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Girls Talk
Jessica Miglio / HBO
Girls Talk

There's a spate of new television shows with the word girl in the title—even though the girls in view are all decidedly over age 21. There's New Girl, the Fox comedy where doe-eyed Zooey Deschanel plays a klutzy teacher living with three guys, a Three's Company for the 21st century. There's the Bravo reality show Gallery Girls, a vapid and catty look at seven young women clamoring their way into the art scene of New York City. And 2 Broke Girls is like the all-female counterpart to Two and a Half Men—a raunchy half-hour comedy about men ogling women's breasts, but see, it's written by women instead of men. Ah, the sweet liberation we've waited for.

Though they differ in tone, these new shows share a common thread: They focus on unmarried women (or girls, if we must) in their 20s and 30s trying to land a career, and a meaningful way to live, in a time of tricky economic realities for many young Americans, and of choices previously unknown for women. That is also the theme of the smartest and most divisive show of them all, the 2012 HBO series Girls.

Written and directed by 26-year-old Lena Dunham (with help from executive producer Judd Apatow), Girls follows the postcollege travails of Hannah Horvath (also played by Dunham), an aspiring writer culling material for her forthcoming memoir, four chapters of which are written—"the rest I kind of have to live," she tells her concerned parents in the pilot episode. Guided by a mantra of feeling and experiencing everything she can, she's busy "trying to become who I am"—either obnoxiously self-centered or simply too introspective for her own good, depending on whom you ask.

Hannah, her three girlfriends, ...

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