Slate TV critic Willa Paskin interviewed Jenni Konner to keynote the 10th annual New York Television Festival, filling a Chelsea movie theater with industry newbies, wannabes and fans of the hit HBO series Girls, which is soon to begin its fourth season. Konner already was a series veteran when she saw Lena Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture and became, she said, obsessed with its uninhibited and unabashed tone.
“When I’m obsessed with something, I really lock in,” Konner said. “I loved that the character she created was problematic and bratty.” Agents put her together with Dunham, and eventually multi-threat Judd Apatow came on board as a showrunner as well.
“Judd and I always said our job is to protect her,” Konner said of Dunham. “She’s like a rare orchid.” She later amended that to say that Dunham hardly needs protecting. Having seen Tiny Furniture, she said, made the pilot process for Girls much easier than usual. “With Tiny Furniture as a template, there was no disappointment,” she said, unlike most shows that begin with an idea and then go through countless adjustments that inevitably fall short of the original vision.
Asked by Paskin what happens when there’s disagreement among the three chiefs on a script, Konner said, “No one has the trump card — there hasn’t been much strife between me and Lena and Judd.” Then she stopped herself and added, “Lena does say, ‘Hannah would never do that,” which generally settles the issue.
Konner was effusive in her appreciation of the freedom from likability afforded by HBO but also said she had favorites on network TV. Chief among them are CBS drama The Good Wife and ABC’s Scandal — both shows with strong, and not always sympathetic, female leads.,
Indeed, Konner was most revealing on the subject of likability, and Paskin drew her out. “Compared to Walter White and Tony Soprano, the girls are saints,” she said, adding, as if it needed underlining, “but they’re women.
“I like so many people in real life who are probably unlikable,” Konner continued. “The whole idea of likability is kind of silly. We go through life making choices,” and some inevitably are to “enjoy unlikable people.”