Okay I have to admit I’m a little in love with Broad City.
I came late to the game, and didn’t catch it until it had already been picked up by Comedy Central. So there are two seasons of webisodes that I am slowly working my way through as well, and so far I am totally impressed with what I have seen of the TV series.
They met in acting class and performed in the Upright Citizens Brigade together and their real life friendship informs a lot of the stories in the show. They write about being awkward and hopeless and young in the way that only awkward hopeless young people can write about it.
What I like about it:
- It’s not perfectly polished and neither are they. They wear beanies, and dirty tshirts, and thick winter jackets that aren’t perfectly tailored. They have normal bodily functions like sweating, they go to the toilet, they have messy hair. They don’t wear Manolos in fact, they mostly wear flats, and when they do dress up they worry about the cost of the dress, or wear outfits that don’t quite match. They’re ‘real’ people, not fantasy New Yorkers with endless wardrobes and perfect hair and make up. In an interview about the show, Ilana talks about how she wants to show that ‘some women don’t give a fuck if they’re not considered the absolutely hottest girl in the room and actually prefer to have their strengths lie within their intellect’. That’s an awesome sentiment.
- It’s not always about finding a boyfriend or getting a guy to like them. Sometimes it’s about having no money, or your gross flatmate, or working at a shitty job, or just the utter weirdness that is New York City.
- We get to see these ladies horny, stoned and dirty. Just like women are in real life. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they smoke too much weed and eat too much candy. Sometimes they don’t shower and accidentally end up homeless and get maced in the face by their neighbours. That’s just real life. It’s also really funny.
- It’s about an endearing friendship. These two women have a friendship that’s obviously stood the test of time. They talk every day, they care for each other, and they don’t compete for any man’s, or anyone’s attention.
- They have real jobs. Unglamourous early 20s real jobs. Neither of them works in advertising, or journalism or in a cute bakery where for some reason they don’t have to start at 4am like regular bakers. Neither of them is particularly rich, and a lot of the show is about them trying to find or make extra money. Neither of them lives in a perfect loft apartment. They live in dingy student flats that they share with other people to cover costs.
- The men are real men too. There’s a real trend in American sitcoms in particular, for the men to be stupid unintelligent slobs (often misogynistic as well in the guise of ‘humour’). Now, Abbi does have a slobby male roommate (well technically he’s her roommates boyfriend but we never see the roommate) and hopefully they develop his character well enough that he’s not JUST a slob. But, I’m willing to forgive them their lazy comic relief character in the roommate’s boyfriend because Lincoln, Ilana’s sometime boyfriend/booty call (played by the delightful Hannibel Buress) is incredibly smart, funny and quirky. His straight man is the perfect foil to Ilana and Abbi’s crazy energy and when the three of them have scenes together he brings an element of gentle humour that adds something kind of grown up to all the hilarity.
- They do a lot with a little. Even though the production values are not high, and sometimes the sound quality could be better, the show is still incredibly watch-able, and while the shots are basic the camera work is flawless and the locations are full of character. It’s really well cut, which is great because it can actually be really hard to edit for comedy because often the humour is in the cut; i.e. do you cut out of the gag fast and THAT makes the humour, or do you leave the characters hanging and THAT makes the humour? If you look at early episodes of shows like the Mighty Boosh (which has a similar DIY low-fi ethic)often they don’t quite know where to cut and the gag goes on for too long, and you can feel yourself getting restless. That rarely happens in this show.
What I kind of don’t like about it:
- Casual homophobia. So this is the sich. Ilana has a not-so-secret crush on Abbi, and she’s constantly trying to get Abbi to respond to her sexually, Abbi’s always turning her down in a very aggressive way. What I can’t figure out is: is this homophobic? Ilana’s not ashamed of her sexuality, Abbi seems annoyed by Ilana’s attentions but is that homophobia or just a response to harassment. And then, is it okay for Ilana to constantly harass Abbi like that? Like if it was a guy going “come on, show me your tit, just a little bit” wouldn’t that be uncomfortable? Maybe Ilana’s character is just trying to challenge Abbi’s uptight sexuality a little bit? Maybe the show doesn’t know it’s being homophobic and they’re just doing it for humour. But why is a joke about one girl wanting to get with the other girl all the time, why is that funny? Is that funny?
- Sort of casual racism? I don’t know… sometimes I think the way they talk about race can be a bit… privileged. But they do at least TRY to talk about race. And then again, they still have a fair amount of diversity in their guest stars and supporting cast members, and these characters of colour are often nuanced and not just stereotypes, which is more than you could say about Girls or Sex and the City (both shows that Broad City gets constantly compared to for obvious reasons)
- They are still both skinny, young and pretty. Look, they’re very funny women and incredibly smart and their show is very well written and they absolutely deserved to get pick up by the network. BUT they still fit the ‘look’ – that is skinny and pretty with perfect skin. If they weighed 40 pounds more, or had bad teeth, or were 45, maybe their web series wouldn’t have been picked up by the network?
- Still few female directors? Even though this show was created by women, and exec-produced by Amy Poehler, most of the directors are still male. Perhaps this is a chicken and egg problem, you can’t hire female directors if you can’t find them right? Having said that, two out of the seven directors were female so at least they’re trying.