When it comes to HBO's buzzy new comedy Girls, a portrait of four twentysomething friends navigating young adulthood in New York City, you'd think critics had never laughed before. (Watch a trailer below.) It's "the sort of television show that comes around but once in a decade," raves The Daily Beast. The 25-year-old wunderkind Lena Dunham, who stars in, directs, and writes the series, is "the future of television," proclaims The San Francisco Chronicle. Dunham and her co-stars have been plastered on billboards and subway ads, and featured intrendy profiles for New York and The New York Times. Of course, some contrarian critics scoff at the claim that Girls, which debuts Sunday, embodies "the voice of a generation." Does the show live up to the hype? 

It's every bit as good as critics say: Girls is "one of the most original, spot-on, no-missed-steps series in recent memory," says Tim Goodman at The Hollywood Reporter. Dunham intimately, honestly, and authentically conveys female friendship, young adult angst, burgeoning sexuality, and "the bloodlust of surviving New York" — while deftly balancing humor and poignancy. Her own fearless performance is both physically and emotionally naked. It's incredibly rare for a series to "come out of the box as brilliant as Girls does."
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And far more realistic than Sex and the City: It's easy to connect Girls to Sex and the City, says Chuck Barney at the Contra Costa Times. Both HBO comedies follow four young New Yorkers' adventures in love and friendship. But while Carrie Bradshaw's world is glossy, the Girls lifestyle is bleak, often humiliating. The show mercifully avoids "fairy-tale fantasies," offering a portrait of New York City life that is as uncomfortable and disappointing as it can be in reality. The sex scenes aren't sexy, and the characters are hopelessly flawed. And yet, watching Girls is still as fun as Sex and the City viewings ever were.
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But it can be grating: Girls is as "well-acted and naturalistic" as the hype suggests, says Curt Wagner at Redeye. But that doesn't mean the show is enjoyable. From one character's outrage at getting cut off by her parents to another's desire to break up with her boyfriend because he doesn't dote on her enough, the titular "girls" are self-absorbed, whiny, and entitled. "These are not girls with whom I want to spend time."
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