The appropriate response to Girls, a television show about the beleaguered staff of an under-resourced Boston hospital that turns out in the end to have been the extended fantasy of an autistic boy staring at a snow globe, is to eat someone's face off. But today is the 33rd anniversary of the release of Get the Knack, and there's only two of these things left, so here's a recap.
The only take on Girls that matters is that of Mission of Burma's Clint Conley, who sang in 1980:
Maybe you're right
I shouldn't judge
What's wrong or right
This is too much
I'm not judging you, I'm judging me
"This is like the most SATC," says David Mamet's daughter. She's entering a glamorous book party, accompanied by Laurie Simmons' daughter, Brian Williams' daughter, and the Drummer from Bad Company's daughter. The party is for Tally Schiffren, a college classmate of Laurie Simmons' daughter. Her book, Leave Me Alone, is a memoir about the death of her boyfriend, who committed suicide by "crashing a vintage car while on percocet."
Laurie Simmons' daughter hates Tally Schiffren. "She's so lucky. You know, I can't look at this. She's passive aggressive, she's fake—she's not talented." There's an extended joke about Laurie Simmons' daughter being jealous of Tally for having a dead boyfriend, and hence something to write about. This is a callback of sorts to the saved-by-a-miscarriage unabortion episode, when Laurie Simmons' daughter wondered aloud to her gynecologist whether contracting HIV might be a good thing inasmuch as it provided a ready excuse for antisocial behavior. It's left unclear whether the jealousy is earnestly expressed within the context of the show—in which case the scene would constitute a satiric portrayal of Laurie Simmons' daughter's character's loathsome self-absorption—or intended as a straight portrayal of self-aware characters gently mocking their own callous tendency to view personal tragedy as cheap emotional grist. It doesn't really matter which it is, really, unless you are attempting to ascertain your precise location among Girls' undulating, layered sheets of ironic detachment. Which is inadvisable.
"Did you hear her on Fresh Air?" asks Brian Williams' daughter.
"The first part," answers Laurie Simmons' daughter. "I fell asleep." Here is an interview with Laurie Simmons' daughter, on Fresh Air. I only listened to the first part, too. Throw another layer of ironic distance on the fire.
Laurie Simmons' daughter sees Powell Goldman, her WASP/Jewish former writing teacher, at the party. He wears vests and tucks his necktie into his shirt. "I still remember that essay you wrote, the one about being grounded for wearing shorts," he tells her.
"I read your new novel, by the way. I loved it," she tells him. Just two writers in New York, talking writer talk.
"I know this probably seems like a really big deal," Powell says, "But Tally's a shitty writer."
"Thank you," Laurie Simmons' daughter says, wish fulfilled.
"You're a good writer," he says.
"Thank you," Laurie Simmons' daughter says, validated.
Powell invites Laurie Simmons' daughter to read the work at a private reading at Salmagundi Art Club, where New York writers hang out with each other.
Back at her apartment, Laurie Simmons' daughter comes to a realization: She's not angry at Tally. She's angry at herself for not doing anything worth writing about.
"Did I ever tell you," she laments to Brian Williams' daughter, "that I went to the stupidest stupidest summer camp?"
"No," says Brian Williams' daughter.
"Well I did. We never put on shows." Stupid camp.
In comes the angry woodworking boyfriend, relegated for the purposes of this episode to comic relief. He goes to the refrigerator, retrieves a jar of mayonnaise, and heads for the bathroom. "OK," he tells Laurie Simmons' daughter and Brian Williams' daughter. "Don't come in for like 10 minutes." OMG LOL WHAT IS HE GOING TO DO WITH THAT MAYONNAISE IN THE BATHROOM? HE SO CRAZY!
Laurie Simmons' daughter tells Brian Williams' daughter that she intends to read an essay she wrote about a man she was dating who turned out to be a hoarder. Brian Williams' daughter says that essay is a little "whiny."
"You could be more supportive," says Laurie Simmons' daughter.
"Are you kidding?" Brian Williams' daughter replies. "I support you literally." Laurie Simmons' daughter tells her that she is taking a trial job at "Grumpy" to start paying her back. "Grumpy" is what kids these days call Cafe Grumpy, a small chain of coffee shops frequented by America's Coolest New Yorkers. Laurie Simmons' daughter icily thanks Brian Williams' daughter for all her financial help. Brian Williams' daughter says, "you're welcome," icily. Trouble is foreshadowed.
Meanwhile for no reason David Mamet's daughter tells the Drummer from Bad Company's daughter that she has met someone online via a pay dating service his name is Bryce and he's Jewish so here's a shout-out to all you Jews named Bryce.
Laurie Simmons' daughter invites the angry woodworking boyfriend to the reading. He says no. "Sorry kid, readings are bullshit. I've never been to a reading where I didn't want to strangle the fucking person reading.... Plus everyone's drunk and acting like what they have to say is still valid."
The grown-up lady whose children the Drummer from Bad Company's daughter used to look after—and who fired the Drummer from Bad Company's daughter after her husband tried to fuck her—comes to visit the Drummer from Bad Company's daughter. "I need you and my girls need you," she says. "I want you to come back." Old people do not think this way. Maybe a member of the iPhone generation would seek to retain the employment of an attractive young woman whom your husband had already tried to fuck. Old people aren't that stupid.
The Drummer from Bad Company's daughter says no. The old lady tells her that she needs to stop getting into situations where older men and/or bosses try to fuck her, a classic message of feminism. "You're doing it to distract yourself from the person you're meant to be," she says. "[That person] might be serious about something, or someone. And she might be a lot happier than you are." As long as she's not fucking my husband.
Laurie Simmons' daughter shows up to "Grumpy" a.k.a. Cafe Grumpy wearing a white dress. Ray, the manager, sends her home to change. "Forget all the BBC you watch at home with your cats and come back with an appropriate outfit," he says. "Stop by American Apparel if you have to."
Laurie Simmons' daughter tells Ray that she has to leave early on her first day to attend her reading. He asks what her poem will be about.
"It's not a poem," she says. "It's an essay, and it's about me."
"Oooh shocker," he says. He tells her to start writing about things other than herself. Acid rain. Death. If anyone ever told Laurie Simmons' daughter to make television shows about things other than herself, she didn't listen. Then she proceeded to turn those conversations into a television show about herself. THROW ON ANOTHER LAYER OF IRONIC DETACHMENT KIDS. The house always wins.
Like all writerly New York events, the reading is in a an ancient book-lined room with comfy chairs and a podium. Laurie Simmons' daughter changes her mind about what personal essay to read. She chooses something she wrote on the subway. It doesn't go over. Prescott Leibowitz tells her she should have read about the hoarder. How embarrassing.
Laurie Simmons' daughter goes home. She sees that Brian Williams' daughter has purchased a copy of Tally Schiffren's book. Why would she do that?
"She's a really good writer," says Brian Williams' daughter. "She captures something really true about the uncertainty of being our age. I cried twice." Wheels within wheels, people.
Brian Williams' daughter is busy gathering up her old clothes VERY METAPHORICALLY. "Just throwing out some old clothing I've been wanting to get rid of for a long time," she says.
Then they just start yelling at each other about who's the better friend. I'm a good friend, says one. No, you're not—I'm a good friend, says the other. We always talk about your problems, says one. No, we always talk about your problems, says the other. You're crazy, says one. No you're crazy, says the other.
"You've been crazy since middle school when you had to masturbate eight times a night to stave off diseases of the mind and body," Brian Williams' daughter says. WOW THAT'S CRAZY HUH.
"You judge everyone, and yet you ask them not to judge you," she says to Laurie Simmons' daughter.
"That is because no one could ever hate me as much as I hate myself," says Laurie Simmons' daughter. The television show Girls is apparently an effort to locate such a person.
"I was looking at Tally Schiffren the other night," Laurie Simmons' daughter says, "and thinking you probably wish she was your best friend. It's pretty transparent. So you could tell everyone to tune in and hear your best friend on Fresh Air." Somewhere, a nation of 24-to-28-year-old girls who had not yet made their debut on Fresh Air rejoiced that HBO provided a platform to Laurie Simmons' daughter to document the "uncertainty" of being their age, prior to meeting Terry Gross for the first time, which Laurie Simmons' daughter did one month ago. Skrillex.
Watch this space for next week's recap of Girls.
Image by Jim Cooke