TCA: ‘Girls’ gets fourth season, Dunham’s nudity a talking point

From left, actresses Lena Dunham and co-stars Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet and Allison Williams at the "Girls" panel discussion at the HBO portion of the Television Critics Assn. tour in Pasadena.
(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

HBO announced it has ordered a fourth season of its polarizing Lena Dunham comedy “Girls,” set to roll in spring 2015. Then seconds after the announcement, things got all Shosh.

During the show’s panel at the Television Critics Assn. press tour Thursday night in Pasadena, what unfolded was a whiplash-inducing goulash of talking points, among them: Dunham’s nudity, the show’s diversity problem, tales of “Golden Girls” binge-watching, and Walter White?

So we’ll stay out of your emotional way, and give you a sampling of what went down during the caucus, which featured creator and star Dunham, as well as executive producers Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner, and cast members Zosia Mamet, Jemima Kirke and Allison Williiams—and only a sampling, because a total account would amount to 17-plus pages:

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-- TV-MA. Things kicked off to a ruffled start when a reporter inquired about Dunham’s not-in-short-supply nudity on the show—“I don’t get the purpose of all of the nudity on the show, by [Dunham] particularly,” he started. “And I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you go, ‘Nobody complains about the nudity on “Game of Thrones,”’ but I get why they are doing it. They are doing it to be salacious and, you know, titillate people. And your character is often naked just at random times for no reason.”

To which Dunham responded: “It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think, and I totally get it. If you are not into me, that’s your problem…”

The exchange got muffled as executive producer Judd Apatow chimed in, asking the male reporter: “Do you have a girlfriend? Does she like you? … Let’s see how she likes you when you quote that with your question, and just write the whole question as you stated it.”

Things continued a bit from there, and boomeranged back later in the panel. You could read the reporter’s account of the experience here.

-- Dunham’s confused by the TV’s set of “sympathizing laws” when it relates to Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa--“It’s funny people say a lot, like, ‘How do we sympathize with them?’ And I’m, like, ‘You seem to like Walter White.’” Executive Producer Jenni Konner added Tony Soprano to the mix.

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--#ThumbRest. It’s no surprise that the comedy stirs discussion, particularly on social media. And sometimes a break is needed from the inundation of praise and denigration. Dunham said there was a brief Twitter sabbatical around September—at least between she and Apatow. Dunham lasted 14 hours. Apatow lasted a few weeks.

--Hey, what happened? Following a wave of criticism over its lack of diversity, Season 2 kicked off with two episodes featuring Donald Glover as a love interest for Dunham—which some felt was the wunderkind’s way of sticking the finger to the show’s detractors. Its monochromatic look continues to be a hot topic. Dunham offered this take on the matter:

“I think that, for us, the idea that we were trying to say “F you” to our critics would imply that we didn’t believe or understand, and the fact is, like I always tell people, yes, it’s uncomfortable when sort of negative attention is named at you, but I also felt like that’s such an important conversation that if we are going to be the instigator of that, I’m not going to be frustrated about it, because that’s a conversation that needs to happen in the world. We need to talk about diversifying the world of television, and we are trying to continue to do it in ways that are genuine, natural, intelligent…. I’ve learned so much in the past few years about, sort of, intersectionality, the way that feminism has underserved women of color. I really try to educate myself in those areas.... We never want to start story line that we are going to kind of let flitter off. So, now, we are finding ways to introduce people who are more lasting because we are ready to kind of open up the worlds of these girls.”

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--Jemima Kirke speaks. Kirke’s character Jessa goes on quite the journey this season. The first episode of the third season finds her in rehab. And her stint there results in quite the exchange with a fellow patient (which we won’t spoil! You’re welcome.) “I think she’s very just sexually damaged, yeah,” Kirke said. Dunham added: “It’s like her sexuality’s just like kind of a rushing river and it needs, like, sort of vessels to contain it.”

--Growing pains. Who will undergo the most character development in the forthcoming season? Konner reckons its recently dumped Ray and maybe Adam. “I think that [Ray] kind of transforms in a way. And I think that love opens up Adam, but I also think we took the time this season to really spend some good time with Adam and some good time with Ray, and I think people just become ... you understand them better when you know more about them.”


--Is Shosh binging on HGTV? Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) might as well submit her apartment to AirBnB with all its guest turnover. It’s probably why the style of the tight space is always in flux. This season, expect a new decorative wall, Dunham said. The bed in Shoshanna’s apartment also serves as the go-to napping bed for the actors during breaks in filming.

--Thank you for being a friend. Forget the “Sex and the City” comparisons. Which “Golden Girls” characters do the women of “Girls” liken themselves to?

“I think we can all agree that [Jessa is] Blanche.”… I think [Shoshanna] might be Sophia,” Dunham said. Then we got confused because somehow Allison Williams, who plays Marnie, was likened to Miranda (a “Sex and the City” character) by the person posing the question. OK? But it was settled that Dunham is Dorothy. Also, Apatow recently found comfort in binge-watching the classic sitcom.