When Shoshanna Shapiro introduced cable-less Hannah Horvath to Baggage, her “favorite show on the Game Show Network,” in this week’s episode of HBO’s Girls, it seemed like a strange flight of fantasy for a show so grounded in specific experience. How odd that Lena Dunham would invent a Jerry Springer-hosted dating show on which the contestants must reveal their large, medium, and small secrets before they can find their perfect partner. It was too perfect a setup for Hannah and Shoshanna to confess their own biggest baggage (HPV and virginity, respectively).
Now in its fourth season, the Baggage formula involves beautiful people, luggage-related puns, and confessions about second careers in stripping, close relations with exes, and unorthodox personal hygiene. Each 30-minute episode involves just one potential set-up, giving the suitors a little more time than they need to reveal their three flaws. But there’s a lot to be said for starting a relationship by putting one’s worst foot forward.
Most people have stronger feelings about what they don’t want to see in a potential partner—a chewing tobacco habit, strange spending patterns, a prison record—than about what they do. The deal-breaker round, in which one suitor is eliminated purely on the basis of their medium-sized baggage (the contestant doesn’t know who the suitcase belongs to), is genius. Who hasn’t been temporarily blinded by an appealing smile or a nice line of chat when they should’ve sent that conspiracy theorist or a serial cheat packing?
Judging from what we’ve seen so far on Girls, Hannah and her roommate Marnie, who are both involved with guys who are all wrong for them, could benefit from spending some quality time with Jerry Springer and all those suitcases. Even if Hannah’s parents aren’t to pay her rent anymore, they really should buy her cable.