The Canadian launch party for HBO’s love-it-or-leave-it show brought a bit of Central Park to Toronto’s east end last night.
Should I get up, walk over, and pose for a picture with Allison Williams or not? That was literally a thought I gave more than five seconds to. Last night was the official-ish launch of the second season/first season DVD of HBO’s Girls, an Emmy-winning show that—thanks to the powers of the internet and the myriad think pieces it spews—probably needs no introduction.
Each month, there comes one event that steals the spotlight, that everyone can’t stop talking about or wondering about or social media-ing about. December, then, might as well already be crowned Girls month. When news broke a few weeks back that HBO would be holding a “Canadian launch event”—complete with one of the leading ladies!—Twitter was boiling over and people were, well, losing their shit.
Understandably so. Girls, and its creator/star/writer/director/everywoman Lena Dunham, has been tagged as filling the void left by Sex and The City and capturing the audience that its movies had failed. They’ve called it “ground-breaking,” claiming that it’s both my story and yours. A voice of a generation. Blah, blah, blah, etc. etc. Dunham also plucked, from virtual obscurity, three girls to fill those archetypical character voids, including last night’s woman of the hour, a Yale grad and the offspring of NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.
Immediately upon its debut, Girls cast a feverish spell over its instantly loyal viewers, and produced equally passionate rebuttals from its detractors. Having an opinion on Girls—and having it heard—has become quite the spectator sport, in fact. And that makes for a good party. “With great programming comes great conversation,” says the HBO head honcho as she introduces the evening. Not since TIFF have I seen such fury over a single party, and it’s probably because “celebs,” real or imagined, aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in this town. And I think we like it that way. At least I do. So let’s break down the fun:
The place: East we went, all the way to Carlaw Avenue, landing at House of Moments, a gallery space/fusion restaurant that I’ve heard of, but never been to. It’s gloriously kitschy in a suburbia kind of way. Tonight, amid the bright reds and giant Buddha statues, it’s been made up to look like Central Park, with benches and AstroTurf and a woman drawing caricatures. Tres cute. The location seems calculated to keep out party crashers, who would have to be really dedicated to the cause. I mean, you’re not crossing the Don if you’re not absolutely certain you’ll be getting in. Queen West, this ain’t.
Paparazzi:Fan ratio: There’s all the shimmer of a legit celebrity appearance, complete with red carpet, cameras, microphones and all. And the fans—it’s weird to see media types actually get excited about something. The party brought out Zoomer mag editor Suzanne Boyd, a top exec at The Bay, and your standard MTV Canada micro-personalities. Morning show people, late night party girls. Girls, yes, is a magnet.
The noshing: Spicy. Sushi, sashimi, meat on sticks. More compelling: the booze. Stoli cocktails named after each girl in the show. “Which one are you?” they all say, crowding around the life-sized signage that tells you who you are on TV equals what you drink in real life. There’s The Jessa, a shitty version of a dirty martini. There’s The Shoshanna (vodka, lime juice and simple syrup), fit for the virgin in all of us. A chocolate martini thing, named The Marnie after Williams’ character, gets top billing. I have about a dozen Hannahs, which is basically a white russian. Oddly enough, there’s a straight vodka cocktail called The Adam (the show’s “Big”), based on Hannah’s fuck buddy/Romeo, who’s a recovering alcoholic. Oops.
The sounds: It feels, no lie, like Beyonce’s “Run The World (Girls)” and Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” are on loop.
The looks: “This looks like a really fancy affair,” one girl says to me. Err, I’m wearing denim on denim. But, indeed, some people came dressed to kill, with patterned frocks and vintage knick-knacks around necks, cautiously straddling the line between Brooklyn-ite, Charlotte York, and, well, Marnie. The boys who came with their girls were almost entirely dressed in suits. Or blazers, at least.
Stargazing: Before you can say, “I’ll have another Hannah,” Allison Williams suddenly appears in her corner, velvet roped with a bottle of Evian on the table. It appears she isn’t drinking, I assume because hello, she’s not Lindsay Lohan. It’s funny, because she looks much like every other girl in this room, except that skin. (Whoa, I would kill.) Everyone crowds around like we’re at a show at the Horseshoe: it’s time for a Q&A with the National Post‘s Shinan Govani. The conversation is general, from Williams’ toe cleavage to her chemistry with Dunham to not acting until she graduated from Yale. “We’re going through the same stuff,” she says, about the show mirroring her real life.
More Sex and the City talk, about Carrie. And here’s my beef: Carrie went out and “made [herself] a writer.” (It’s actually one of my favourite lines of the show.) The Girls girls just seem to whine about shit all the time. We find out Williams likes hockey and parmesan fries. The walls are decked out with massive flat-screens, and only about 60 people are in the room, so you don’t miss a thing. The girls stare intently, hanging off her every word. The guys shovel beef and sweet potato fries into their mouths as Williams talks. When she’s done, a guy stands up to clap but falls forward onto his face. Another Hannah, please, barkeep!
Fun factor: Williams can’t really do much of anything except stand in her corner while partygoers queue for a quick chat and a photo. She’s playful, and seems engaging. I can see why she once played Kate Middleton (actually). People are eating her up. But hey, any party that ends in a gift bag with DVDs of the complete series of Entourage, the first season of Girls and the latest Batman movie is a-okay with me. That’s swag you’ll never see at a TIFF party.
Oh, and I never did get up to take that photograph because, well, I’m just not one of those girls.
The second season of Girls premieres January 13 on HBO Canada.