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Tilly: Let Girls into the UI

BY ZACH TILLY | MARCH 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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The third-season finale of “Girls” ended with Lena Dunham’s Hannah weighing a move to Iowa City, having been accepted earlier in the episode to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a potentially career-making twist of fate for the show’s Bushwick-bohemian fledgling-writer heroine.

The episode was undeniably good pub for Iowa. Hannah’s friend Marnie hailed the Workshop as the best M.F.A. program in the world, though another character wryly pointed out upon Hannah’s insistence that she’d become “bicoastal” — a young professional caught between here and Brooklyn — that Iowa is, of course, not on a coast.

I, for the first time since the show’s midseason conflagration at the lake house, was excited by “Girls” and its name-checking Iowa on Sunday, particularly at the thought of Iowa City receiving another stamp of coastal approval (however faded that stamp may have be now that the show has entered middle age) that I might absorb by loose association some of that residual hipster cred myself.

Insufferable and pathetic as this all sounds, I felt a little pre-emptive pride at the thought of “Girls” opening next winter with Hannah in the Dey House. Any red-blooded resident of Iowa City with any regional pride and a pathological need to feel cool would.

Unfortunately, the UI has effectively squashed that dream — they won’t allow HBO to shoot on campus, should Hannah decide to attend the Workshop.

“While we are pleased that the Iowa Writers’ Workshop  is receiving national attention … our general practice is to not allow filming due to potential disruption to campus,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said.

That’s not necessarily an indication that the show won’t be shot in Iowa City — the university buildings could be faked without much trouble — but this all seems like an unnecessary and unfortunate obstacle for the “Girls” crew. We ought to let them in, if Dunham and company see fit to relocate the show.

It’s not like we’d be dealing with a long engagement. Knowing what we know about Hannah as a character, we should expect her selfishness and ambition to carry her out to Iowa and her self-destructiveness and codependence to drag her back to her Brooklyn-and-Broadway-based boyfriend Adam after only a small handful of episodes. What’s a quick four-episode arc going to disrupt?

Not that the super-prestigious Writers’ Workshop needs (or, perhaps, even wants) an HBO-driven publicity bump, but I defy any of you — even those who count yourselves among Dunham’s most ardent haters — to say that it wouldn’t be cool to see Iowa City on premium cable.

And I feel obliged also to note that the aforementioned Iowa City-arc might be a pleasant change of pace for a show that has felt increasingly confined by New York of late. Freed of her striving pals and the jealousies they stir in her, tapped again into her Midwestern roots, Hannah might be able blossom at Iowa into a marginally less infuriating television character. Her neuroses might be tempered by some time with a bit more open space.

This seems, to me, to be an opportunity to get all relevant backs scratched. University of Iowa: set aside your grievances and grant “Girls” an exception. Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow, others: Set a few episodes in Iowa; we’d be very excited to have you.


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