In TV land, spring 2012 is lady season. Three shows just launched -- HBO's Girls, Oxygen's Brooklyn 11223 (pictured above) and ABC's Don't Trust the B- in Apartment 23 -- offering up what could arguably be called the same fare -- twenty-somethings in New York trying to figure out who their friends are and how their lives will turn out. Of course they're different, but if one of these things is not like the other, it might not be the one you think.
B- opens with Chloe (Krysten Ritter) screwing her roommate's boyfriend on top of said roommate's birthday cake in an incredibly awkward sex scene. This will not turn out to be part of her scam to churn through roommates and pocket excess rent. Girls is HBO's much-ballyhooed dramedy, and opens with Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) learning that her parents are cutting her off financially. Brooklyn is a reality show that opens with bombastic music, fast cuts and an immediate infidelity. It's been described as a Jersey Shore wannabe.
With its ample fanfare, B- powered out of the gate with the most viewers, leaving Girls and Brooklyn 11223 far behind and surprisingly -- considering Girls' advertising budget compared to Brooklyn's -- with similar numbers. All three make much ado about friends, though B- is more based on the frenemies concept. And of course Girls and B- are both scripted. Regardless of actual format, Brooklyn and Girls are the ones to compare. Both attempt earnest documentation as opposed to the B's steadfast disavowal of reality. It's cute, and Krysten Ritter is hella watchable, but (spoiler alert? not really... ) nobody pumps a disturbed nine-year-old with alcohol in an attempt to get information.
Following type, Brooklyn dissects the minutiae of its lead characters. Thus far the episodes focus on the drama between Christie and Joey Lynn, friends since childhood who've fallen out over a man. Whether Joey Lynn slept with Christie's boyfriend is beside the point as we watch others being drawn into the drama. These girls are ready and willing to fight, as a gang, to preserve and protect reputations. However I'm dying to know more about the just barely introduced Muslim family and Joey Lynn's mobster father. Conversely in Girls, I'm not so interested in the outlying characters.
Girls centers on the life of Hannah Horvath (played, conceived and written by Lena Dunham). The episode launches with the parent scene, but there's plenty of girl on girl action here. At one point Hannah wakes up in bed with her roommate, Marnie (Allison Williams), who apparently is trying to escape the affections of an overly enthusiastic boyfriend. But the real intrigue begins when Jessa (Jemima Kirke) shows up, beautiful and foreign and known to prey on stray boyfriends.
Of course, critics like me are going to be drawn to Girls. We tend to be fans of scripted television. More dweeb than tough. And Girls is easily described as more authentically female because reality shows are so highly contrived by producers. But that fails to take into account the fact that these women have all come of age since MTV's Real World defined the archetypes of a generation. They know exactly what it means to live their lives in front of a camera. For me the surprising difference comes down to how empowered the women are (or are not).
Granted, these are early days. But so far what I've observed is exactly the opposite of what I would've thought. It's not the women from middle-class, college-educated backgrounds dressed in funky business casual who exert the most authority in their own lives. The complexity of the characters makes it more obvious, and so it's still a testament to and belief in the talent behind Girls. But there's no denying, the women of Girls are living much more in reaction to men than the women in Brooklyn. Girls' Marnie is gorgeous and yet hanging onto a relationship that serves only the purpose of making her superior. Nonetheless she's chock-full of advice for Hannah, whose love interest is pretty clearly only barely into her. We learn that Jessa, too, is living (at least moving) in reaction to a man. But for the women of Brooklyn 11223, men are the bit players. Christie can't let go of the supposed betrayal because she's lost her friend Joey Lynn. Very little mention is even made of the ex-boyfriend. For her part, Joey Lynn is determined to have a bigger life, and there's no man in sight.
Have you seen these shows? What do you think?