Girls, otherwise known as the most important—or at least most comprehensively dissected—television program of our time, wraps up its fourth season this coming Sunday, and it seems to be a truth universally acknowledged (so I can’t be accused of being jealous or unfair or anti-feminist for pointing it out) that the show seems to be a wee bit running out of steam. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise: As fearless and odd and interesting as it can be, Girls has always seemed, as a friend of mine is fond of pointing out, like something you used to have to get a grant for rather than a solidly constructed sitcom whose characters and relationships have been designed from the start to spin out in an infinite number of ways over the better part of a decade. No matter how keenly observed they might be, there’s only so much time you can keep watching (or writing) characters who stubbornly refuse to evince any sort of personal growth while also being not exactly funny, at least, not Seinfeld-funny, you know what I mean?
Luckily for fans of the show—and perhaps unluckily for its detractors—after Sunday’s penultimate episode, Lena Dunham has a perfect spinoff all ready to go: Ray Ploshansky Takes Back the Borough. For me, Alex Karpovsky’s Ray (a relatively self-aware thirty-something who, though resigned to his fate as a directionless loser, seems to have evolved some genuine empathy for others during his advanced years on this Earth) has always been the most lovable character on the show (not that he has particularly stiff competition). But this year, I have to admit I groaned when his only storylines seemed to involve pining after the hideous monster of self-involvement that is Marnie and kvetching, to a degree that began to make me fear for his sanity, about the absence of a traffic light outside his apartment building.
Rather than ambling down the schizophrenic road to hell already trod by Mad Men’s uni-nipppled Michael Ginsberg, Ray channeled his manic energy into possibly the most futilely worthwhile thing anyone has yet done on this show: a victorious campaign for a seat on the community board, a position from which he might be able to make his aforementioned campaign slogan a reality (although if you’re not taking the borough back from entitled hipsters who have driven up rents to something roughly resembling the high season in Gstaad, I’m not sure quite who you’re asking to relinquish it), which has not only given the character a new lease on life, it has brought a delightful array of new people into the Girls orbit, namely the kind of irate old Jews who congregate at New York City community board meetings and have names like Kippy Cohen.
Unlike Dunham and crew, these people can’t help but be charismatic and funny—it’s in every muttered “feh,” every gnarled crook of an arthritic finger. To see Ray interacting with them on a weekly basis would be nothing less than an utter delight: sort of like Parks and Recreation meets Barney Miller. Now, that’s a sitcom that can run forever, or at least until all the actors die. Whichever comes first.