Girls Talk: HBO Premieres "Girls" and "Veep"

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It’s been a busy couple weekends for HBO, with two Sunday premieres in a row: first, Girls and now, Veep. The first brought a bunch of new faces to TV, and the second, sitcom stars we know and love. Don’t have HBO? That’s OK. They’re sharing these pilots with everyone.

The buzz about Girls began late last year. Judd Apatow was bringing a show to HBO starring the woman who wrote it alongside a female ensemble - but it wasn’t the Bridesmaids sequel.

Girls is written and directed by Lena Dunham, who stars as Hannah, an aspiring writer trying to get by with a little help from her friends in those first years post-college when we try to figure out what this adulthood thing is about (if such a thing is ever possible).

'Girls' courtesy of HBO

The show’s hype seems to fall into two camps: those who call it groundbreaking and those that claim a show about four privileged white girls doesn’t represent enough people - I think both seem to miss the point.

I’m not sure if it’s groundbreaking. I find the word so overused I don’t even know what it’s meant to describe. But a 25-year-old writing, directing and starring in her own TV series is a rare thing. That’s Orson Welles territory.

I’m also not so sure Girls is claiming it represent anyone - it’s simply one voice. Something Hannah says herself when describing to her parents her potential as a great writer, to be the voice of her generation, or maybe just “a voice of a generation."

A young and unsure voice who in ten years time would probably laugh and cry over the choices she made at 23. I think many of us can laugh and cry over the decisions we made at 23. Whether we could afford an apartment in Manhattan isn’t what’s relatable.

Girls is more My So Called Life than Sex and the City (even if it has both the sex and the city) - though the dialogue reminded me of an edgier, 21st century Metropolitan (funny, Whit Stillman’s first 21st century film came out like 2 weeks ago). In a 35-minute pilot Dunham established a dozen characters, had me interested in their lives and what could happen next.

That’s good storytelling.

While Girls-talk was all about new voices, HBO was also prepping to bring one of the biggest names in TV to their lineup with the premiere of Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, former State Senator, now Vice President of the United States of America.

It’s more Christopher Guest than Aaron Sorkin, with an almost mockumentary-style look at life from the office next to the Oval Office (technically its not even in the same building).

It’ll take more than one episode to get to know this ensemble, but there were a few familiar faces - like Arrested Development’s Tony Hale as Selina’s personal aide (thanks to Veep and the upcoming Arrested series we’ll see a lot of Hale this year). Also, remember My Girl? Well, Veda (Anna Chlumsky) grew up and she’s the working in the West Wing (adjacent) as the V.P.’s Chief of Staff.  

'Veep' courtesy of HBO

Those thinking this was supposed to be a send up of Sarah Palin in the White House will be disappointed. It’s bipartisan funny and as “Vice POTUS,” it’s a side of Louis-Dreyfus we’ve never seen. (Elaine Benes drop an f-bomb? Never.)

As Executive Producer Frank Rich says, Selina is ”a competent, accomplished woman who becomes Vice President of the United States in the capitol of dysfunction we have now.” The role probably could have been cast as easily with a guy, although there are moments, like when her press secretary Mike (Matt Walsh) checks to see if her weight has been changed on Wikipedia, reminding us of the fun of being a woman in politics.

As V.P., we see the stress and struggles that come from being someone used to influence and power as a Senator now in a position with very little power, unless of course catastrophe strikes and leaves her in total power. As Louis-Dreyfus explains it, “it’s filled with conflict, and conflict can be very funny.”

Don’t have HBO? The network is making both show premiere episodes available to all at HBO.com, YouTube, DailyMotion, and TV.com, as well as on TV via On Demand (check your cable company listings for availability).

Girls will be available online through May 14. Veep through May 21.

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