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The Boys of ‘Girls’

'Girls' ' Alex Karpovsky and Christopher Abbott

In all of the chatter about HBO’s Girls — Is it racist? Are they annoying? — there hasn’t been all that much discussion about the half of the cast not referenced in the title. This might be because they all kind of suck, except for maybe Hannah’s dad (and he has his own problems). Hannah and her cohorts’ baggage would not fit comfortably in the overhead compartment, and they have demonstrated almost dazzlingly crap taste in men. Rarely has a sitcom assembled such a depressingly spot-on collection of male stereotypes.

This is, of course, as it should be. The girls of Girls may serve as a reminder to older viewers that there is little romantic about life as it is being lived, but the boys of Girls remind you that if anything else, man alive, people are bad at sex when they are in their 20s (and after 50, they gotta be careful in the shower). Here is a quick survey of this semi-pathetic lot. We’re not sure whom to root for, but probably Charlie. Or maybe Ray. Possibly Adam. It’s like choosing between broken bicycles.

Role: Hannah’s not-boyfriend-turned-boyfriend
Played by: Adam Driver
Type: The Bad Boy
Pros: Sadly, he probably understands certain things about Hannah better than she does (or at least that’s the implication). They seem to have terrific sex. And, as Jessa noted last Sunday, “I love a man who only hangs out with dykes.”
Cons: A grandmaster headfucker. A freak in the sack who’s into kinda bent (yet inadvertently hysterical) role-play.
If Charlie’s sensitivity is a stage men go through (more on that below), Adam is a stage women go through — boinking the bad guy. Adam is the proverbial Crappy (I’m-Not-Quite-Your) Boyfriend. He doesn’t return her calls, he treats her poorly, he never wears a shirt. But his ropey frame and Dunham’s potato shape (note: not a knock) quietly subvert the hot-girl-with-funny looking-guy sitcom cliché, so it’s a weird triumph, one supposes, that Hannah eventually gets him to decide that they are actually dating — although this happens after some righteous yelling at her that feeds straight into their weird S&M dynamic.

Tad Horvath
Role: Hannah’s dad
Played by: Peter Scolari
Type: The Doting Dad
Pros: Seems like a genuinely nice man who adores his only child. Does a wicked Woody Allen impression.
Cons: Ear stud, can’t fuck in the shower anymore, probably spoiled Hannah rotten
Casting Scolari, a sitcom savant, was just brilliant. I like to think of Hannah as the child Peter Scolari’s hysterically insufferable Newhart yuppie Michael Harris had with his on-screen girlfriend Stephanie (Julia Duffy), subsequently adopted by his new wife, the extremely brave and totally badass Becky Ann Baker. (Say what you will about Girls in general, but no television show has EVER depicted sex so honestly.)

Role: Marnie’s ex-boyfriend
Played by: Christopher Abbott
Type: The Pushover
Pros: A really swell dude. Can apparently pick up a (much more energetic) new girlfriend two weeks after getting booted.
Cons: A really swell dude, so much so that Marnie finds him mawkish and repulsive.
Charlie isn’t as much a character as a stage that a lot of men go through — the entirely too-sensitive-in-bed stage. During SXSW, when the first three episodes of Girls screened at the Paramount Theater, you could HEAR the number of men slumping in their seats when Charlie was doing quite a bad job of satisfying Marnie. Also, he’s in a shitty band. Also, he is the sort who shaves his head without warning his girlfriend (as someone who once did this, let me tell you, Marnie’s reaction was SPOT ON).

Role: Charlie’s best friend
Played by: Alex Karpovsky
Type: The Jerk
Pros: The only one of the guys who ever calls any of the gals on their crap or seems to have a real job. Smacks a mean bongo. Seems genuinely interested in protecting Charlie’s feelings. Completely correct about bringing a baby to a warehouse party.
Cons: Seems like too much of an asshole sometimes, and like he’s trying to be ethnically specific in his obnoxiousness.
Reading Hannah’s diary was really uncool, but then again, having something as sitcom conventional as a “reading the diary” plot was a little low for this show. (However, placing it on the stage after the show was genius.) So it was faintly astonishing to see him display genuine, if panicked concern for Shoshanna. Nothing could make Ray more charming than having him get the shit beat out of him by a crack-addled 21-year-old and not really minding. My new favorite character.

Role: Hannah’s college boyfriend
Played by: Andrew Rannells
Type: The Gay Ex
Pros: Calls Hannah and Marnie on their b.s.
Cons: May have given Hannah HPV. Dated Hannah without telling her that he thought he was gay.
Elijah is the reverse of Willie Garson’s Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City. He is not a gal’s gay best friend; he is a gal’s gay boyfriend whom she lost her virginity to.

Booth Jonathan
Role: Hipster artist
Played by: Jorma Taccone
Type: The Rake
Pros: So brilliantly forward with Marnie she has to, uh, relieve herself in the ladies’ room.
Cons: A successful New York artist, so probably an arrogant womanizer.
A character whom we will supposedly see more of in the second season, Booth got to deliver one of the show’s greatest lines: “I want you to know, the first time I fuck you, I might scare you a little, because I’m a man, and I know how to do things.” Sleazy? Sure. A deft illustration of a thirtysomething’s perspective on twentysomething sex? Definitely.

Eric the pharmacist
Role: Guy Hannah hooks up with while visiting her parents
Played by: Lou Taylor Pucci
Type: Mr. Right-Now
Pros: A nice guy from Hannah’s hometown, discussion of whom made for a nice bonding moment between Hannah and her mother. Completely unafraid to use her mom’s vaginal dryness as an icebreaker.
Cons: Doesn’t live in New York, kind of intimidated by Hannah, a snooze in bed, and completely unafraid to use her mom’s vaginal dryness as an icebreaker.
Hannah slept with the seemingly asexual Eric last week. With his earnest demeanor and dislike of having his ass played with, he symbolized the Road Not Taken for our formerly Midwestern heroine. He was the sort of guy Hannah might end up with should she return home, but her post-coital chat with Adam made it clear that was not going to happen.

Jeff Lavoyt
Played by: James LeGros
Role: Jessa’s employer
Type: Cool Dad
Pros: Seems like a nice enough fellow, forgives Jess for losing the kids, provides pot.
Cons: Unemployed, way too fond of Jessa, brings a bottle of wine to a warehouse party
This poor dude is one seriously harsh riff on Generation X: Singles co-star LeGros is a sport for playing along. Jeff was hip once, still goes to see his friends’ bands at shows, and can’t be bothered to hit on age-appropriate women. He is that eternal mid-life cliché: The Guy Who Wants to Nail the Babysitter. If you are a dude and Pavement and Nirvana defined your life, you are holding your dome right now and rocking slowly back and forth as he cries on the shoulder of a 24-year-old.