My wife and I took a much-needed break from the netherworld of “House of Cards” (so that’s how our tax dollars are spent!) for her weekly dose of “Downton Abbey,” which had the predictable effect on me. Halfway through the family’s preparations for the church bazaar and I was drifting off in my chair, wishing Bertie Wooster might show up and make some gag about one of those God-help-us daughters.
But then it was “Girls” time and for a moment I thought my TV was broken and the channels were morphing: Here was Marnie (Allison Williams) putting names on over-stuffed pillows in a sunny beach house to the strains of a classical quartet — was I stuck in Master Race Theater? Was every program going to occur in the endless long-weekend mode of “Downton”?
Turns out there was no reason to panic — though no cause for celebration, either. The seventh episode of the season, “Beach House,” proved to be as uninspired as its title. For reasons having as much to do with lack of imagination on the show’s writers’ part as any advancement of the series (and Lena Dunham and executive producer Judd Apatow shared credits with Jenni Konner, so you can’t blame the help), the girls took a weekend in Long Island to get drunk and yell at each other. Some might call it a much-needed break from the dismal confines of Greenpoint (or a parody of every chick-flick getaway ever filmed) but it smacked of desperation to me.
The house, it turns out was not in the Hamptons but in the North Fork — a distinction that only seems to matter to Marnie, who borrowed the pad from one of her mother’s wealthy friends so she and her gal pals could “prove to everyone through Instagram that we can still have fun as a group.” This is followed by some tiresome shots of pool frolicking and Hannah’s fortuitous meeting with Elijah (Andrew Rannells), her gay boyfriend from college, and three of his theater friends. On an impulse — perhaps she was as bored as I was — she invites the boys to join the girls back at the beach house and therein hangs the tale.
Though HBO has won accolades for knocking down gay stereotypes with its new series “Looking,” Dunham and company turn the clock back with the addition of the queeny theater people (one of whom did “the whole viral marketing campaign” for “Kinky Boots”) and try to lively up the episode by getting the lot of them drunk. (Except Jemima Kirke’s Jessa, who’s in recovery — “People, places and things,” girlfriend!) The booze helps with the comedy, at least, as tensions escalate — Type-A Marnie wants the gay boys to vamoose, and Hannah still hasn’t forgiven her for sleeping with Elijah in the second season.
But it’s Shoshanna, the under-utilized Zosia Mamet, who steals the show when she drunkenly calls Hannah a narcissist (which is like calling Frank Underwood "Machiavellian"). “I wanted to fall asleep in my vomit all day, listening to you talk about how you bruise more easily than other people,” she says, before accusing her friends of treating her like a cab driver. "You have entire conversations in front of me like I am invisible.”
The morning-after finds them all chagrined and at the episode’s end they are waiting for the bus that will take them back to their lives and, presumably, the show’s plot lines. Sometimes “weekend” sounds like “weakened.”