My Brilliant Friend premieres

Elena, now in her 60s, is informed that her one-time bosom pal Lila has disappeared. Sounding more resigned than surprised, she quickly begins reminiscing about their upbringing, when the two were the smartest girls in their class, during a time of post-war upheaval and poverty when girls weren’t encouraged to study or seek to elevate their station beyond that of their parents.

The adult Elena who worries for her friend narrates the series, which jumps from that first scene back into the 1950s and stays there, to chart the years the girls spend as children and teenagers, first coming to understand everything from class to sex to the brutal gender politics of their world. Lila might be the smarter of the two — though Elena’s intelligence isn’t to be diminished (especially when it comes to writing) — she’s also the one growing up in the more conservative, regressive family.

This is a story of a febrile and rivalrous friendship between two girls in a working-class Italian neighborhood in 1950’s.

New on HBO.