In its first season, Broad City was a show I liked, but never quite loved. I felt a little guilty about this, since it seemed like everyone who managed to watch this fringe-y Comedy Central show was able to love it unconditionally, while I kept thinking, “It’s good, but is it that good?” Maybe you could chalk this up to the fact that there have been a lot of “hang out shows” in the past few years, and Broad City never quite transcended it’s astonishingly low stakes by being anything other than just pretty funny. However, I’ll also admit that there may have been a tad bit of personal jealousy in my inability to embrace Broad City‘s first season, as I can remember watching its first few episodes in the single room I was renting in L.A. as that town was swiftly crushing me, and I was just on the verge of packing things in and moving back home. Meanwhile, here were Abbi and Ilana, these fellow twentysomethings starring in their own television show, and probably provoking some little part of me to begrudgingly think “I could make a show like this”. But thankfully I’ve enjoyed season 2 of Broad City quite thoroughly, as time has quieted those earlier, mostly idiotic thoughts, while this show has just gotten more confident and more willing to embrace its own directionlessness in weird and delightful ways.
If there was any sort of overarching theme or narrative for this season of Broad City, I couldn’t tell you what it is, and that’s one thing that makes this show refreshing. Pretty much every episode is it’s own eccentric beast, willing to indulge whatever mundane adventure Abbi and Ilana are game for, and somehow the perfectly interlocking energy of these two is enough to make the viewer willingly go along for the ride. Hell, I feel like I still don’t know a whole lot about these character’s backgrounds or goals, which you’d think would matter for a show that essentially only has two main characters. And yet, somehow none of that seems to matter. These girls are living in the here and now, and as I can certainly relate to, they don’t know exactly where they’re going, but they just wanna laugh as much as possible while getting there.
And that’s a big reason why I enjoyed this season of Broad City quite a bit more than its first, I just flat-out laughed more. Which of course is desirable for any comedy, and especially for a show that seems to be operating under quasi-Seinfeld rules, in which no one really grows or learns anything, but who really cares when you’ve got girlbro’s like Abbi and Ilana by your side? Also, I laughed a lot at the increasingly bizarre situations that this show puts its characters through, such as Abbi’s revelation that she has a secret lounge-singer persona, Ilana being willfully kidnapped with her mom (played by Susie Essman) just to nab some cheap purses in Chinatown, or Ilana’s roommate Jaime being trapped inside of a nightmarish frozen yogurt shop. And even this show’s goofy spirit was able to let me enjoy the episode “Choat Check”, even despite the fact that both it’s storylines (Abby hangs out with a celebrity who’s more insane than you’d think, and Ilana becomes infatuated with someone who looks like her) both feel like storylines I’ve seen in several other sitcoms.
To say New York City is a character in any work of fiction is about as cliched as cliche’s get, but you have to admit, if you had to name a third most important character on Broad City (sorry, Hannibal Burress), it’d probably be NYC. In no other American city do you get such a wide variety of weirdos and even weirder situations to encounter, and Broad City always seems to embrace that weirdness without ever letting its grimy underbelly get these ladies down. Also, it makes the show part of an unexpected influx of half hour shows set and shot in New York along with the likes of Girls, Louie, and now Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s maybe something that doesn’t seem too remarkable at first since at least a third of all American fiction is probably set in New York, but it is when you consider up until now pretty much nothing but cop shows had been filmed in New York. So it’s been nice to see television finally take a crack at the city that never sleeps, while Abbi and Ilana appear to be making a case for themselves as NYC’s official ambassadors of friendship (or at least they would if they weren’t too badass for something that sounds so lame).
I think a big part of why I season two of this show seemed great to me was that they gave Abbi more ridiculous things to do, like get transcendentally drunk or start losing her mind while trapped in a hole. It’s a good change of pace from the socially awkward stuff she had mostly been doing (which is also fun, don’t get me wrong). Abbi’s a great actress and showing that her character is just as zany as Ilana was a great choice.
Another show I would compare Broad City to is Flight of the Conchords, which was also about two extremely close friends adrift in NYC. It’s kind of like if that show didn’t have the music but was more profane.