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‘Girls’ Better Than Ever; Fine ‘Enlightened’: TV Review

'Girls'
Lena Dunham with Jemima Kirke in "Girls." Dunham is also the creator of the show. Photographer: Jessica Miglio/HBO via Bloomberg

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- “You’re my main hang” proves to be too little, too late for Hannah, the heartbeat of Lena Dunham’s extraordinary “Girls” on HBO, when she finally hears those words from her moody maybe-boyfriend this season.

Hannah, like “Girls” itself, has moved on.

The second season of Dunham’s comic drama, which chronicles four young women negotiating adulthood, love and Brooklyn, arrives with considerable expectations.

Season One was a critical favorite that made instant celebrities of its young cast, especially Dunham, the show’s creator, chief writer and director, not to mention star.

Based on the four half-hour episodes available for review, she’s done it again.

Despite a misstep or two -- a third-episode storyline about a cocaine adventure rings false -- “Girls” builds on its success without skipping a beat.

Picking up where last season ended, Hannah is tending homebound boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver), his right leg busted after the cab accident in last year’s finale.

Feeling smothered, she’s also dating Sandy (Donald Glover), a black Republican (and likely retort to early critics who complained of the series’ homogeneity).

Hannah’s best friend Marnie (Allison Williams), meanwhile, is out of a job and lonely for her gushy ex-boyfriend Charlie (Chris Abbott), who rebounded quicker than anyone expected.

Grumpy Hipster

Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), the nerdy girl who seems so out of place in the trendy Williamsburg-Bushwick milieu, has found love with grumpy hipster Ray (Alex Karpovsky), while the bohemian Jessa (Jemima Kirke) returns from her honeymoon with doofus venture capitalist Thomas-John (Chris O’Dowd).

Kirke’s absence from the Williamsburg fold is felt in the first couple of episodes. Guest star Andrew Rannells (“The New Normal”) as Hannah’s gay roommate, fills some of the void, even if his quippy role seems a bit too sitcom-sassy for this show.

No matter, though. Kirke returns full force soon enough, and a fourth-episode prodigal friend scene with Dunham’s Hannah is pure “Girls” -- as crude and funny as it is tender.

“Girls” airs Sunday on HBO at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: *****

‘Enlightened’ Heroine

In its own eccentric way, “Enlightened” paints as sure a portrait of the zeitgeist as the thunder-stealing “Girls.”

The lovely, bristly series stars Laura Dern as a corporate whistle-blower whose burgeoning social activism has been all but indistinguishable from her madness.

Or so it seemed.

If the show’s under-watched debut followed Dern’s office drone Amy Jellicoe as she reassembled herself following an emotional collapse, the sophomore season suggests that the abrasive, aphorism-spouting do-gooder might have a firmer take on contemporary reality than anyone suspects.

Set mostly in the fictional Abaddonn Industries headquarters, “Enlightened” ended its first season with Amy rebuffed in her attempts to convince corporate higher-ups to change their corrupt, polluting ways.

Now she’s taking her evidence to a crusading L.A. Times reporter -- and he’s not laughing at her.

Dermot Mulroney plays the journalist, and keeps us wondering about the character’s motives.

Molly Shannon

Also this season, Molly Shannon guest stars as a coworker and possible love interest for the ever-lonesome Tyler (Mike White, the show’s co-creator and chief writer).

Dern and Luke Wilson (as Amy’s drug-addict ex-husband) are giving the performances of their careers here, and White is terrific as a self-described “ghost” in a world where everyone seems coupled.

One of the show’s biggest treats, though, is Diane Ladd, Dern’s onscreen (and real-life) mom. Her Helen is one of TV’s most intriguing portraits of old age, a bone-tired, emotionally drained woman who loves her troubled daughter just as much as she’s sick of her.

“Enlightened” airs Sunday on HBO at 9:30 p.m. New York time. Rating: ****

‘Banshee’ Con

With a title and pedigree that suggests ghouls howling at the moon, Cinemax’s “Banshee” is bound to disappoint.

Coproduced by “True Blood” creator Alan Ball, “Banshee” is a not-strange-enough cop tale about an ex-con thief (Antony Starr, good-looking and affectless) who falsely assumes the identity of a small-town sheriff.

Set in the fictional Banshee, Pennsylvania, the violent, flesh-packed series has a few quirky flourishes, even if they seem cribbed from other, better shows.

The faux-sheriff’s tough transvestite pal (Hoon Lee) would be at home on “True Blood,” while Banshee’s lapsed-Amish crime lord (Ulrich Thomsen) is a “Big Love” baddie without the sister-wives.

“Banshee” airs Friday on Cinemax at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: **1/2


What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Rich Jaroslovsky on tech and Jason Harper on supercars.

To contact the writer on the story: Greg Evans at gregeaevans@yahoo.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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