Chris Philpott 's Opinion

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

Chris Philpott: The Girls are back - and better than ever

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Chris Philpott takes in the first two episodes of the third season of Girls - and likes what he sees.
Lena Dunham in 'Girls' which was nominated for a Golden Globe for best comedy series. Photo / AP
Lena Dunham in 'Girls' which was nominated for a Golden Globe for best comedy series. Photo / AP

From the moment it premiered in early 2012, there has always been a lot of chatter around Girls, the zeitgeist-capturing comedy from Lena Dunham which returned for its third season this week.

The shows' detractors often point at the odd writing choices, or lack of racial diversity on the show, or the superfluous and gratuitous nudity - one journalist caused a stir at a recent TCA press tour panel after telling Dunham that "I don't get the purpose of all the nudity on the show ... your character is often nude at random times for no reason."

Dunham replied that the nudity is "a realistic expression of what it's like to be alive," before adding "if you're not into me, that's your problem".

And on some level, I think that should be the catch-cry for the entire show: as writer, star, producer, creator and director, Lena Dunham is presenting a show that captures the world as she sees it - if you're not into it, that's your problem.

The show is ostensibly a representation of Dunham's view of the world, not a broad view of the world.

Yet, the third season of the show (Thursdays, 8.30pm, SoHo) might be its broadest and most accessible season yet, judging from the first two episodes. We catch up with the girls, and guys of Girls, in the wake of events that ended season two.

Hannah (Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver) are in some semblance of domestic bliss, enjoying a kind of symbiotic relationship based on mutual reliance and a "keep moving forward" mentality. Even an emotionally jarring - but riotously funny - run-in with Adam's season two girlfriend Natalia and a friend (played by Shiri Appleby and Amy Schumer), which opened the new season, can't kill the buzz the two have got going on.

By the time Adam calls Hannah his "best friend" in the middle of the second episode, you start to suspect the pair might be in this for the long haul.

Marnie (Allison Williams) and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) don't get a lot to do in the early going, with both characters recovering from their recent breakups from Charlie and Ray, respectively.

The best material of the opening episodes actually involves Jessa (Jemima Kirke), who starts the season in rehab - explaining her absence during the latter stages of season two - and under a man ban, thanks to "fraternising" with the opposite sex and causing a multitude of problems during group therapy sessions.

Kirke does a great job in the scenes, perfectly encapsulating Jessa's philosophical outlook despite the characters' obvious world-weariness, and gets to play with some high-profile guest stars in Richard E Grant and Danielle Brooks; Brit star Grant gets up to mischief and challenges Jessa's thinking, while Brooks - best known as Taystee on Orange Is The New Black - unwittingly becomes a target in those group sessions.

While the early episodes of season three do deal with some heavy subject matter, they also manage to be the lightest and funniest episodes of the show in some time without undermining the serious nature of the story, a perfect balance between the laughs that we know the show is capable of and the more dramatic fare Dunham likes to tackle.

The second episode, in which Hannah, Adam and Shoshanna take a road trip to collect Jessa from rehab, might be the most entertaining half hour of Girls to date, whether it's Shoshanna buying a rocking chair as a souvenir, or Hannah trying to explain Truth Or Dare to a bewildered Adam, or Shosh exclaiming, "If they have turkey bacon here, I will be very surprised".

And it still manages to end on an emotional note; the final scene, in which a reunited Hannah and Jessa share the back seat back to New York, is all kinds of heart-warming.

Dunham also turns in some of her best work as a director. These are two extremely tight, consistent episodes, firing on all cylinders, and a welcome return for a show that has been patchy over its first two years. Hopefully this is a sign that Girls has taken a leap forward, creatively speaking.

I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the season unfold.

* Did you catch the season premiere of Girls? What did you think?

Chris Philpott

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

In a strange way, Chris Philpott has grown up with television: his first big addiction was The X Files, which he watched as a teenager, enthralled by what was possible with the form. Chris’ love of TV grew over the years, parallel to the popularity and quality of serial dramas like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He began writing about TV professionally in 2010, before joining the NZ Herald in late 2013, and considers writing about TV more than a passing interest or hobby: he genuinely loves sharing new series and discussing the big shows with readers. Chris is based in Whangarei, and lives with his wife and daughter. When he isn’t watching television … just kidding, he’s always watching television.

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