Emmy Spotlight: Can ‘Broad City’ Break the Comedy Net?

Broad City

Broad City and its cast are the perennial outsiders in Emmy’s Comedy race. Season three should change all that.

Four! And three! And two! And one!

Welcome to the misadventures of the bonkers variety. Never mind Bill and Ted or Lloyd and Harry or numerous other comedy double acts that pop to mind. Here we have the odd couple that is Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler. Played with outlandish and perfect comic skill by stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer – who also created the show based on their own web series – Broad City is a vivacious, free-wheeling New York City romp, a genuinely expressive and brash TV comedy. It may well be reminiscent of the kind of unfiltered, girls-behaving-badly antics depicted in shows like HBO’s Girls, or the kind of idiotic, ludicrous, potty-mouthed comedy that came out of the UK decades ago. Somehow, this is a fresh take on the social, personal mishaps of two Jewish American women in their twenties in modern day New York.

Broad CityHaving successfully closed its doors on the third season and gladly renewed for seasons four and five, Broad City continues in the same tried and tested formula as the first two. Where blurred out nudity and bleeped cursing is not brought to the forefront but is merely par for the course. And Abbi and Ilana’s uncompromising recognition and flaunting of their own imperfections, reflecting many aspects of mental behaviour and body image. Their outward portrayal of these attributes are still somehow endearing and engaging for two characters so scattered and deranged at times you would be forgiven for not associating them as life role models.

The regular, and mercifully small, supporting players are all in the mix once again. Illana’s bed buddy Lincoln is getting itchy feet in her lack of emotional commitment. Abbi’s gym mentor and quirky crush Trey begins to warm to his romantic colleague. Abbi’s roommate is still never seen, but her couch potato boyfriend Bevers certainly is as is Jaime, Ilana’s gay roommate. Season three benefits from not only the same sort of compelling comedy capers of its predecessors but also a subtle development of the relationships of those characters, a further human depth to both Abbi and Ilana especially. That gives the show a well-earned, perfectly-pitched extra layer.

Don’t worry. The usual sporadic physical comedy is still sprinkled around generously – too many to name here surely. Ilana half-dancing down a city street, ass-bumping a business women into a trash bin. Abbi’s failed handstand has her crashing into a meticulously arranged store display. The DIY tampon of the season finale. The bike lock chain and store security tag dilemma. I could go on. And on. Broad City carves out sufficient plots and turning points any comedy requires, and never yields the urgency for a long-term narrative or character arc structure to keep the overall show chugging along. It is snippy and bold in its development, splendidly paced throughout.

Broad City also, again, uses New York City so damn well (I won’t be a walking cliché and say that the city itself is a character). Its streets and parks serve as the venue for the girls’ various antics without apology. Remember Ilana yelling “Wanna fook?” to the hot guys playing soccer? New York City’s locations across the five boroughs still depict a great romantic love of the city even in its most hectic and crazed moments. A non-New-Yorker like myself can fully appreciate and feel that.

Ilana and Abbi themselves dive headfirst into their own manic intentions and obsessions (which actually feel relatable quite often). Both seem charmingly clueless a lot of the time, but they more than make up for this with their ridiculous energy and short term ambition. The season itself opens with a split-screen montage with Abbi and Ilana in their respective bathrooms peeing, farting, sexing, doing pot, dancing, vomiting, eating, and shaving pubic hair. Sounds revolting and tasteless sure, but in the context of the show this is a reminder of their characters and the creators’ ambivalent execution of them. If you can’t stand the heat (mistaken for erratic behavior), then stay out of their bathrooms.

Broad City

Even when the antics perhaps go a little too far to the standard viewer or perhaps the comedy misses somewhat, the show doesn’t fail. In fact it never stops rolling along on its madcap journey. Jacobson and Glazer’s writing is playful, opportunist, sceptical, buoyant and often sidesplittingly funny. Their humor is a kind of social humor we somehow recognize and appreciate. Just one of many in-jokes or direct homage is to Mrs. Doubtfire in the dinner scene with Ilana’s parents anniversary dinner. Abbi’s back and forth between tables is straight out of the movie’s climactic sequence where the waitress is played by none other than Mara Wilson, who played Robin Williams’ youngest daughter Natalie in the 1993 film.

The season three guest appearances do not stop there. Memorable faces of TV comedy hits gone by include Vanessa Williams, Cynthia Nixon, and going even further back into America’s comedy history you have Alan Alda and Tony Danza also showing up. Sports are also represented with Blake Griffin, and musician Adam Levine (who pops up everywhere doesn’t he?) makes a self-parodying appearance. Whoopi Goldberg pays homage to Sister Act. And Melissa Leo is also impressive as a super-fertile woman and shop owner. Perhaps the most statuesque guest star has to be the one and only Hillary Clinton, playing herself as Ilana lands a voluntary position in a campaign office thinking it is a paid position. How can such a good show slip under the net any further with such prestige and magnetism in its arsenal?

An extremely topical and heavily appropriate notion then, that every vote counts here. I know the comedy categories are heavy in their competition, but come on, get your ha-ha hats on Emmy people! Support the women, clearly for comic power and influence. Broad City has plenty of moments that make it the best out there without really being pretentious or gimmicky. While the real world presidential race carries a certain satirical value, I implore Emmy voters to make the right call with Broad City when ticking their boxes.

Yas yas yas!

Possible Nominations

Comedy Series
Ilana Glazer, Lead Actress
Abbi Jacobson, Lead Actress
Writing
Melissa Leo, Guest Actress
Cynthia Nixon, Guest Actress

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