“Girls” started back this week. For many early 20s viewers, its first season spoke to the uncomfortable realities of the the post-collegiate world—and while I can’t say in good faith that I like the show (something about Lena Dunham’s naked body just doesn’t sit well), its characters’ worries about an unknown future, its accurate portrayal of the good and bad that comes with no-strings-attached sex, and its honest discussion of the money problems that always seem to unexpectedly bite you in the ass at this age do encapsulate early 20’s life pretty well.
Naturally, as a New York-based show that generated a lot of early buzz, “Girls” attracted, and still attracts, an unprecedented amount of attention online. A particular joke by Lena Dunham’s character Hannah Horvath in the first episode—“I may be the voice of my generation”—caused some to even say “Girls” might truly be the voice of this generation. As Troy Patterson points out, Dunham doesn’t totally write off the notion.
It’s important to note, though, that most people in the United States don’t live in New York, like the cast of “Girls” and most TV critics. Even fewer people have similar aspirations to Hannah and her friends. And few further have the same privileged upbringing as the characters. If we define a “voice of a generation” show as one that speaks most directly to the largest amount of people in a specific age group, “Girls” isn’t the voice of this generation. At least not for the male half of the generation.
That show is “Workaholics.” Totally fucking serious.
“Workaholics,” which began in April of 2011, starts the second half of its third season tomorrow. Its viewership has grown steadily, thanks in part to Comedy Central reruns, word-of-mouth support from college kids, DVD sales, and, one can assume from anecdotal evidence, a shit-ton of pirating online. Tomorrow night’s premiere comes after a high point in the show’s history: A hilarious July flashbook episode that showed how the main characters—Anders, Blake, and Adam—all met each other in college, clashed at the start, and ultimately bonded over throwing a pool party that went haywire in the best way possible.
Things escalate out of control in “Workaholics” a lot. It’s not totally realistic. The guys are written almost like cartoon characters, and while they differ on the surface—Ders is the ambitious one, Adam’s the narcissist, Blake’s the most out-there—they all typically end up acting with the same selfish and destructive impulses. In an episode that has their company, TelAmeriCorps, moving offices, their first instinct isn’t to go to the new office... it’s to totally smash apart the original one. (It’s a more than overt nod to “Office Space” and its fax machine.) In the first season’s “Office Campout,” they don’t just decide to camp out out in the office, make it their own observatory, and trip balls... they each eat roughly 80 mushrooms. And in “The Meat Jerking Beef Boys,” they don’t just try to start up a beef jerky business... they disassemble a cow in their living room. There are hundreds more examples, (the state you need to be in to really enjoy “Workaholics” means that many of them will stay forgotten) but the bottom line is that, yes, Adam, Ders, and Blake are kind of like a grown-up version of Ed, Ed, and Eddy. And, yes, if you’re looking for an exact example of how post-college grads act as individual people, you’re looking in the wrong place. And, yes, “Girls” does contain more accurate characters; specifically a realistic look at many of the awful people you will meet in New York City.
But, despite its inherent ridiculousness, I still I believe that “Workaholics” is the perfect show for 20 to 30-year-old, post-Recession post-grads. Here’s why:
Slacker shows and films are nothing new. Many of the 90s’ most memorable films were about the ethos. Think 1991’s “Slacker,” and the deluge that came after: “Reality Bites,” “Wayne’s World,” “Clerks,” etc. But, as Slate noted in a 2007 piece on the death of the genre, the whole idea of the slacker life as something to aspire to (like people in the early 90s aspired to be like Dante in “Clerks” or Mike Myers in “Wayne’s World”) disappeared with the boom times of the late 90s and early 2000s. In the real world, guys our age were all out making bank. There were good jobs to be had. The heroes of comedy reflected that—think Vince Vaughn’s wealthy Speaker City owner in “Old School,” Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s lawyers in “Wedding Crashers.” These were characters that were still man-children, but also man-children with money.