Why Broad City is the greatest show in the world
Comedy Central’s Broad City is not just good — it’s life affirming. By Swéta Rana
Television doesn’t always portray the lives of young women very well — especially not those in New York City, which is often depicted as some magical happy land where everything is vast, shiny and inexplicably affordable. How the hell does Monica Geller maintain that colossal lavender-coloured apartment on a chef’s salary? Anyone remember the time Carrie Bradshaw realised she’d spent $40,000 dollars on shoes? Why do none of these women seem to take their bra off when they have sex? Why do they always eat salads in restaurants?
Then along came Lena Dunham. Her HBO show Girls began in 2012, and purports to show a more realistic view of women, sex and New York. They actually get naked in Girls. They talk about money problems, get high and make dumb decisions. Their relationships are flawed at best, confusing and masochistic and downright fucked up at worst. Just like real life? To an extent, yes.
But then again, it’s about four obscenely privileged white girls in the middle of New York City. Until complaints were made after the first season, there were basically no ethnic minority characters at all, which is pretty damn baffling considering the densely populated global city that is New York. Yes, they might mention money once or twice, but rarely do we actually see any of them struggle (‘confusingly large apartment’ syndrome strikes again on this show), or go to work very much. And sure — in real life, friendships are rarely perfect. But in Girls, none of them seem to care about each other. Like, at all. They’re all utterly, utterly horrible to each other. It’s frankly quite demeaning to watch.
I don’t know, Lena. Your ‘realistic’ portrayal just kind of makes me sad. Where are all the ethnic minorities, the office hours, the penny-pinching, casual sex free from dysfunction, and actual friendships?
I’ll tell you where they are. They’re in Broad City.
Broad City is not just a TV show. Fiercely intelligent, hilarious to the point of causing physical pain, and bursting with deep, genuine affection, Broad City is not just a TV show. Broad City is life-affirming.
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer started their show as a webseries. It was picked up by Comedy Central and season three will be broadcast in 2016. The UK got the memo a bit late, but fiiiiiinaaaaallyyyyyy started showing it on Sky Atlantic this year. And boy, I’m so glad.
Jacobson and Glazer play two fictionalised version of themselves. They’re in their twenties, they live in Brooklyn, and, SHOCK HORROR, they do realistic identifiable things that actual humans do in the world. They go to work and maintain jobs they don’t like very much. They meet people who are not white. They take drugs, prescribed and non-prescribed. They get stoned and they get drunk and they get laid. Above all, they laugh. They laugh a whole damn lot.
Because Abbi and Ilana are not just best friends. They are kindred spirits. And together, they are able to face anything. They have each other’s backs, so when it comes to creepy locksmiths or an injured ankle or a medicine dose gone wrong, they know they can get through it. And they can have fun while they do. So, so much fun.
One of the most amazing things about Broad City: despite its realistic premise and its portrayal of genuine friendship, it’s… sort of insane. Its humour can be madly surreal at times, with big costumes and animation and a strange yoghurt-eating lady called Garol. I don’t know how Jacobson and Glazer do it, but honestly, their writing is so clever that a giant plush toy skipping around the city somehow makes a weird kind of sense.
When I watch Broad City, I really, truly relate. Abbi and Ilana remind me of my own relationship with my best friend. They scrounge money together for gigs and they drag themselves to work the next day. Sometimes Abbi will stay in and watch The Good Wife; other times Ilana will go out and walk a bunch of dogs. Life is funny and strange and frustrating and comforting and it’s all made much better when you have amazing friends to share it with. That, essentially, is humankind’s most enduring truth — and Broad City shows it better than most.
Originally published at abstractmag.com on June 8, 2015.