I could try to hide it, dodge around it, or research the hell out of it to sound like I know it, but I have to say this first: I haven’t seen HBO’s GIRLS. At all. Not one second. Therefore, I can say this next statement with utmost confidence: you don’t need to have seen GIRLS to enjoy the saucy and ruthless parody that is L.A. Girls.
L.A. Girls is a web series brought to us by Tiffany Ariany and Matt Blessing. Blessing also directed and is credited as executive producer, whereas Ariany (best known for her work in the award winning web series, Squaresville) stars alongside Kylie Sparks (Ariany’s co-star in Squaresville, along with a long list of other acting credits). The remainder of the eponymous ‘girls’ consist of Rya Meyers (Pretty Little Liars) and Victoria Bullock as Jessa. The series comes in 5 short sharp bursts of parody as the characters from the New York based original are lifted, exaggerated, and plonked into Los Angeles; a location where vapid self-obsession arguably has a faux-spiritual home.
I previewed L.A. Girls last month and at the time I said that we were likely to detest these bloated and warped characters (in a good way). When it comes to Hannah I was right on the money. Sparks, as Hannah, is a writhing ball of cringe-worthy narcissism; the character is hardly written to evoke any sympathy from an audience. Hannah has been trying to ‘make it’ as an actress in L.A. on her parents’ dime, but when they softly inform her that she is going to be financially cut off there follows such a petulant hissy fit that even the most forgiving viewer is going to be hard pressed to wish her well, which makes the enjoyment of her whiney suffering all the more fun.
Come Hannah’s painful audition in episode 4, where she forgoes the script for a self-penned monologue about the corrupting power of food, I found myself writhing in my seat and shouting abuse at the screen. It’s a fantastic comic performance from Sparks who deftly twists every drop of self-righteous delusion from the script.
Ariany is superb as the ‘totes amazeballs’ speaking Soshana. Her heavily abbreviated and slang-laden speech, coupled with her face slapping levels of stupidity, make her every scene sing out as a shining example of all that is woeful about L.A. Cleverly, Soshana is well-meaning, friendly, and non-bitchy, which acts well as a counterpoint to Hannah’s slap-ability. Whether it was doggedly trying to plough through the gibberish she was speaking, laughing at her peeling off a plethora of class-A one liners via classic ‘misinterpretation’ comedy, or her utter conviction that her innate understanding of Judaism meant she was exempt from actually adhering to anything Jewish; I found that the highlights of L.A. Girls invariably involved a scene with Soshana.
As to the other characters; they were rather nebulous. Marnie acts as a stock ‘sensible’ character but unfortunately this often meant existing purely as a straight face to accentuate the madness of Hannah and Soshana. Marnie was granted little room to develop her own character beyond an overly intense boyfriend character who appeared for one scene in episode one (enjoying wearing her night-clothes rather too much) and one scene in the finale (rolling out from his hiding place of two weeks to declare that Marnie must be in love with Hannah). Jessa’s storyline revolves around smugly adopting a South African child (who only speaks in subtitled hoots and tongue clicks), only to lose him later and wind up drunk in a playground bemoaning her loss. However, like Marnie, she suffers from being underused and, unlike Marnie, she suffers further from having very little interaction with the main cast, making her plot seem like a completely separate entity.
The tone of L.A. Girls is deliciously spicy. Those who like a fair dose of the kind of sexual humour that doesn’t simply revolve around naming body parts will enjoy this web series. Hannah’s boyfriend (who seems to be disgusted with himself for even sleeping with her in the first place) has some great dialogue in defence of his job: an Adult Film Extra. He defensively complains that it’s an under-appreciated art, and later records a quick video message from the set of Jurassic Fuck Park. Even though I haven’t seen any episodes of the HBO series even I know that the original GIRLS is well-known for sexual frankness, something that L.A. Girls clearly delights in poking fun at with gleeful rudeness.
L.A. Girls only ran for 5 episodes with each episode clocking in just under 5 minutes. This means that what recurring plot there is suffers from having very little time to breathe. The most adhered to plot line involves Hannah contracting rabies and trying to figure out where she could have gotten the disease from (cue a fantastic scene where she confronts an attractive and successful ex-boyfriend who is having a fabulous time being gay). This thread pushes Hannah on through episode 3, only to be abruptly dropped and not referred to again afterwards. Similarly, Jessa’s adoption storyline peters out to nowhere. The child is lost and that’s the end of that. With just a few more episodes there could have been some nice structured stories to tell with these characters, in turn allowing adequate room for more of the comic performances that are already done with such aplomb.
It’s a shame that brevity knocks down a potentially fully fledged show into something that skirts around greatness. It has flashes of brilliance, but lacks the time needed to keep that momentum going throughout. There is no denying that L.A. Girls is packed with hilarious moments and as a series of skits it works very well. The quality of the gags is high with a nice level of character believability threaded in (like Hannah taking it as a compliment when told she looks like a prostitute: ‘You think I’m pretty enough to be a hooker?’). Sparks and Ariany sparkle thanks to the great comic talent they possess and plenty of script room to mug the camera. I do cross my fingers for a second series because I feel that with a finer scripted balance of screen time we could grow to love / hate this ensemble equally, and with passion.
L.A. Girls: Episode One – Judiasm, Nepotism and Broken Dreams