New Season of Broad City Busts Expectations
Allie Tollaksen | Sunday, February 8, 2015
When “Broad City” premiered on Comedy Central in January of last year, its creators, comedians Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, immediately started making a stir. The show, which started out as a cult-hit web series, gained an enormous amount of popularity throughout its first season while being lauded by critics.
The show follows the lives of the conveniently named Abbi and Ilana, two stoner best friends running amuck in New York City. And while almost any clause about women trying to make it in the Big Apple tends to sound trite, “Broad City” is anything but. The two best friends (both Abbi and Ilana the writers and Abbi and Ilana the characters) defy any cliché or categorization, which is part of the reason “Broad City” has been so successful.
Now with its second season underway and already renewed for a third, the show hasn’t hit anything close to a sophomore slump. Rather, “Broad City” has flourished in its second season, pulling no punches with the kind of groundbreaking comedy that put the show on the map.
Season two kicked off on Jan. 14 with a look at the two broads wasting no time in getting back into the swing of things. The premiere jumped into Abbi and Ilana’s search for an air conditioner during a heat wave in a picaresque adventure through the city (something Glazer and Jacobson have mastered beautifully). Almost immediately, the episode jumps into the topic of sexual assault as Ilana spews a confusing and overconfident speech about rape culture at a dinner, while Abbi is confronted with the idea she may be an “accidental” rapist.
The topic was heavy (and got some negative feedback from viewers), but the episode was still as ridiculous and hilarious as ever. It also showed that, though the first season of “Broad City” proved Glazer and Jacobsen had mastered the “Workaholics”- like, fairly self-contained stoner comedy, the show’s second season wasn’t afraid of taking on a larger context.
What’s beautiful about the episode is the two women don’t offer answers to the questions raised about widely discussed and serious issues like rape culture. Instead, they hysterically capture what it’s like to live in a world where these issues exist. Ilana comes off as impassioned but incoherent about rape culture, and Abbi’s storyline raises questions about gender dynamics in the rape culture debate. The result may seem insensitive, but actually serves as an interesting way to examine how we talk about the issue — or whether we know how to talk about it at all.
This is the strength of “Broad City” — it manages to be smart and insightful while also being stupid and side-splitting. Best of all, when the show does make a statement, it’s not by discussing social problems but by actively defying expectations.
Take, for example, the portrayal of female friendships and sexuality. When so many shows portray likeable-but-nerdy women who are afraid of sex (“New Girl,” “30 Rock”), best friends who fight, judge and undermine each other (“2 Broke Girls,” “Girls”) and women who either are in clear-cut relationships or floundering in the dating world (every show ever), “Broad City” takes a radically different approach. Abbi and Ilana are unconditionally accepting and supporting friends. They’re also awkward, clueless women who still successfully and unapologetically get laid.
“Broad City” then is a refreshingly sex-positive show that proves women can be sexual without facing judgment, women can be friends without being frenemies and that all this can happen without sacrificing any laughs. This theme runs throughout the show’s first season into its second. For example, there is a running theme that Ilana, who is in a healthy open relationship and very pansexual, wants to hook up with Abbi. Abbi consistently smiles and declines, and the two simply move on in the conversation, showing the beauty of their acceptance of each other.
The sex positivity and supportive friendship hit an all-time high in the show’s most recent episode, “Knockoffs.” When Abbi’s fling with her long-time crush leads her into uncharted sexual territory, Ilana unflinchingly eggs her on and is outrageously excited on Abbi’s behalf. The episode is wrought with funny insight into gender and sexuality in the modern world but is executed in a way that is lighthearted, absurd and totally amusing, and the episode has been praised for being the show’s best ever.
“Broad City” isn’t even halfway through season two, but the show is already breaking ground and gaining fans. Jacobson and Glazer relentlessly innovate with their unapologetic humor and affirming friendship, so listen their mantra and say “yas” to “Broad City.”