The second season of HBO’s Girls airs on Sunday, March 17, and creator Lena Dunham will certainly be in the spotlight as her tightly-woven saga of youthful New York anxiety comes to a conclusion. Dunham is considered one of the rising stars of TV comedy, but before she was scoring Emmy noms, she gained attention online for several early web series.
Dunham’s first full web series was Tight Shots, which she rolled out on Nerve.com back in 2007, when she was still an undergrad at Oberlin College. Several of her distinctive touches are present, such as a cramped apartment setting, a specific focus on awkward sexual experiences, and a general mumblecore feel. Tight Shots is, however, notably more satirical, focusing on the self-absorbed tendency of today’s artists.
Dunham’s Downtown Delusional Divas, first released in 2009, is more striking. That time around, she ratcheted the satire up to eleven, focusing on a pair of hipster “businesspeople” who come up with cockamamie, Portlandia-esque business ideas like “Ambien tours” of the World Trade Center memorial. The web has always been a friendly space for broad stereotypes (evidenced by the success of shows like MyMusic), and the main characters of Downtown Delusional Divas are highly caricatured, to say the least. It’s no surprise that this more silly effort was the one that first got Dunham a bit of attention on the web.
Later that year, Dunham’s Tiny Furniture became an indie hit, and she has continued to climb since then. On TV, Dunham shows off a subdued, quiet brand of humor. The stark contrast between that style and her wacky web efforts help exemplify then main stylistic differences between what works on TV versus the web. A show like Downtown Delusional Divas would have a hard time finding a TV audiences, but for the space it was given, it was spot-on.