Kate’s Television Musings: The girls I am much preferring to “Girls”

By Kate Emswiler
Unless you’ve just gotten internet service today in your cave buried under rocks (and if that’s the case, congrats! Catch up on your memes!), you may have heard of a little HBO show called “Girls.”  People are calling it “funny and creative” and “unsettling” and all sorts of things in between.  Perhaps the best sum-up comes from Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times: “Though wildly smart,Girls’ is a difficult show to love.”  Or, as two separate people remarked in my Facebook feed:  “I hated ‘Girls’ and will continue to watch it.” 
Basically, the internet has used up all its words on “Girls.”  Based on the media storm surrounding this show, I could’ve sworn it had been on TV for months already — when it actually just premiered April 15th.

Even before the show premiered, some people had had just about enough of girls  — all girls — on TV.  Lee Aronsohn, co-creator of “Two and a Half Men”,  recently commented on the spate of female-centric comedies, noting, “Enough, ladies. I get it.  You have periods.”  He added this gem:  “[W]e’re approaching peak vagina on television, the point of labia saturation.”  He’s right, you know, ladies.  It’s really about time we gave men the chance to succeed on the boob tube.  Maybe Mr. Aronsohn can’t count beyond 2.5?
I don’t know about labia saturation (?) but I do think the media coverage of “Girls” has reached a saturation point.  As Mr. Aronsohn generously pointed out, there are many vaginas on TV and they’re not all relegated to that one HBO show.  This ’11-’12 season, specifically, has introduced us to a great new bunch of TV series featuring female friends.  So maybe Lena Dunham, et al could use a break while we give some shout-outs to other new vaginas on TV.

Here are three of my favorite new shows centered around funny and interesting ladies:

Up All Night
“Up All Night” is my delicious new candy-coated sitcom treat.  Never angsty, always funny and often heartfelt, it follows successful daytime television producer Regan (Christina Applegate) as she navigates being a new parent (trading in her beloved flashy car for a “family car” … with flames painted on the sides), being the sole breadwinner (hubbie Chris, played by Will Arnett, left his job as a lawyer to be a stay-at-home dad), and being the voice of sanity for her best friend and host of the eponymous daytime talk show, Ava (Maya Rudolph).  Sunny Hollywood sets the lemony, relaxed backdrop for Regan’s life.
As a recovering “Arrested Development”-aholic, I will probably always love whatever Will Arnett does, but I’m most fascinated by Regan and Ava’s friendship on the show.  In earlier episodes, I found it unlikely that Ava has any true friends at all, what with her being such a self-obsessed diva.  Who would put up with her blithe unawareness and immaturity?  And yet, I’ve had friends like Ava:  they’re dynamic and infuriatingly self-absorbed – but this only means that when they do have a flash of kindness, it seems all the more sincere.  Of course, it’s mostly a manipulative game to keep people clutched in their spell, but still.  We’re only human, which is a message in “Up All Night” that I appreciate. 

Both Ava and Regan are confident and successful, yet neurotic and anxious, too.  Regan seems to have it all, she doesn’t mince words and she wears exasperation like one of her loud silk blouses.  At the same time, she’s a big softie when it comes to her baby, and she still has issues with her parents.  Ava, hilariously clueless and dramatic, is really just an oversized tween; an insecure girl who happens to have a knack for emceeing auctions while drunk.  Somehow, though, their friendship works and it’s nice to see women with powerful careers working together and not trying to tear each other down.


Somewhere between the droll realism of “Girls” and the yuk-yuk laugh track of, say, “Whitney” is “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23″.  Chloe (the “B”) and June certainly live in a zanier New York than I’ve ever seen, but there are moments of truth and even darkness (say, when Chloe shoves her father into an oncoming bike) which keep the tiny seeds of preciousness from growing into real fruit trees (a breathless June on the NYC skyline:  “Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your entire life?!”  Doorman:  “Only my newborn son’s face.”).

Some of the comedy itself is over-the-top (though I’ll never get enough of James Van Der Beek poking fun at his own career), but there are random moments of truth that pop up and provide surprise laugh attacks.  And I disagree with the Parents Television Council’s assertion that “Don’t Trust the B” is sexist.  You want to know what’s sexist?  Whining that television is suffering from “labia saturation.”

Best Friends Forever

“Best Friends Forever” stars Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham as besties who go back to being roommates after Jessica’s husband files for divorce.  Only problem is that now Lennon lives with her boyfriend, and three’s a bit of a crowd in their beautiful and spacious New York City apartment.

Amid the broad comedy (no pun intended) and goofiness, “Best Friends Forever” is an honest examination of what it means to be an adult and have a best friend … and a romantic partner.  On Jessica’s side, it’s about learning how to share your best friend with her partner.  You’re all adults, and yet the rich history shared between women who have been friends for years – the hilarious stories, the unconditional love — is something sweet and vulnerable as a baby, especially when an Other threatens to infiltrate that intimacy.

At 31, this has been the soundtrack — on repeat — to my female friendships for a few years now.  It’s painful and awkward and, like so many painful and awkward things, comedically ripe for the harvest.  Not everyone will relate to this show, as it can be hokey (like the cheeseball dude who runs the Italian deli near Lennon’s apartment, yiiiiiikes), and I could do without some of the fat shaming.  Jessica is encouraged not to eat in order to “get back to her fighting weight” (even deli guy says it, and he’s not exactly svelte himself; ah, double standards) after her divorce.

But if we’re getting down to the heart of the matter, the show really is about friendship (forever), and I will keep watching to get that weekly dose of cheesy commiseration.

So what are your favorite new shows—labia-saturated or otherwise?

Kate’s Television Musings  is a new column running on Kate-book.com every Friday at 10:30am. It is written by the television obsessed Kate Emswiler, who you should follow on Twitter.

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2 thoughts on “Kate’s Television Musings: The girls I am much preferring to “Girls”

  1. [...] Sunday night’s “Girls,” the main character, Hannah, was faced with the news no woman wants to hear—that she has [...]

  2. [...] That was short-lived.  No sooner had I declared my love and loyalty to the female-led comedy “Best Friends Forever” than NBC pulled the plug on the [...]

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