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HBO's 'Girls' Is Back, And It Has Completely Stopped Mattering

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 18, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 18, 2016 |

There’s a certain irony to the fact that the first season of HBO’s Girls was so fresh and groundbreaking, especially in its language and the composition of its characters — privileged, insufferable, narcissistic post-collegiate New Yorkers — that it paved the way for a fifth season that now seems not only tame, but downright irrelevant by comparison. The relationships and living arrangements may have changed on Girls, but the characters haven’t evolved, and 2016 is a lot different than 2012. In 2012, Millennials were characterized as the disillusioned, self-absorbed product of helicopter parents who still lived with their Mom. In 2016, they’re better characterized as social activists who have been a major force behind social progress and technology.

As every generation eventually does, the Millennials got their shit together.

The characters on Girls haven’t yet gotten their shit together, aside from finding less dysfunctional relationships and marginally better employment. But more than that, Lena Dunham seems to have run out of things to say. In the first few episodes of the fifth season of Girls, she hasn’t said anything of note. There’s nothing ripe for think pieces in these episodes. In fact, they feel like facile episodes of Friends, starring the misanthropic cast of Seinfeld, only with more boobs and hand jobs. Take, for instance, a subplot involving Ray getting irritated with the coffee shop owners across the street, because they stopped providing lids for their coffee so their customers keep coming to Ray’s coffee shop to steal lids. Girls has become a show about nothing.

Or the opening episode, which felt very much like a 90s sitcom wedding episode. It opens at the wedding of Marnie and Desi (which I didn’t really understand, because I thought Desi ditched Marnie in the fourth season finale after Ray told Desi he would never be good enough for Marnie, but bygones). Over the course of the episode, there’s some bridesmaids friction; some goofy awkwardness between Hannah’s ex, Adam, and new boyfriend, Fran; Desi briefly gets cold feet; and there’s a lot of shenanigans with the hairdresser, who overdoes their make-up. It’s basically a Friends episode, except the characters are more annoyingly passive-aggressive and call each other “twats” more frequently. Meanwhile, Adam is a completely different character; he’s infatuated with Jessa. Suddenly he’s a giddy, charming lead in a romantic comedy. The only thing that’s changed about Shoshanna after six months in Japan, meanwhile, is her haircut.

Girls no longer feels like a show trying to be the voice of generation. It’s like all those Millennials ran out and got jobs and their own apartments, and Girls is now trying to appeal to their empty-nester parents who are still watching Girls on cable. In a post-Amy Schumer, post-Broad City, post-Hamilton world, Girls feels dated, stale, and more white than ever. Indeed, after five seasons, Girls isn’t saying anything new, because it’s not trying to say anything at all.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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