Girls Girls Girls

Lena Dunham, Girls, 2012–, still from a TV show on HBO. Left: Jessa, Hannah, Shoshanna (Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, and Zosia Mamet). Right: Hannah (Lena Dunham). Photos: Jojo Whilden / HBO.

THE CHRISTMAS after I moved to New York, my mom gave me the complete DVD set of Seinfeld. “Piper,” she said, “your real life is like Carrie Bradshaw, why not try some Kramer?” If only we all lived in a rent-controlled, West Village apartment with a boatload of disposable Manolo Blahniks (remember when those were “in”?) monetizing whinings-on about boys and the dramas of imaginary people. Instead I, like my friends, lived with college coeds in a shabby unchic Morningside Heights eighth-floor walkup. The freshest fashion was sported by advanced elderly moonlighting in nightgowns on Riverside Drive, and I whined on about my boy problems to anyone and everyone for free. In reality, I already lived the life of Elaine.

There’s That Girl (1966), Working Girl (1988), Word Girl (2006), Golden Girls (1985–1992), Gilmore Girls (2000–2007), Mean Girls (2004), Gossip Girl (2007–), and “I Kissed a Girl” (2008) #thanksKatyPerry, and now there’s Lena Dunham’s Girls, the writer-director’s hotly anticipated HBO sitcom, produced by Judd Apatow, which condenses the title and focuses the subject matter, and which premieres April 15. (FYI, I think Sophia Petrillo got more action than Blanche, Lorelai, and Serena combined.)

With the mass appeal of a girl-on-girl construct, it’s curious that there hasn’t been a female-powered TV event since Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Murphy Brown. Dunham put it best while kvetching around with idol/mentor Nora Ephron at BAM on Monday night for Dunham’s curated series of ovarian-centric flicks: “Everyone lampoons female drama. No one in the industry says, ‘We’ve done our three dude shows—sorry brah, we’ve met our quota.’” Yet that is exactly the response from balding bigwigs when it comes to ugh, god, the “women subject.” Apparently ladies don’t go to the movies, watch TV, or contribute any points to the Nielsen ratings. Oh, and Oprah doesn’t exist either. (Sorry, but Lifetime, the channel for women and gay men, can’t cut it.)

Question: Why wouldn’t women be drawn to a narrative about, um, women? “It’s frightening when you make something that can’t be remade into a video game,” Ephron explained. How exactly would the Angela Chase avatar navigate through the 3-D gameworld of My So-Called Life? Would there be a level called, “I’m, like, so over Jordan Catalano?” I hate the exec that pulled that plug. You forgive but never forget, or whatever.

Anyhow, here are some hot tips from Ephron: Never cry in front of a male film executive, and if you do, blame it on your sinus infection; one missable event before you die is yet another panel about women in film; and, lastly, no matter if you’re a man or woman, if you don’t really want it, and want it badly, it’s not going to happen for you, OK? Oh, and she was fifty when she directed her first film, so if you think you’re wont to win an Oscar before thirty, you won’t.

For Ephron, directing grew from her writing. You get aged out of writing screenplays, she explained, whereas a director’s career has more longevity. After seminal scripts Silkwood (1983), Heartburn (1986), and When Harry Met Sally . . . (1989), Ephron decided that she could screw up a film just as well as the next guy. Her directorial debut, This Is My Life (1992), adapted with her sister Delia from the Meg Wolitzer novel, can prep any twenty- to thirtysomething for the tug-of-war called motherhood—balancing the thing you love more than anything else (your kids) with that thing you love more than anything else (your job). Ephron’s protagonist—skin-care saleswoman–cum-comedian Dottie Ingels says—“If your kids could choose between a suicidal mother in the next room or a mother in ecstasy in Hawaii, they’d choose the suicide.” As acted by Julie Kavner, aka the voice of Marge Simpson.

Dottie and children Opal and Erica explore the scarier and softer sides of growing pains and women relations. Dunham’s forthcoming Girls, a sitcom about four twentysomethings in New York, goes someplace dark, but doesn’t stay there too long. My personal favorite moment comes during the pilot’s opener, when Marnie (Allison Williams) speaks about her saccharine-sweet feely boyfriend, whose touch is starting to resemble that of a “weird uncle at Thanksgiving.” While the friends are bathing together, Lena’s character, Hannah, demands, “What does it even feel like to be loved that much?” A toweled Marnie brutally responds, “I don’t know, I can’t feel it anymore. It makes me feel like such a bitch.” Finally, a realistic woman problem broadcast on TV. Not your speed? There are missed abortion parties, STD diagnoses, vaginal exams, lots of raunchy sex, inappropriate job interviews, older men, masturbation, and even an awkward kinda-hot-dad-of-the-kids-you-babysit asking you to smoke pot, and all that messy, awkward, breathtakingly wonderful, exciting emo experience that comes to you for the first time when you’re twenty-four and -five. The show’s real market strength, its quotability, could also be its greatest weakness. Almost all of the characters seem to spew Lena, er, Hannah, at one point or another. But don’t worry, so will you.

You used to be either Elaine or Carrie, making your way through the big bad world of big men and bad sex in the Big Apple. Now, thankfully, you can be a Hannah, living in Greenpoint, trying to make it as a writer, having sex with a guy you love but who won’t date you. If you don’t have HBO, are unwilling to participate in the TV event, and/or are incapable of getting to BAM this week, you can always alight upon Dunham’s Twitter feed for a fix, where last night, she retweeted a quote from Ephron on the making of Sleepless in Seattle (1993): “No, I didn’t sleep with Sven Nykvist. I’m one of the only people who didn’t.”

Girls premieres April 15 on HBO. “Hey, Girlfriend! Lena Dunham Selects” runs through April 8 at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn.