‘Broad City’ bursts onto the scene
Allie Tollaksen | Thursday, January 23, 2014
If you haven’t heard of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson yet, get ready for their names to enter your comedy vocabulary. The two Upright Citizens Brigade alumnae made their big television debut this week with the premiere of series “Broad City” on Comedy Central and as writers and stars of the show are sure to fly into your radar this year.
Though the show’s pilot aired on Wednesday, “Broad City” isn’t new by any means. The original concept began as a low-budget web series, with each episode on YouTube running about two minutes in length. It wasn’t until the series caught the attention of fan and now-producer Amy Poehler that “Broad City” was picked up by Comedy Central and turned into a half-hour long, original show, and we should definitely thank Poehler for it.
The extended length and (slightly) larger budget has added the opportunity for bigger plotlines and more character development in “Broad City,” but the charm of the show has stayed the same – Glazer and Jacobson play two women living in New York, conveniently named Ilana and Abbi, as they stir up trouble, stretch their budgets and complicate each others’ lives. While Abbi is the nervous, awkward and well-meaning friend, she is complemented by carefree stoner Ilana, who may be the best antihero on TV right now.
While the show certainly has humble beginnings and two relatively unknown writers and stars, “Broad City” boasts quite a few big names in its pilot. Guest stars Hannibal Buress, Fred Armisen and Chris Gethard prove that though Jacobson and Glazer aren’t household names, they’ve established themselves in the comedy world and show plenty of promise.
The pilot, called “What a Wonderful World,” introduces Abbi and Ilana as they attempt to score tickets to a Lil Wayne concert despite having absolutely no money. Staying true to the short-form series from which it originated, the show jumps (almost distractingly, an area that might need work) from antic to antic as the women shamelessly attempt (and mostly fail) to raise the money. From stealing office supplies to cleaning an apartment in their underwear for money, Glazer and Jacobson don’t shy away from the absurd or obscene while showing off both funny writing and presence.
“Broad City” certainly isn’t the first show originate on the internet; one of the most popular examples of the web-to-network transition “Workaholics,” also on Comedy Central. In fact, “Workaholics” and “Broad City” are alike in more than their web beginnings. They’re both low-budget, have creators as leads and are all about slacker friends making up elaborate plans that go horribly awry. However, Jacobson and Glazer manage to differentiate themselves from the “Workaholics” guys by offering a balance between absolute ridiculousness and hilariously awkward, self-aware humor. “Workaholics” is made funny by amplifying the stupidity and ignorance of all three lead characters, but “Broad City” brings a different approach, with Glazer and Jacobson sometimes egging each other on a la “Workaholics” but also balancing each other out in an “Odd Couple” way.
As much as “Broad City” is compared to its fellow web-series-turned-TV-show “Workaholics,” the series has also drawn comparisons to other female-fronted shows like “Girls.” But though “Girls” and “Broad City” are both written by and star women, “Broad City” doesn’t appear to be the dramatic coming-of-age-and-finding-yourself kind of series that Lena Dunham has created.
Sure, both series feature 20-something women in New York who don’t exactly have it all together, but if Jacobson and Glazer’s web episodes are any indication of what to expect in the television version, the “Broad City” and “Girls” similarities end there. Rather than relate to or represent all 20-something women, it seems like Jacobson and Glazer are simply being themselves — sometimes selfish and mean, sometimes uncomfortable and weird, but consistently hilarious.
What I hope to see from “Broad City” is more of the ridiculous antics and crude, unapologetic humor that made the web series so great. Jacobson and Glazer have their act down, all they have to do is ignore the pressure to be TV’s new “Girls” and write what they find funny. And if this first episode is any indication, they’ll do just fine.