This week, HBO's "Girls" was renewed for a third season, on the heels of Lena Dunham's Golden Globes win. Also this week, internet sleuths discovered a casting call on Craigslist for a reality show version of "Girls."
Craigslist evidence reads as follows:
Ever feel like life in the big frantic city is just too much? Are you a twenty-something young woman seeking fame, fortune, love or even a hookup with potential? How do you get from here to there when you can't even get a seat on the L train! Come to a casting call with our Emmy-winning production company and tell us your dreams and woes, your highs and lows, your tales of *** in the city and the outrageous opportunities that have come your way. Is your circle of friends bound together by not just the parties, fights, and brunches but frequent bouts of commiserating over your struggles? It isn't easy taking the road less travelled, but making it as a writer, designer, entrepreneur, actress/model or glorified dog walker never is!
The real life television show we are making follows the trials and tribulations of an ensemble of wise-beyond-their-years young ladies. We are with you living the dream in hipster Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Only well educated and cultured extroverts need apply. Are you thinking about that show--"Girls?" Well we didn't say it but. . ..now that you mention it.
It should be noted that the production company reminds web surfers that it is "Emmy winning," but does not disclose its name.
Now, let's reflect for about fifteen seconds and consider the reality TV landscape that has emerged over the last several years. MTV's "Laguna Beach" capitalized on the success of Fox's "The OC." Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise piggy-backed off the success of ABC's "Desperate Housewives." Spin-offs upon spin-offs emerged, and reality TV fans in search of sudsy docuseries have been greeted each year by casts of real-life characters that are even more outrageous than their scripted counterparts.
Given the success of this scripted-to-unscripted transition with past shows, a "Girls" reality show pitch seemed inevitable. But wait a tick -- didn't we have "Gallery Girls," "The City," "The Hills," and now, to a certain extent, "Washington Heights"?
Bravo's "Gallery Girls" is mostly hate-watched and follows a group of twenty-something gals working in the Gotham art scene. "The City" was a spin-off of a spin-off of a show based on a scripted show (phew!), and followed women living in New York City. Neither were that successful, and most of the cast was disliked by the viewing public. "Washington Heights" isn't a breakout hit either, and many on social media are bored by the featured players. Sure, folks tuned in to "The Hills," but not because they truly liked and related to the cast. Mostly, "The Hills" transformed its featured SoCal cast into people that the public loved to loathe. (Heidi and Spencer, anyone?)
"Girls" is different. The magic behind the HBO dramedy is its raw quality. To think that you can capture that quality in a glossy, editorialized docuseries is almost as naive as 98% of the things Hannah Horvath does. (Sex scenes on "Girls" would translate into softcore porn in reality TV, etc. etc. etc.) "Girls" goes where a reality show cannot, and that's what makes it so enticing -- it's there for awkward sexual encounters, it's there during nasty breakups and drug use and illegal parties and abortions and STDs and just about every questionable bit of behavior that can define being in your early twenties.
But, could you imagine if Hannah, Shoshanna or her friends were real people? They would be lambasted across social media every week. ("Hannah drew her eyebrows on like that?! Who DOES THAT?! She's an idiot" would read some tweets.) Yet, as fictional characters, young femme viewers relish in their relatable flaws and missteps. The fictional distance provides comfort and the ability to look past the scripted flaws and in towards the character cores that feel like a viewer's own. The main characters on "Girls" are funny and charming in their imperfections, instead of stuck up, naive and sheltered as real life folk. Often, it is only in the scripted realm that viewers can drop their walls and truly relate with someone on TV, instead of merely watching and judging as most do with reality programming.
(Similarly, if the women of "Sex and the City" were on a reality show, backlash would probably be remarkable re: Charlotte's prissiness, Carrie's inability to maintain a healthy relationship, and Samantha's...Samantha-ness.)
I'm sure the shingle is being bombarded with bios and photos of reality star hopefuls. But to try to mimic the essence of a generational HBO hit by simply casting extroverted girls in NYC misses what makes "Girls" so special in the first place.
Some things, as it turns out, may be better left scripted.