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Who would have thought that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the 65-year-old, 7-foot-2-inch NBA Hall of Famer — would be an avid watcher, and passionate critic, of HBO’s Girls?
For starters, fans of New Girl might; Abdul-Jabbar — who retired from basketball in 1989 — guest-starred as Winston’s co-worker on an episode from that Fox’s sitcom’s first season.
But the man who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA titles in the 1980s is more than your average sitcom watcher/guest-starrer. He’s a veritable sitcom scholar.
In an essay posted Thursday evening to The Huffington Post, Abdul-Jabbar proves it by offering a thoughtful critique of a show that leaves him divided — on the one hand acknowledging that it’s both “original and insightful,” on the other dismissing it as “mostly white” and “not that funny.
The fact that he bolsters his argument with demographics statistics (“56 percent of the show’s audience is male,” he cites) and specific plot points suggests, however, that whatever Abdul-Jabbar’s complaints about the comedy, he’s still very much drawn in by Lena Dunham‘s world of aimless, horny twentysomethings desperate to make their mark in a New York that priced them out several decades ago.
So what does Abdul-Jabbar think about Girls? After establishing that the show aspires to much more than your average sitcom (“[It] obviously is struggling to be a voice of its generation,” he writes, then name-checks some of the greatest works in the American canon, from The Catcher in the Rye to On the Road), he then breaks down his still-percolating thoughts.
Abdul-Jabbar certainly is not the first blogger to point out the preponderance of nonminorities orbiting in Hannah’s social circles — a criticism Dunham seemingly addressed head-on in season two with a brief, doomed affair with an African-American Republican, played by Community‘s Donald Glover. Abdul-Jabbar isn’t impressed, however. Watching any given season, he says, “could leave a viewer snow blind,” while the Glover character he writes off as “some jungle fever lover.”
“A black dildo would have sufficed and cost less,” Abdul-Jabbar zings, in a line that wouldn’t sound entirely out of place in an episode of Girls itself.
Those awkward, graphic sex scenes? Those are actually one of the show’s strengths, he argues, writing that the fumbling and nerves in the Internet age of “nothing’s shocking” comes off as “fresh and original and insightful.” But the characters’ stubborn narcissism, he says, ultimately dooms them: “They’re all educated but fatally ignorant.”
And for a show called Girls, it’s the boys who pique Abdul-Jabbar’s interest most, calling Hannah’s carpenter sometimes-boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) a “wonderful character whose quirkiness never diminished his depth.”
By comparison, Abdul-Jabbar cites My So Called Life and Wonderfalls as examples of TV series that get it right. Say what you will: The NBA’s all-time leading scorer knows his female-centric coming-of-age stories.
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