Girls: The Complete Second Season (US - BD RA)
Jonathan keeps it mostly technical for this extras-loaded HBO season...
Due to my busy day schedule I haven't had much time to sit and come up with a satisfactory take on why I like the show Girls, so I'm going to keep this review mostly technical. I feel like I contradict myself when I talk about Girls with my friends. On one hand, I have a difficult time finding the characters on the show very likable. It could just be that I don't find 20-something artist types living in New York easy to identify with. On the other, I appreciate that the characters are unusually complex for a show of this type. Even when I can't get into the characters, Girls still manages to be a witty and thoughtful look at young adults making the bumpy transition into adulthood. Lena Dunham is the real deal and I think her best work still lies ahead of her. If you haven't given the show a chance yet, I can only recommend that you give it at least three episodes into Season 1. I found the pilot a little repellent but by the time I got three episodes in it really clicked with me.
If you watch a lot of HBO shows on Blu-ray, you've likely come to expect a high standard in terms of video quality. I'm happy to report that the second season of Girls is no exception. The show is shot on the Arri Alexa which is top of the line. It has all the clarity of high definition digital content but still maintains some film-like personality. One thing you may immediately notice is that the show often feels dimly lit. It makes the black levels feel a tad crushing, but this is how the show actually is and not a trait of the Blu-ray transfer. It's a refreshing look in a sea of light dramas and comedies that have that extra warmth and brightness over the image. Sometimes it even resembles the look of a Fincher film. The show has a pretty conservative visual style. It is well shot, but there is nothing particularly snazzy about it. The style fits the content well, that means there won't be a lot of bright vivid colors to make your fancy television pop. I did notice some very small instance of compression artefacts. They took place during static camera shots in large patches of the same dark color, which is where compression likes to strike first. It's hardly noticeable and not frequent enough to be a real issue. It is amazing that it doesn't happen more often with all of the extra content crammed onto these discs.
I sure do feel like I review a lot of small dramas with simple sound design. Girls is one of those shows that is totally focused on people. As I said in the video section, the direction is conservative, and that goes for the sound design as well. The important stuff is handled well here: dialogue is clear and very easy to understand. This has all the clarity you'd expect from a modern show on Blu-ray, but there really isn't anything fancy going on here. There are some subtle ambient noises that occupy the side and rear channels, but there isn't anything here that will make you stop and marvel. That's perfectly fine. The audio comes alive most for the music in the show. There's an enjoyable club montage set to Icona Pop's "I Love It" that will give your LFE channel something to do. Most of the music is softer and serves as lovely background music to a scene.
There are tons of features on this Blu-ray set. The first are the Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 56:17). There are scenes for every episode of the season except for episode 7, and all of these deleted/extended segments are worth your time. All of the footage is true to the characters are they are written on the show, so if you can't enough Girls then here is nearly an hour (or about two episodes worth) of extra footage. Have at it. On the first disc there is an Episode 5 Table Read (HD, 23:08). This is exactly what it sounds like. If you have any desire to watch the cast read through the script of that episode, here's your chance. Next up is Charlie Rose: Lena Dunham (HD, 28:55). If you've ever seen Dunham in an interview before, you know she is very well-spoken. She talks passionately about what inspired her to make the show and she gives her own take on the characters of the show. Charlie Rose doesn't ask the most probing questions, but Dunham finds lengthy and informative answers.
Still on the first disc, the next extra is The New Yorker Festival 2012: Emily Nussbaum Interviews Lena Dunham (SD, 01:25:53). This is a super long interview. None of it is edited or cut up, it is just a raw representation of the interview as it was at the New Yorker Festival. This has more of the same kind of material that was in the Charlie Rose interview, but it feels a lot more casual. Dunham talks more about her influences and recounts personal stories like meeting Louis CK. It feels way too long though and I felt my interest waning well before the halfway mark. There is an Inside the Episode (HD, ~3:00-4:00) featurette for all ten episodes. Each of these featurettes takes a quick look at the episode while Lena Dunham shares some thoughts on it. These are short and sweet and well worth checking out after each episode if you're going through the season for the first time.
On the second disc is a featurette called Guys on Girls (HD, 18:21). This is a neat round table discussion between Lena Dunham and the four lead male characters on the show: Adam Driver (Adam Sackler), Alex Karpovsky (Ray Ploshansky), Christopher Abbott (Charlie Dattolo), and Andrew Rannells (Elijah Krantz). Dunham heads the discussion but each of them gets plenty of time to talk about their characters and give their own take on it. Next up is The Making of Girls (HD, 15:04). I really enjoyed this 'making of' because it actually informs you about how the show is made. You get to see the table readings, the collaborate process between writers, and really get a good sense of how the show goes from the writing stage to the final product. This isn't your usual 'making of' that plays like an extended advertisement. It's a real look at the creative process behind the show, and I found it cool and insightful.
On the second disc there are also two Gag Reels (HD, 05:43 and 04:20). There isn't much here to separate these gag reels from any other show/movie, but if you enjoy the shows cast then its fun to watch them stumble over their lines and mess around with one another. Next up there are three music performances that were used in the show. The first is Judy Collins "Song For Judith (Open the Door)" (HD, 03:58), followed by Judy Collins "Someday Soon" (HD, 03:21), and then finally there is a delightful performance of The Swell Season (with Special Guest Daniel Johnston) "Life in Vain" - From Austin City Limits, 2008 (HD, 04:37). In addition to all of these featurettes there are seven episode-long commentary tracks. Here is a listing of each commentary track:
Episode 1 - Allison Williams and Andrew Rannells
Episode 3 - Director Jesse Peretz
Episode 4 - Zosia Mamet, Alex Karpovsky, and Director Jesse Peretz
Episode 5 - Director Richard Shepard
Episode 7 - Director Richard Shepard
Episode 9 - Lena Dunham, Executive Producer Jenni Konner
Episode 10 - Lena Dunham, Executive Producer Judd Apatow
Girls has its share of flaws and it definitely isn't for everyone, but there's nothing quite like it on television right now. Lena Dunham is a talent worth getting to know. Aside from being a skilled actress and director, she knows how to infuse (most of) her written characters with complex personalities that stand out in the genre, even if they aren't always easy to like. Give it a chance if you haven't already, and don't let the title fool you into thinking it's not for you. If you're a fan of Girls, there is no reason not to get this Blu-ray set. With an asking price of around $25, a solid AV presentation, and a bevy of worthwhile extras, you have no excuse.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Release Date: 13th August 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS Digital Surround French 5.1, DTS Digital Surround Spanish 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Deleted & Extended Scenes, Audio Commentaries, Episode 5 Table Read, Gag Reel, Charlie Rose Interview with Lena Dunham, Guys on Girls, Inside the Episodes, Judy Collins "Song for Judith (Open the Door)" & "Someday Soon" Extended Scenes, The New Yorker Festival 2012: Emily Nussbaum Interviews Lena Dunham, The Swell Season (with special guest Daniel Johnston) - "Life in Vain" - Austin City Limits 2008
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 300 minutes
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