Broad City, Comedy Central’s new female-based comedy, created by and starring newcomers Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, has been one of the most pleasantly surprising, bizarre, stoned-out-of-its-mind and profoundly funny shows TV has had to offer. Some of that can be attributed to its beginnings as a web series before making the leap to primetime, which helped the show start off on a confident, established note. It even accrued fans like Parks and Recreation‘s Amy Poehler – who is the co-executive producer of the show, which should be reason enough to give it a try. But it’s the mere talent of the cast and crew that makes the show as great as it is.
It takes a few episodes to fully appreciate how original the series really is. With its setting and census demographic, comparisons to HBO’s Girls is unavoidable. Both show a group of females steering their mid 20s through the streets of New York City. However, similarities end there. While Lena Dunham’s cringe-worthy comedy series employs standard characters to tell a relatively overused story of what it’s like to be young and struggling in the big city, Broad City reveals that it is too sweet, sloppy and silly to sweat the tone. It conveys friendship in your 20s as, more than anything, delightful and free.
Main characters Ilana (Ilana Glazer) and Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) are superbly and carefully crafted. Ilana is a high energy, low accomplishing 20-something New Yorker who, in theory, might sound like an “unlikable” character. She pretty much does exactly what she pleases without any concern to anyone else around her. She leaves work in the middle of the day to take another job or to have a long nap in her office restrooms. She Skype’s during sex and dances to nineties hip hop wearing a tuxedo in the back of a moving van. She is a woman who does whatever she wants, so much so that you end up admiring her. Her more reserved best friend Abbi is the responsible one – she works at a fancy gym, Soulstice, in hopes she might one day become a trainer and rid herself of her towel-washing and toilet-cleaning profession. Abbi is literally the kind of woman who attaches post-it notes to her vibrator to remind herself to masturbate.
Desperately scraping for their rent and weed money one dollar at a time, Ilana and Abbi make a lot of bad decisions and always get into haphazard mischief. They rarely make the right call, but they have a committed friendship that is a continuous source of delight and support. It’s a relationship that triumphs over crappy jobs and unscrupulous roommate situations, permitting both women to be exactly who they are. Broad City doesn’t ask the audience to respect or “like” its characters, but it does want them to see something of themselves in Abbi and Ilana. It’s not their job to be likeable, they just have to be funny – and they sure are.
But Broad City is more than just funny: it offers a truly radical depiction of women. Two genuine, broke NYC girls who hate their jobs and spend most of their time smoking weed – they’re literally female stoners, and they’re hilarious. There’s nothing more unoriginal than the male 20-something stoner, but when you transfer those character traits onto a female it automatically does something transgressive, pushing the stereotypical boundaries of “proper femininity”. Women like Ilana and Abbi definitely exist in the real world, but no one ever sees them on the screen. They’re seen as ‘bad examples’ of women, because we’re so unacquainted to watching a woman who doesn’t look like a supermodel be so shockingly comfortable and assured. The bold imperfections of Ilana and Abbi are what makes Broad City so radical. It’s essential for both men and women to see that women can be assholes, too.
Glazer and Jacobson are exceptional physical comedians that drip with presence. Their gestures and body language aim for and achieve belly laughs throughout the series of situational and bizarre humour. The energy that spills effortlessly forth from their relationship is presumably Glazer and Jacobson’s real life bond. While Broad City is not a heart-whelming comedy, there’s an undertone of need and connection that makes the friendship between the girls the clear anchor of the series. This is what makes the show what it is. Life is less about making it to the Weezy concert and more about creating memories with your best friend. It’s fitting that the season ended with their walking off into the sunrise together.
Broad City has everything: great jokes, absurdist satire and real insights about love, sex, friendship, money, race, drugs and feminism. It represents a perceptibly hilarious viewpoint on what trying but failing looks like from the inside. Ilana and Abbi don’t want to conquer the world. They’re just regular people, struggling. This wasn’t a season about Ilana and Abbi growing and learning fundamental life lessons – they don’t need to learn lessons, they just need to live.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10