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Blu-ray Review: Girls – The Complete First Season

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Created by Lena Dunham, Girls is an HBO television series about the lives of four 20-something young women living in New York City. Being about four female friends in NYC and appearing on the same network, the comparisons to Sex and the City are inevitable and there are similarities. Virginal college student Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is a fan of SotC, referencing it and the characters in the first episode of the season, but Girls isn’t a remake. The 30-something ladies of Sex and the City know what it is they want, but have trouble obtaining it; the young women of Girls haven’t figured out what it is yet.

Dunham, who wrote or co-wrote all ten episodes of the first season and directed half of them, stars as Hannah, an aspiring writer who loses her parents’ financial support as the series opens. Hannah struggles with finding employment and stability in her relationships. She is involved with Adam (Adam Driver), though to what extent changes episode to episode, and unintentionally betrays the trust of her friend/roommate Marnie (Allison Williams).

On the surface, Hannah’s friends Marnie and Shoshanna’s British cousin Jessa (Jemima Kirke) appear as opposites that offer Hannah different approaches to life, yet beneath the surface they have more in common than they are willing to admit, which leads to tension between the two. Marnie works at an art gallery and tries to make responsible choices but doesn’t consider the feelings of her boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott), who she is bored by but wants back when they are apart. Jessa works as a babysitter and acts like a free spirit, yet by season’s end, she is the most traditional one of the group.

The girls are extremely narcissistic and many times make selfish decisions, as most 20-year-olds are, not that those traits are restricted to their age group. They aren’t always likable and make poor decisions, but that makes them more believable as characters. The storylines have serious overtones, but the episodes are filled with humor. The first season of Girls was recently honored by the Golden Globes as Best Television Series – Comedy or Musical, and it was my favorite new show of last year because of the writing and performances.

Shot on Arri Alexa digital cameras, the video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Colors come through in mostly muted hues, though some scenes they appear brighter. Blacks are inky and contrast is great. The image looks sharp and offers good details and textures.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 delivers clear dialogue for this very chatty show. Ambiance is limited, though when used, mainly for party scenes, adequately fills the surrounds. The LFE is limited as well, used primarily for the songs on the soundtrack.

As they usually do, HBO delivers on the extras. There are five commentaries. Dunham appears on all of them and is joined by executive producers Jenni Konner (twice) and Judd Apatow, director Richard Shepard, and her fellow lead actresses. That female foursome can be seen in “A Conversation with The Girls” (HD, 22 min) where they chat about the show and their characters. The “Deleted & Extended Scenes” (HD, 17 min on Disc 1; 12 min on Disc 2) are all worth watching though not essential.

“Cast Auditions” (1080i, 19 min) for Driver, Mamet, Williams, and Andrew Rannells, who plays Elijah, Hannah’s former college boyfriend who came out after they broke up. There are multiple “Table Reads” (HD, 30 min) of scenes with the cast in front of an audience. “Inside the Episodes” (HD, 29 min) features Dunham offering mini-commentaries for each episode. “A Conversation with Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow” (HD, 25 min) finds the two praising each other and talking about working together.

“The Making of Girls” (HD, 16 min) takes viewers behind the scenes during several episodes. The “Gag Reel” comes in Part 1 (HD, 5 min) and Part 2 (6 min) on same disc so I am not sure why they are separated. “Fresh Air Interview with Lena Dunham” (Audio, 37 min) finds her on Terry Gross’ NPR radio show from May 2012. The set also comes with a double-sided DVD containing the first season and @lenadunham Twitter Journal, a booklet of pictures and tweets Dunham posted on Twitter from announcement of the series to the wrap season one.

Though the self-absorbtion of the Girls might be too much for some viewers, I found it a funny, refreshing, at times cringe-inducing, break from the usual television fare as well as my own self-absorbtion. HBO does a great job with the A/V presentation and supplemental materials, so I recommend this format.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS