NEW YORK — There has been a lull. Talk of “Girls” settled down after its bombshell first season as fans took the opportunity to catch their breath.
That ends now. “Girls” is returning for its second season at 8 p.m. Sunday. HBO's saga of four young women living in New York will then resume, with their struggles almost certain to inspire another round of amused if pained recognition on the part of the show's devotees.
“Girls,” of course, was created by Lena Dunham, now 26, who also stars as Hannah, a would-be but none-too-successful writer living in Brooklyn. Hannah's circle of highly verbal, overanalytical chums includes Marnie, a gallery assistant played by Allison Williams; sexy self-absorbed bohemian Jessa (Jemima Kirke); and Jessa's cousin, the naive motormouth Shoshanna, whose coming-of-age in the first season included losing her virginity and smoking crack.
Shoshanna has other things going on. In the season opener, she is first glimpsed in her bedroom waving a smudge stick as she thanks “the higher powers for all the gifts I have already received: a keen mathematical mind and fairly fast-growing hair.”
It's a testament to “Girls” that a moment like this feels as authentic as it is funny.
But what does it all mean? Zosia Mamet, who plays Shoshanna with frank, wide-eyed honesty, is being grilled by a reporter for surely the zillionth time. Still, she's game to help account for what makes “Girls” a show people talk about so passionately.
“This time period has been written about before, but in a very glossy way,” says Mamet in a determined near-whisper. “People idealize or reminisce about their 20s, but nobody tells you beforehand that it's hard and unglamorous and often very unpleasant. What Lena has written reveals that, and it speaks to a lot of people.”
Mamet, who turns 25 next month, hastens to add that she is living a much different life from Shoshanna and company. Unlike them, she found her direction early on: “By the time I was 17,” she says, “I was in the flux of this crazy industry pushing to be an actress, which I wanted more than anything in the world.”
Nonetheless, the trial-and-error lifestyle portrayed on “Girls” resonates for Mamet and loads of people she knows as they reach the expiration date for their precociousness.
“There's this inescapable moment in your early 20s, no matter how you get there, of feeling like everything you've known up until then is either wrong or doesn't fit,” she declares, “and suddenly you're faced with this feeling of ‘Who the (heck) am I? How do I do life? HOW is life DONE?'”
Even the characters' well-intentioned efforts at good times are often stressful and humiliating. (And sometimes cringe-inducing for viewers, for whom “Girls,” unlike most TV shows, serves as a graphic reminder that sex between young people can be shockingly unsexy.)