About halfway into the first episode of Broad City, I realized it is everything I wanted Girls to be. While it may be a much more cynical look at 20-something life (and female friendship) in New York City, it’s also in many ways a much more realistic—and FAR more hilarious—one.
The premise of the show is ridiculously simple. Comediennes Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, who created and star in the show, play Ilana and Abbi, two 20-something, Jewish, young women living in New York City who attract trouble and misadventure on a daily basis. Ilana, 23, is the more wild of the two, and her daily goals usually involve being as high as possible and expending as little effort as possible. Abbi, 26, is more straight-laced, more awkward, and has actual aspirations of becoming an illustrator—or at least a fitness instructor at the gym where she works mostly cleaning the locker rooms. She usually gets roped into Ilana’s shenanigans, and she really loves Bed Bath & Beyond (their coupons never expire!).
The story of how Broad City came to be a series on Comedy Central is a great one. Glazer and Jacobson, who met as students at the Upright Citizens Brigade, started a web series of the same name in 2010. It got the attention of Amy Poehler, who later became an executive producer of the show when it was sold for television. Poehler even makes a hilarious guest appearance in the season one finale. The show also features many other notable guest stars, including Kelly Ripa (as herself), Amy Sedaris, Rachel Dratch, Seth Rogen, and Fred Armisen.
The supporting cast includes comedian Hannibal Buress as Lincoln, a pediatric dentist and Ilana’s on-again-off-again lover. John Gemberling plays Matt Bevers, the lazy, freeloading boyfriend of Abbi’s infamous, never-seen roommate (presumably, her roommate is Tino from My So-Called Life). Paul W. Downs, who is also a writer on the show, plays Abbi’s fitness-obsessed boss at Soulstice, a cultish gym obviously inspired by a certain spin studio of a similar name.
Aside from the fact that it’s utterly hilarious and cracks me up multiple times per episode, what I love about this show is how realistic it is. For example, in season one Abbi spends too much money on a sexy blue dress to wear on her birthday, intending to return it later. When that becomes impossible, she just wears the dress for every single important event that happens on the series from that point on. This is just so real—normal girls of Abbi’s age and financial status absolutely re-wear their best clothing items, yet repeat outfits are so rarely seen on TV.
Another hilariously realistic storyline is Abbi’s crush on her neighbor, Jeremy (Stephen Schneider). In most sitcoms, this would be the perfect set-up for a great love story. On Broad City, Abbi gets what she wants only to find out there’s a lot more to Jeremy than meets the eye. Spoiler alert—the cute neighbor has some surprising sexual fetishes, and the situation doesn’t end up at all the way Abbi hoped. This harsh shot of realism is cringeworthy, real, funny, and sad at the same time.
The premise of each half hour is usually pretty simple, and the show excels at bottle episodes. For example, one of the funniest episodes in the first season takes place as Abbi, Ilana, and their friends ride out a hurricane in Abbi’s apartment. Other set-ups include a struggle to get from midtown Manhattan to Connecticut for a wedding—a character’s new boyfriend even breaks up with her because he refuses to go to Penn Station, which he deems too “disgusting.” As someone who briefly lived in New York City and has spent a good deal of time there over the years, I found this plot point hysterical. The show makes truly excellent use of New York as both a backdrop and essentially a character in the show.
Is it ridiculous? Absolutely, although I would argue more of the situations portrayed are plausible for New York City than you might think. Despite how unlikable and frustrating they can be, Abbi and Ilana’s friendship is weird, dysfunctional, and refreshing. They know they’re often bad influences on each other, but they’re also each other’s biggest support system. They Skype with each other whenever they’re physically apart, sometimes at very inappropriate moments, and they disagree almost constantly, but at the end of the day, they’re best friends, navigating this crazy life together. Nothing ever goes smoothly, but that’s what makes it so funny. We all know people like Abbi and Ilana—hell, some of us ARE them. I don’t think I know a single person who is actually like a Girls character, which is something I am personally grateful for.
So far, two seasons of Broad City have aired, with season three expected in early 2016. Break out your sexiest blue dress and get caught up.