For fans of television shows like Girls (2012) and Workaholics (2011) there’s a new kid on the block – Broad City. It’s the story of two twenty something’s living in Manhattan. It’s a story we’ve seen before but it has new characters. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson star as Broad City’s unwitting millennial mouthpieces.
Being young isn’t easy. Between getting a job, cleaning your apartment, and calling your parents once a week, it can be difficult to spend your time well. In most cases folks simply forget the daily and weekly chores. Our heroines in Broad City are no exception.
They are hapless, out of luck, and living in a huge city. New York can be overwhelming but for Ilana and Abbi they at least have each other. They are an underachieving pair and stand aptly for the millennial generation that’s all dressed up with expensive educations but has nowhere to go. Abbi and Ilana aren’t entitled characters though; instead they are two young ladies that don’t quite behave appropriately.
In essence they have yet to grow up but of course they have little reason too. They are not too dissimilar to the characters in the show that airs alongside theirs; Workaholics. But there is something more charming, captivating, and convincing about Broad City. It’s Girls, but more up to date. It’s everything that was exciting about Lena Dunam but with more current and contemporary references.
Nostalgia, pop culture, and intertextual references
Really though Broad City isn’t well plotted, it’s not especially well crafted, and it borrows from notable cult television like Bored To Death (2009), Workaholics (2011), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005), Party Down (2009), and Archer (2009). It’s heavy on intertextual references and it borrows and alludes to other pop culture symbols frequently. In fact fans of British television may see Peep Show’s (2003) Mark and Jeremy in Abbi and Ilana.
Our current millennial generation is one that re appropriates as much from the past as it uses from the present. We’re the generation of the echo and this is seen consistently throughout the development of Broad City. However there’s also another side to the show, something that can be seen in Comedy Central’s other cult favourite Workaholics, it’s bat shit crazy.
There is a plotline that see Abbi have a self-induced cannabis related episode of psychosis (this is an absurdist narrative, not a deliberate comment on the dangers of the drug) another that involves someone shitting in a shoe, and one where both Abbi and Illana clean a man’s apartment in just their underwear. The apartment owner watches on pretending that he’s a baby whilst wearing an adult sized diaper.
It’s nonsense writing, it’s absurdist plotting, and it works very well. There are unavoidable similarities between Broad City and Girls but they’re TV shows that differ hugely in their approach to a similar topic. Instead of the realism in Girls, Broad City opts for a much stranger narrative. It’s not essentially mainstream comedy and it’s very hard to pigeonhole. In a sense it’s like Louie (2010) more than anything else that’s on television.
But Broad City has a much more upbeat tone. This is the story of two young twenty something’s who are in it together – not a middle aged man going it alone. Abbi and Ilana aren’t wealthy or rich but they are trying their best. They’re unlucky in life, love and money but they still manage to have a good time.
Don’t take it seriously
That’s the essence of the show – it’s fun. Abbi and Ilana don’t take themselves seriously and they don’t expect you to either. Broad City is a humorous television show with some insane plotting. You’ll find yourself wanting to smoke whatever it is they’re smoking.
If Broad City is up your street then you’ve got Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreations, 2009) to thank. She spotted the young duo’s web series on YouTube and executive produced the show. In fact she makes an appearance in the finale of Broad City as an angry and unhappily married New York City chef.
The whole season is infused with a vitality that’s missing from many sitcoms. It’s shot on location in New York City adding depth (and a dose of reality) to a television show that eschews pretty much everything else. There are some repulsive moments, there are some ugly ones too, but at the heart of it all there’s a beauty, a desire for a human connection.
Broad City is irreverent but that’s not a summation of its charm. It’s a female-based comedy that’s as down and dirty as any male equivalent. It doesn’t treat its heroines like princesses. Instead it makes them just as human, just as gross, and just as lovely as the rest of us. No one is perfect, no TV show is either, but in Broad City the imperfections sit just as comfortably as its most charismatic moments.