New York City has long played host to a number of influential and memorable television shows about life in the big city — from "Sex and the City" to "Friends" and "Seinfeld" — and Lena Dunham’s occasionally controversial HBO series "Girls" has joined the tradition while standing out on its own authentic merits, experts say.
A part of the cultural conversation before it even hit the airwaves, Dunham’s show ushered in a new era of NYC-centric coming-of-age dramedies when it premiered back in 2012. As it enters its third season, the impact of "Girls" is more pervasive than ever.
Robert Thompson, a television and pop culture professor at Syracuse University, sees the show as "a third generation portrayal of single people in New York," following the path laid out by "Friends" and "Sex and the City." "Girls" stands out, he says, because of its attempts at realism.
"While ‘Sex and the City’ was, ‘Wow, how glamorous Manhattan is,’ ‘Girls’ has this sense of, ‘Wow, how familiar these things look to me,’" Thompson says.
The city is a source of inspiration and energy according to executive producer Jenni Konner, who has penned five episodes. "I just grew up loving movies about New York, so to be able to actually [make] visual art about New York is the greatest, most exciting thing for any artist."
Christopher Rosen, senior editor at Huffington Post Entertainment, lauds the show’s non-glossy depiction of the city as a high point, saying, "The one thing I appreciate about ‘Girls,’ as a New Yorker, is that it’s actually filmed in New York. When you watch ‘Girls,’ the energy … of the city comes through."
The show nails a deeper aspect of life in a difficult city, Thompson says, showing that New York is "the place to make all this stuff happen, but for most of your life, you’re waiting for it to happen. … For many, they never get there."
But in the end, amid its realistic evocation of frustrations and insecurities, Dunham’s work is a love letter to the city.
"’Girls’ makes the convincing argument that it’s better to be unstable, unhappy and not yet arrived in wherever you want to be in New York, than it is to be anywhere else in the country," Thompson says.