Say what you will about Lena Dunham, but the woman knows how to make good TV. Following the 2017 finale of Girls — the zeitgeisty HBO dramedy that thrust her to the frontlines of Hollywood — she returns with a new series Oct. 14. And though fans are used to seeing her star on camera, it doesn't seem like Lena Dunham will be in Camping. Instead, she's letting Jennifer Garner take the lead while she works behind-scenes.
Dunham isn't listed on IMDb as part of the Camping cast, but is credited as creator, writer, and executive producer alongside Jenni Konner, her (now former) creative partner and one of the masterminds behind Girls. According to the New York Times, Dunham became a fan of the original U.K. show of the same name, then told Konner that she'd like to adapt it, and the two took on the project together.
As the name might suggest, the limited series focuses on a camping trip that's well, a little trying, to put it mildly. Garner stars as Kathryn, who organizes what should be a relaxing weekend in the woods for her husband and their friends — only, it doesn't take long for them to start driving each other up the wall.
"[I] wanted to dive headfirst into this universe of people’s unmitigated neuroses in a natural environment," Dunham told Rolling Stone of the show. "My favorite episodes of Girls were the bottle episodes, where we could really submerge people in an isolated climate, and this entire show was one of those. And it was an amazing world against which to do what we love to do, which is write about women behaving badly."
She also told The Hollywood Reporter that while Camping certainly stands on its own two feet, Dunham wants it to have the same unabashed candor that Girls did. "It's another universe but will continue to be honest about sex and physicality and monogamy — and continuing to try to tell stories where people say, 'I haven't seen that on TV before,'" she said.
Critical reviews thus far have been extremely mixed, but as it hasn't yet aired for audiences at large, it's still too soon to tell what the wide reception will be like. Indiewire's Ben Travers wrote that "Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s new cringe comedy tries to contrast the inner turmoil of its oblivious city-folk subjects with their displacement from polite society, but none of their exposed anxieties (some justified, some not) provide enough insight or amusement for comfortable viewers at home." Andrea Reiher wrote a similarly unenthusiastic review for Collider, going so far as to ask what the point of the show is. "If it’s not laughs or personal growth, is it just a slice-of-life comedy about unlikable people? That’s not enough, especially in this overcrowded TV landscape."
But despite such a rocky reception, some fans still seem excited to see Dunham and Konner's latest endeavor, and there's certainly time for other viewers to change their tune. They may not see Dunham on their TV screens, but she'll definitely be watching from the wings to see what they think.