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Is a Vogue cover featuring Lena Dunham the beginning of the end for Girls?

Girls cast members Jemima Kirke (far left), Lena Dunham, Allison Williams and Zosia Mamet at third-season premiere party in New York

LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS

Is the decision to put Girls' creator/star Lena Dunham on next month's cover of Vogue magazine part of editor Anna Wintour's plan to find a new readership or proof that Girls has jumped the shark?

Or maybe a little of both?

As reported by Radaronline, the proudly unglamourous Dunham will grace next month's cover of the venerable fashion and lifestyle magazine, which normally alternates between cover shots of reed-thin supermodels or extremely attractive female celebrities.

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But not the February issue, which is due to hit newsstands on January 22.

While neither HBO, which airs Girls, or Conde Nast, which publishes Vogue, has officially confirmed the decision, the cover placement appeared fait accompli following Wintour's appearance at the show's third-season premiere party in New York on Monday night (Girls returns this Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO Canada).

The Daily Mail's coverage says the Vogue editor-in-chief wore a colourful Prada fur coat to the event, which she attended with her daughter Bee Shaffer. And Wintour apparently spent a good deal of time posing on the red carpet with the 27-year-old Dunham.

When the Daily Mail correspondent pressed a Vogue representative to confirm or deny the Dunham cover, the rep responded by saying, "I can't comment on rumours of future editorial."

Whatever her motive, Wintour, 63, has reportedly been pursuing Dunham for months. Last October, Radar reported that the famously imperious fashionista – and real-life inspiration for the novel and movie The Devil Wears Prada – hosted a "top secret" dinner party to woo the Girls auteur.

Said a source at the time: "Anna is trying to seduce Lena into bringing her next-generation audience into the Vogue brand. And she's willing to violate a lot of Vogue traditions to do it, including putting her on the cover even though she doesn't really conform to the body type that Vogue has featured for most of its history."

Launched in April, 2012, the comedy-drama Girls was a breakout hit for HBO and effectively launched the TV career of Dunham, who based the story of struggling twentysomething New York women on her own real-life experiences.

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Fittingly, Dunham also assumed the central Girls character of Hannah Horvath, an aimless, borderline frumpy young woman beset by bad relationships and unwise career decisions. At the time, she said the show's goal was to represent young people not depicted on television.

"Gossip Girl was teens duking it out on the Upper East Side and Sex and the City was women who figured out work and friends and now want to nail family life. There was this 'hole-in-between' space that hadn't really been addressed," said Dunham in a 2012 interview.

Gritty and original, Girls was unflinching television (some viewers never got past the first-season episode in which Hannah's boyfriend attempted to introduce urination into their relationship), but some percentage of the show's audience could be turned off by the creator/star deigning to appear on the cover of Vogue.

The signs are already there. Earlier this week, Girls joined the photo-sharing site Snapchat, where fans can currently find photos of Dunham – along with co-stars Zosia Mamet, Alison Williams and Jemima Kirke – all giddily posing at their premiere event sporting high-end designer wear (Dunham in Rochas).

From the hard-core Girls-watcher perspective, that's practically the equivalent of either giving up or giving in.

All of which does not bode well for the future of Girls. On Happy Days, the show went downhill after Fonzie jumped his motorcycle over a shark tank (which is where the "jump-the-shark" expression comes from).

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On Girls, the end could begin with Dunham on the cover of Vogue.

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