It's mid-season pilot time, and this year, the networks seem particularly obsessed with the lives of white girls in New York.
Don't Trust the B-- in Apartment 23 is a comedy about a girl in her mid-twenties who moves to New York and immediately loses her apartment, loses her job, and has to piece her life back together. Girls, on the other hand, is a comedy about a girl in her mid-twenties who lives New York, loses her unpaid internship and her parents' financial support, and has to try and piece her life back together. The labels are so similar that they could basically be the same show.
Luckily, they are completely different in execution, and, although they can both be criticised for presenting the whitest version of New York City since Friends and How I Met Your Mother, they're also both pretty exciting, since they follow New Girl's example of a modern comedy show with a female lead that isn't all about romance.
Don't Trust the B-- in Apartment 23 an irreverent, light-hearted show about a sweet, naive small-town girl and her near-sociopathic new roommate. Realism is not high on the show's agenda. Chloe, the titular "B-- in Apartment 23," revels in setting up Machiavellian schemes to manipulate people and scam them out of their money, including a scam to take non-refundable deposits from potential roommates and then drive them away with her unbearable behaviour. Her latest victim, June, is a small town girl who just moved to the city and found out that her Wall Street company has just been shut down for corruption, leaving her without a job, a home, or any prospects at all. After an initial battle of wills, she ends up with a grudging respect/twisted sort of friendship with Chloe, and they continue to be roommates. Other characters include the pervert next door, the neighbor who hates/fangirls Chloe, and James Van Der Beek (played by James Van Der Beek), Chloe's actor friend who wishes everyone would just get over Dawson's Creek already.
The show is weird and wacky and twisted, and clearly not meant to be taken seriously. The characters seem somewhat one-dimensional (Chloe is irredeemably horrible, June is the small-town good girl and James is obviously a caricature of himself), but there's something charming about the whole thing. Either the characters will get some development as the show moves along, or the whole thing will fall apart, but if you enjoy New Girl or How I Met Your Mother, it's definitely worth a look.
Girls, on the other hand, is a bleak, bleak comedy. Although it has its parodic elements, some ridiculous characters and a few laughs built in, it also presents an incredibly depressing view of life. Hannah is an aspiring writer who graduated from college two years ago, and is currently financially supported by her parents so she can work at an unpaid internship in New York. Deciding enough is enough, Hannah's parents cut her off, and when she asks for a paid position at her internship, she gets fired, because there are hundreds of other girls who would be willing to do the work for free. Although some points of the show were clearly meant to mock feelings of entitlement and the whole supported "artsy" lifestyle, and Hannah isn't exactly completely likeable, the show also presents the depressing reality that it is almost impossible to get a job in a creative field (like publishing) in New York, because everyone just uses free interns instead. If you're not rich and parent-supported, you're basically screwed. As a writer who is struggling with publishing career plans because I couldn't afford to live and work in New York while unpaid, it hits a little close to home.
Unlike the cheery colours and twisted sense of fun in Don't Trust the B-- in Apartment 23, everything about Girls seems dedicated to the idea that post-college life sucks. Not knowing where your life is going sucks. Clinging to relationships with people who don't really care about you because you don't want to be alone sucks. And the whole wannabe hipster thing half of the characters have going on really sucks. The show is billed as a comedy, but it's only comedic in the sense that the British version of The Office was comedic: you don't laugh so much as wince. It's hard to feel sympathy for most of the characters, but the world it presents still hits you in the gut with its dose of helplessness.
Girls is not a comedy to watch for good laughs or a bit of escapism, but it does provide somewhat relatable yet dislikable female characters, and it tells a story that presents a slightly skewed perspective on reality for many college graduates. Only the pilot has aired so far, but it's worth half an hour of your time.