Yas Queen! ‘Broad City’ season four’s fresh comedy and meaningful politics
Maggie Walsh | Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Four and three and two and one. Cue the psychedelic, catchy title sequence because “Broad City” is funnier, smarter and more relevant than ever. With the fourth season’s finale approaching, it’s time to take a look at what makes “Broad City” especially important this year.
“Broad City” started in 2009 as a YouTube web series starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, both veterans of the comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade. These early videos are much shorter and less polished than their formalized successors, but the early stages of clever scripting are nonetheless visible. The web series caught the attention of comedian Amy Poehler, who now serves as one of the executive producers on the television show, which first aired in 2014.
“Broad City” follows two women, appropriately named Abbi and Ilana, as they make their way in New York City. While the plot line may sound cliche, “Broad City” is actually the opposite. The show tackles difficult socio-political topics and holds an affectionate but critical mirror to American society, all the while feeling refreshingly real and completely relatable.
Season four has been no exception to the show’s enticing qualities, and its messages seem more appropriate than ever in our cultural landscape.
“Broad City” is, and always has been, an empowering show for women. Ilana may have traded (yas) queens for witches as her superlative this season, but the sentiment remains the same: Females are beautiful and powerful. The show inspires unequivocal acceptance of all sexualities and questions gender stereotypes in a light but compelling manner.
This season has also given topics commonly deemed taboo a close yet comedic examination. Episode four centers on Abbi and Ilana’s escapades with shrooms, with the majority of the episode appearing as a hilariously animated depiction of their trip. Other drugs are repeatedly mentioned throughout the season — it’s clear that Glazer and Jacobson invite conversation about seemingly controversial topics. The following week’s episode follows Ilana’s battle with seasonal affective disorder and Abbi’s mother’s visit to New York City in the midst of what appears to be a midlife crisis. Behind the scenes interviews reveal that Glazer and Jacobson struggled to write this episode about mental health with respect and humor, but the end result was both amusing and thought-provoking.
“Broad City” — particularly season four — cannot be discussed without mentioning politics. Since the election, popular culture has found it difficult to reconcile what feels like rampant political turmoil. Glazer and Jacobson themselves were outspoken in their disappointment regarding the election; this sentiment is evident throughout “Broad City.” Season four features an episode entirely dedicated to Ilana’s inability to enjoy sex following Trump’s election. The plot line is primarily comedic but highlights an important and underexplored issue in the midst of political turbulence: the toll politics can take on emotional well-being. In episode three, Ilana’s expensive custom manicure features depictions of the Obama family. Another episode finds Ilana amusingly christening herself Ilana Rodham Obama Wexler. One of the most blatant examples of their distaste for the current administration is their choice to censor Trump’s name. This small detail on the show was certainly comical, but the joke has taken on a life of its own — since then, the show has even released a Google Chrome extension that allows users to censor Trump’s name on their browsers.
Beyond season four’s astute commentary on a wide variety of social and political issues, this season sees the show maturing more than ever before. The actors are growing in experience and talent, and the material is continually fresh and engaging. This season also features guest appearances from celebrities like Shania Twain, Wanda Sykes and RuPaul.
The show airs Wednesdays on Comedy Central. This week’s episode features a cameo from Steve Buscemi and details Ilana’s struggles with a common New York plight — bedbugs — while simultaneously following Abbi’s quest for confidence in the face of unemployment. “Broad City” has already been renewed for a fifth season.