Last night's season finale of Broad City last night confirmed just why the show, in just ten episodes, has become an essential jewel in the crown of TV comedy. It's not because of the diversity it brings to the television landscape (although it does and that's terrific). It's not because it's the best show about living on the edge in New York City since, I don't know, Flight of the Conchords (but it is, and that's awesome). It's because it's doing farce better than any show has in a generation. "The Last Supper" was a two-hander that excised everyone in the cast but Abbi (Jacobson) and Ilana (Glazer), set the action entirely around a disastrous fancy dinner, and proceeded to show off.
The best thing about the insanity that followed was that Broad City doesn't have to mess with grander things to keep us interested. I'm emotionally tied to its characters, but this isn't a show that hinges on breakups or characters falling out with each other or big plot developments. Jacobson and Glazer are exceptional comic minds, and their UCB training is clearest in every episode's structure, which slowly builds the absurdity onto some basic situation. The girls want to buy some weed! Abbi lost her phone! Everyone's trying to get to a wedding!
Initial episodes were maybe a little too shaggy, but it's been amazing to watch the show tighten things up so quickly considering that this is Jacobson and Glazer's first effort at making TV (Broad City was a web-series first, but it was very lo-fi). Episodes like "Stolen Phone" and "Destination: Wedding" are finely-crafted exercises in sitcom plotting. The latter introduced two new characters and within seconds caught you up to the place they occupied in our heroes' lives. That's not an easy feat to pull off.
The content matters too. Broad City is sexually frank and happy to be gross, but never feels too in-your-face about it. Girls often feels like its throwing down some big marker with its intense content, whereas Broad City's is much more integrated to Abbi and Ilana's personalities. Being on Comedy Central certainly restricts just how crazy things can get, but when things get nasty on Broad City it still feels much more natural, because it's established that everything is happening in a very fuzzy, stoned, silly headspace.
Not to keep comparing this show to Girls, but Broad City also has a much better understanding of what it's like to be broke and living in New York. Both girls' living and job situations are depressing in a barely-heightened, creepily accurate way. Other NYC rites of passage, like visiting the UPS station to pick up an undelivered package, get tweaked to deliver a knowing wink to residents while making the nightmare of the situation clear to everyone else.
And then, of course, there's Lincoln. Jacobson and Glazer have done well to draw from the UCB world to fill out the show's ensemble and bit-parts, with Chris Gethard, John Gemberling, Paul W. Downs and others doing great work in the background. But standup comic Hannibal Burress should be in awards discussion for what he's done as Ilana's laconic pseudo-boyfriend Lincoln. He sums up everything that's so good about this show's lack of real drama. With the two leads creating so much of the insanity that drives the plot forward, he's an essential calming counterbalance who's usually there to point out that everything will be okay. Then he'll start rambling about dogs, or bust out an observation like "even homeless people read newspapers." It feels like a crime to go on too much about a supporting male character on a show that's done so well to make female-driven comedy feel accessible and universal. But, just watch the clip below. How can you not fall in love with Lincoln?
Comedy Central is on a major roll these days (Review, Kroll Show, Key & Peele and Nathan for You are all essential viewing) but Broad City, which has been renewed for a second season, is brimming with the most potential. Every one of the network's recent hits has taken a major step up in their second years. I fully expect Broad City to do the same.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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