Over the course of its second season, Girls has solidified itself into the most analyzed show on the internet, with each episode bringing up a whole host of issues and a mountain of blog posts. While season two started out on upbeat notes with each of the titular girls going after new beginnings, the second half of the season took on darker material, turning the show from a comedy with satiric edge to more of an out-and-out drama with humorous elements.
Early in the season, Hannah and company played at adulthood, but mid-way they turned to actively coveting the lives of older, more successful people. Episode 5 was a bottle episode devoted entirely to Hannah's tryst with an older doctor on the verge of divorce. She spends two straight days with him, but seems primarily interested in the illusion of his well-decorated brownstone, a point driven home with the line, “I want to be happy. I want the bowl with the fruit and the fridge with the stuff.” This episode was book-ended by two others that showcased Marnie's non-relationship arc with Booth Jonathan, with whom Marnie is much too happy to help host an art party. When she later reveals that she thinks Booth is her boyfriend (and furthermore, that she's enamored with his career), her turn on Desperate Housewives: Art Star edition is cut short.
Even as the characters clamored for that coveted grownup status, they soon encountered actual adult difficulties and quickly regressed. Being a grown up, they discover, actually sucks. Encountering her divorce, Jessa visits her recovering addict father, where we learn her flightiness is the result of a serious abandonment complex. After spending much of the season in freefall, Marnie chases Charlie again upon learning he's sold an app and is suddenly flush with cash and running his own tech startup. She decides her true dream is to be a singer, and croons a cringe-worthy rendition of Kanye West's “Stronger” at Charlie's company party. And in a deliciously cringetastic moment, she presents this performance as if it's a gift. READ MORE
This Sunday, the show the internet loves to argue about returns to HBO for its second season. That's Lena Dunham's Girls, of course, a half hour comedy that's been called everything from zeitgeisty to depraved to… god, I am not going to repeat that voice-of-a-generation quote that's always misinterpreted.
Many critical pixels have been posted about Girls, the recipient of extreme praise (to which I've certainly contributed) and much criticism, some totally fair, much some variety of pearl-clutching or
doesn't even address the show's content.
Since the conversation about Girls often eclipsed the actual show, the new season offers a chance to dig beneath the polarization and look at what the show offers when it's not being held up to (ugh, screw it) “voice-of-a-generation” scrutiny. READ MORE
Mark Duplass has a rising profile as a comedic actor through his turns in The League and the soon-to-be released Safety Not Guaranteed, but his auteur directing background with brother Jay is further off the comedy radar. As directors, Jay and Mark Duplass have become better known in the mainstream world with their studio films, Cyrus and the recent Jeff, Who Lives at Home, but they began their careers thoroughly entrenched in the micro-budget indie world with their first features, The Puffy Chair and Baghead. Last month’s SXSW world premiere of The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, originally shot in 2008, is a return to that form.
When Mark (Steve Zissis) brings his family to his childhood home for his annual birthday visit, he’s under doctor’s orders to cut stress out of his life. But his brother, Jeremy (Mark Kelley), shows up uninvited with other plans. Twenty years prior, the brothers invented an Olympics of the Ordinary Man, consisting of 25 sporting events — that is, if you consider laser tag and holding your breath underwater to be feats of athletic ability — which they termed the Do-Deca-Pentathlon. The entire event was to decide “who was the better brother, once and for all.” READ MORE
Director Jordan Roberts' Frankie Go Boom, which debuted at SXSW last month, is an entertaining, charmingly madcap comedy with an indie sensibility. Half sibling rivalry, half love story, it follows Frankie (Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy), who grew up being tortured by his older brother, Bruce (Chris O'Dowd), an aspiring director who filmed the awful, funny childhood pranks he pulled on Frank.
As an adult, Frank lives in Death Valley writing unpublished novels in front of a handwritten sign reminding him, "Your family is poison. Stay away.” When his mother convinces him to come home for Bruce's graduation from rehab, he goes against his better judgment. The brothers haven't spoken in three years, and while it’d be easy to assume Bruce's alcohol and drug addictions are the culprit, it's really due to Bruce’s stronger addiction to filming his brother’s most humiliating moments and uploading them to a downscale version of Funny or Die (where “5 boners” equals “5 stars”). Thanks to Bruce, Frank is an unwillingly famous viral video star. READ MORE
Last month at SXSW, HBO screened the first three episodes of Lena Dunham’s new show, Girls, to a packed house. For SXSW, it was an opportunity to showcase more television writing, but it also marked the return of festival progeny, as Dunham had premiered her first two features there, winning the narrative jury prize in 2010 for her film, Tiny Furniture.
The buzz around Tiny Furniture attracted HBO and the attention of one Judd Apatow, who signed on to executive produce Dunham’s premium cable series. Fast forward two years and Dunham is standing on Austin’s Paramount Theater stage, doing some combination of glowing and blushing after the warm, excited audience response to the show. Girls is, at heart, a character-driven comedy about four college friends making a go at adulthood in Brooklyn. The set up may sound like an updated Sex and the City, but it ends there. The girls in Girls are far less glamorous and significantly more realistic than Carrie and co., and their story is told with a dexterity and precision that makes it wholly specific and yet infinitely relatable. READ MORE
We told you last week about Yahoo’s new web comedy push. Part of that effort is a partnership with Funny or Die with the web series First Dates with Toby Harris, starring comedian and Funny or Die writer, Seth Morris.
Morris is the former artistic director of the Upright Citizens Brigade LA, and a member of the New York sketch comedy team, Naked Babies, with Rob Corddry, Brian Huskey and John Ross Bowie. In First Dates with Toby Harris, Morris plays an impossibly difficult single guy who can’t stop himself from committing a plethora first date wrongs.
I had a chance to sit down with Morris during the SXSW Interactive and Film Festival to talk about the show, writing for Funny or Die, and his support of funny women. READ MORE
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop premiered at this year’s SXSW in the 1200-seat Paramount Theater to a capacity crowd who hung on every quip and sarcastic remark that flowed from O’Brien. From its first moments, when Conan shouts out his car window at an L.A. celebrity homes tour, the crowd immediately roared and never looked back, with their laughter sometimes drowning out the following dialogue in the Rodman Flender-directed tour doc. From beginning to end, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a portrait of the backstage Conan, whose offhand jibes work just as well as his jokes on our TV screens, albeit with a lot more bite.
A longtime friend of O’Brien’s from their days on the Harvard Lampoon, Flender followed Conan from the conception of the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour through its completion, shooting 149 total hours of video. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop isn’t a concert film by any means (though Flender does provide some concert and rehearsal footage), so if you missed the tour and were hoping for a rehash, you’ll have to settle for small glimpses. Flender explained at the premiere’s Q & A that when taking on the documentary, he was specific with O’Brien that he was making an honest portrait and not a vanity project or concert film. Instead, the movie documents the tour’s production process, O’Brien’s grueling tour schedule, and his interactions with fans. It dispenses with a quick rundown of last spring’s NBC-Leno-Conan showdown with a news animation from Taiwan’s Apple TV, and Flender wastes little time getting to the meat of the story: watching Conan get over his TV-breakup by cathartically throwing himself into the tour, showing his vulnerable, self-deprecating, and often cranky sides. Flender includes interviews conducted with O’Brien immediately following the Tonight debacle when his anger was still palpable, and his genuine disappointment and hurt show through. READ MORE