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A Look at HBO's 'Girls,' By and With Those Who Get the Demo
April 15, 2012  | By TVWW Guest Contributor  | 1 comment
[As part of our coverage of HBO's Girls, we dispatched Alison Mastrangelo, a college journalism student at Rowan University, to explore the show from her informed perspective, and conduct an interview with Jenni Konner, one of the show's writer-producers. Her report follows. - DB]

by Alison Mastrangelo

It's not glamorous or sexy, and yet it works.

Girls, HBO's newest weekly series, shows the raw side of twentysomethings struggling to find direction in the current age.

The series, which makes its debut Sunday, April 15 at 10:30 p.m. ET, revolves around Hannah, an aspiring Brooklyn writer with boyfriend issues, body issues, and -- thanks to her parents' sudden decision to stop paying her bills -- money issues. Its honest portrayal of post-college angst is largely credited to the creative vision of Lena Dunham, the show's 25-year-old wunderkind creator/writer/director/star.

Executive producer Jennifer Konner was expecting the show to resonate with young women -- but pre-debut screenings and critical response have proven there's a much wider audience ready to watch Hannah battle her insecurities...

"People of all sizes and colors are coming up to me, saying, 'I am Hannah -- I feel exactly like her,'" Konner explained during a recent interview from her California home. "Seventy-five-year-old women are saying that to me. Anyone can relate to having made mistakes in their early twenties -- and if they can't, then they should be on Mars."

The pairing of Dunham, a TV newcomer, and Konner -- a veteran writer/producer whose most recent series, ABC’s In the Motherhood, focused on parenting from a female perspective -- was kismet. Konner was a huge fan of Dunham's 2010 film, Tiny Furniture, a somewhat autobiographical story of a college graduate who moves back in with her parents while determining the next chapter of her life.

It was Konner's championing of Tiny Furniture that put her on the radar for Girls. Konner says the two connected from their very first phone call.

"Two of Lena's best qualities are she really knows what she wants and has a specific voice," says Konner. Another plus, she adds, is that "all she wants to do is learn." It's Dunham's habit of soaking in everything around her like a sponge, Konner adds, that keeps her writing fresh.


Shortly after signing on to do Girls, Konner got a call from writer/producer Judd Apatow. Konner had worked with Apatow on his 2001 Fox series, Undeclared, a follow-up to his critically acclaimed but short-lived NBC sitcom, Freaks and Geeks.

"Judd called and said, 'I love this girl. What can I do to help? Can I come help you do this?'"

Konner was elated. "My whole writing career has sort of been, 'What would Judd do'?"

Apatow -- the man behind such comedies as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, Pineapple Express, and the Oscar-nominated Bridesmaids -- has a knack for fostering quirky characters, and his influence is evident in Girls.

Konner says Apatow is pushing Dunham to explore the emotional aspects of love and romance. "He really wants to go for the truth, because if there is no truth in it... it will not be emotionally effective."

There's already been a lot of buzz about Girls' decidedly unglamorous sex scenes. Largely drawn from the writers' personal experiences, the scenes make viewers squirm with their honest portrayal of less-than-perfect sex.

"The main reason to show the awkwardness," explains Konner, "was to show inexperienced women having sex with inexperienced men." (Rest assured, Konner says, there is some "good sex coming up.")

Konner says HBO has given her, Dunham, and the writing team an unbelievable amount of creative freedom. "All they want to do is support Lena's voice and support us making this show."



Alison Mastrangelo is weeks from being a senior at Rowan University in New Jersey, studying both journalism and Health and Exercise Science and Education.

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