HBO’s edgy comedy is driven by Lena Dunham’s unique creative voice
Lena Dunham’s Girls is a critical darling for HBO, having won both Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The life-driven comedy also happens to be polarizing in some regards. It’s from a uniquely female perspective that gives voice to a generation of young women struggling through their twenties into adulthood. Produced in conjunction with Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner, Girls is firmly the product of Lena Dunham’s singularly intelligent approach. This third season continues that tradition of whip-smart writing and characters that seem like real people.
Girls continues to focus on Hannah (Lena Dunham) and the misadventures of her friends. The core of the series is the deep bond between its female leads, especially Hannah and her best friend, Marnie (Allison Williams). Returning viewers will notice season three sees the loss of Marnie’s boyfriend, Charlie. She develops an unusual relationship with Ray as a replacement. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) begins the season trapped in some kind of rehab program, where she meets a much older man in Jasper. Nearing graduation, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) masterminds a plan to create a healthy balance between partying and her studies.
Hannah begins the season in a committed relationship with Adam (Adam Driver); the two are settling into a new understanding in Hannah’s apartment. Hannah is also working on rehabilitating her writing career and concentrating on delivering her eBook to her eccentric publisher. Adam’s wacky sister intrudes on the new relationship, fleshing out his character in the process. As the male lead on a show aimed at women, he tends to get less attention in characterization. If you have seen the prior seasons, none of the stranger developments in season three will come as much of a shock.
Guests this season include Richard E. Grant (Doctor Who) as Jessa’s rehab friend Jasper; Rita Wilson (The Good Wife) as Marnie’s mom Evie; John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) as Hannah’s editor/publisher David; Gaby Hoffmann (You Can Count on Me) as Adam’s sister Caroline.
Over the twelve episodes, the volatile bonds between these twenty-something women are tested again and again. It’s a combustible mix used for both pathos and humor. Marnie continues to live down a fake music video she did for a former boyfriend that remains on YouTube. The friends’ loves, lives and relationships drive the drama, all as a backdrop for the sharp comedic writing that hangs a little dryly at times. Having become almost its signature trait for casual viewers, Girls continues to include a fairly heavy amount of casual nudity, especially the very brave moments from Lena Dunham that tend to tear down the stereotypes of Hollywood’s nude scenes.
While continuity is not a huge requirement to enjoying season three of Girls as comedy, its melodrama is better appreciated having seen the first two seasons. This is probably a series that should be watched from its beginning, though season three continues its trademark brand of down-to-earth, existential comedy between these characters. Having recently been announced that Girls has been renewed for a season five, it is never too late to get caught up with Hannah’s life.
HBO has always been one of the better labels when producing quality Blu-rays. This third season set continues that tradition. Girls is presented in its native broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution. Encoded in AVC at fine parameters, the twelve episodes are split over two BD-50s. The show’s digital cinematography has always had a mannered, slightly muted approach that lacks the vitality of more vibrant Hi-Def material. That is not to say this video lacks clarity – the razor-sharp definition produces solid detail.
The transfer is technically perfect, likely derived from the raw digital footage without extraneous processing. Since there are no flashy special effects in Girls, there is a naturalistic feel to the digital production that vaguely resembles film. What it does not have is the hottest contrast, the entire palette is mildly limited in its deep color saturation. That doesn’t seriously affect flesh-tones or black levels, though shadow delineation is weaker than expected.
The target demo for Girls is probably not looking for videophile demo material, though it refrains from artificially softening its final presentation. Expect quality digital cinematography with high production values, but a clear step behind flashier material on Blu-ray.
Girls isn’t really much more than a smart comedy based on witty dialogue. Its lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack uses the surround channels for little more than ambient support. Everything is delivered in a crisp, clean audio presentation, but no one will get excited by its front-heavy sound. The music is placed well in the mix, especially integrated with dialogue levels. Like almost all new shows, the recording fidelity is perfect. Expect a minimal, nuanced score that doesn’t overly intrude in the show.
HBO provides a French dub in 5.1 DTS and a Spanish dub in 2.0 DTS. Optional subtitles in white include: English SDH, French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish.
Collectors will be a bit peeved with HBO’s change in packaging from prior seasons. The first two seasons came in the larger DigiPack format. HBO has switched this season to a normal Amaray case, albeit with a slipcover. A digital copy that can be redeemed in HDX quality for UltraViolet, iTunes and Google Play selections is included.
HBO tends to treat their award winners with some care on home video, this set receives a fairly extensive batch of special features for the third season of a show. Producer, writer, director and actor Lena Dunham appears all over these special features, she is the driving force behind Girls.
Deleted & Extended Scenes (43:15 in HD; 18:44 in HD) – The deleted material got split over two discs, covering most of the episodes in chronological order. This is a wealth of unseen footage, though most scenes do not run particularly long. There is some interesting stuff to be seen, it probably makes sense to watch after the you have seen the entire season.
Inside The Episodes (18:02 in HD; 18:46 in HD) – Each episode has a short segment attached featuring Lena Dunham. She breaks down the episode’s critical moments and themes in each one, though too much plot was recounted considering their brevity. Dunham does provide fairly cogent background on what they intended with each episode and where they came up with these moments.
Lutheran Healthcare Honors Lena (04:47 in HD) – A hospital in Brooklyn celebrates the help Lena Dunham provided for them, especially the show’s handling of mental health issues.
Audio Commentaries (Episodes 2, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12) – This is a staggering amount of commentaries in this day and age. Other than Lena Dunham herself, Episode 7’s commentary is the only one to feature cast members: Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna), Jemima Kirke (Jessa) and Andrew Rannells (Elijah). The other commentaries most often feature Lena Dunham or other producers. I think fans will enjoy most of them, I got a much better grasp on the intended goals of this season after hearing them. Producer Judd Apatow shows up for one as well.
Gag Reel Part 1 (07:46 in HD) and Gag Reel Part 2 (06:35 in HD) – Everyone loves seeing highly-paid actors flubbing their lines and making mistakes on camera.
The Making of Girls (18:36 in HD) – A fairly extensive look behind the scenes, answering questions everyone wants to know about this production. Season three was thrown into chaos when Marnie’s boyfriend from season two, Charlie, left the show weeks before production began. There is some added on-set footage, a table read, a few bits of unaired scenes, and the usual stuff that fill these featurettes.
Marnie Michaels “What I Am” music video (02:40 in HD) – The funny YouTube video that was a recurring element in Marnie’s life this season.
Marnie & Desi “Bet On Me” musical performance (02:28 in HD)
Lil Frexx “Dancin’ On His D” (01:47 in HD) – One of the funnier moments on this entire set, a rapping performance that has to be seen to be believed.
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