Broad City opens with Ilana (Ilana Glazer), a high-energy, low-achieving twentysomething New Yorker, video-chatting with her more reticent and responsible bestie, Abbi (Abbi Jacobson). The subject of their conversation is seizing the day, something Ilana and Abbi rarely get around to doing in the show’s early episodes, but as Ilana’s laptop moves, the focus of the scene becomes the revelation that she’s having sex with her fuck buddy, Lincoln (Hannibal Buress). And things only get weirder from there.
The series can sometimes feel like the camera was left running too long on an SNL digital short, and a couple of the early storylines feel like nothing more than an elongated version of Glazer and Jacobson’s three-minute YouTube sketches. Though the actors seem wholly committed to the ridiculous nature of the series, the characters occasionally come across more like caricatures than real people. Still, taking a cue from cult favorites Workaholics, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Archer, Broad City injects some humanity into every ridiculous storyline. Even in the midst of plotlines that see Abbi experiencing a weed-induced psychotic episode and Ilana struggling mightily to file her taxes, important generational questions about romance, friendships, and cohabitation abound. Will Lincoln elevate the relationship with Ilana past a physical level, despite her wishes? Can Abbi muster the poise to see her neighbor/crush, Jeremy (Stephen Schneider), without blurting out something off-putting? Will Abbi’s roommate’s boyfriend, Bevers (John Gemberling), finally get his comeuppance for using all the toilet paper and walking around the apartment naked?
Comparisons to Girls are unavoidable. In both shows, a group of (not always likeable) females navigate their mid 20s and the streets of New York City. But the similarities end there. While Lena Dunham’s HBO series employs archetypal characters to tell a relatively boilerplate story of what it’s like to be a young female in the big city, Broad City’s impossible-to-pigeonhole characters revel in their absurdity and rarely stick to the script. As opposed to a more mainstream comedy like The Mindy Project or Two Broke Girls, Broad City sits at the margins of comedy and doesn’t muddle its humor by sticking its conclusions about the human condition right under the audience’s nose.
Late in the first episode, Ilana convinces Abbi to strip to her underwear and join her in cleaning the apartment of David (Fred Armisen), a guy she met on Craigslist, all in an effort to scrape enough cash together for a Lil Wayne pop-up concert later that night. When they finish the pants-less vacuuming, David, dressed in a diaper, claims to be a baby and is unable to pay them. Ilana and Abbi proceed to trash his house, steal his alcohol, and end up on a stoop drunkenly wondering why they ever wanted to see Lil Wayne in the first place. By the end of the episode, any animosity that developed between Ilana and Abbi over cleaning a stranger’s house in the nude has dissolved, with the leads deciding to try the whole seize-the-day thing all over again tomorrow morning.
That sequence serves as a microcosm for the series, which feels more honest than most in its playful depiction of this generation. The apartments suck, Bed Bath & Beyond coupons are like buried treasure, and roommates’ boyfriends eat all the cheese. Bosses aren’t molesters or mentors, but regular, old passive-aggressive soul-killers. And life is less about making it to the Lil Wayne concert and more about creating memories with your best friends—even if that means dusting a fetishist’s apartment in your panties.