, Zac Posen, Andrew Saffir). Also in attendance: NBC anchor Brian Williams, whose daughter, Allison Williams, plays Hannah's best friend. (In his opening remarks, executive producer Judd Apatow promised that the three-episode screening would constitute "the most uncomfortable evening in Brian Williams' life.")
Following the screening, buses transported those in attendance to Le Bain, at the top of the Standard Hotel, where cocktail waitresses carried trays of champagne and James Bond's favorite drink, the Vesper (a potent mix of vodka, gin, and Lillet).
Samantha would have loved it. We hope Lena did too.
PHOTOS: See the Stars Turn Out for the Premiere of "Girls":