One of the key differences between successful New York comedies and the less-memorable ones is how the city itself is depicted or utilized by the creative teams that head said series. In the case of Seinfeld, the depth of the city knowledge, terminology, and geography was borderline oceanic, offering plenty of laughs for those who have visited the city or even merely read about it but giving an added lacing of guffaws to those who have lived within the five boroughs. Considering Louie, Louis C.K.‘s wondrous, melancholic comedy, the city is given surrealistic dressing and a hallucinatory awe of the city’s sense of possibility, but is also infused with a skeptical wisdom and unimpeachable knowledge of the psychology of city dwellers. These imaginative takes on the Big Apple are in stark contrast to the staggering shallowness of vision that denotes Sex and the City or the bland realism of the recent Billions.
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson‘s Broad City deserves to be categorized under the same rubric as Seinfeld and Louie, as well as HBO’s Girls, in regards to giving city life a unique flavor emitted from its creators. With its sterling third season, the comedy series remains an uproarious, buoyantly expressive view of a city which is increasingly finding it’s inherent weirdness and openness clashing with its reputation as a playground for the rich and elitists in general. In the season premiere, Jacobson accidentally “ruins” a typically empty piece of modern art by a pretentious friend, who gasps and cries out as if she’d just watched her dog get run over. It’s an obvious joke, but Jacobson beautifully subverts any sense of righteousness by making it clear that her character wants similar attention for her own art and lost a contact by offending her friend.
Jacobson and Glazer’s rueful yet adoring view of the social world of New York City stretches beyond mere matters of class, however, and ultimately shows a distinct skepticism when it comes to those who take their idiosyncrasies and personal preferences too seriously. When Glazer’s character is in danger of losing her place at a local co-op, run by a mad-eyed, breast-feeding earth momma (Melissa Leo), she enlists Jacobson to appear in her place, tossing her into a den of Phish-loving liberals who at once advocate doing your own thing and get intensely uptight when it comes to the rules of the co-op. In the premiere, Glazer and Jacobson are in danger of losing their place in a waiting line for a brunch spot due to not adhering to very detailed specifications. As the foodie and co-op scene advances in the city, the creators of Broad City see both how people can be excited and fulfilled by these opportunities, and how these advances give people a reason to get shallowly righteous and condescending, even if they don’t necessarily mean to.
This isn’t to say that Glazer and Jacobson let themselves off the hook for their own unique, erratic behavior. Glazer losing her membership at the co-op is due to blatant disinterest in spending time doing anything but what she wants to do, and later, when she gets fired from her job at a Groupon-type website, it’s clear that her dismissal comes from gross negligence and immaturity, even when she captures the attention of a female higher-up, played by Vanessa Williams in a lively, hysterical cameo. Similarly, Jacobson’s hesitancy, passiveness, and occasionally bumbling matter have long been seen as her essential downfall when it comes to romance and career advancement, making the revelation of her heated competitive streak in the third episode of Season 3 all the more beguiling and strikingly humorous.
The episode-long narratives are gems of urban-tinted imaginativeness, but Broad City is just as remarkable in its tiny nuances, such as when Glazer begins singing “I shit” in the bathroom with miniature percussion. Every little moment offers the show’s central duo a chance to make a big guffaw, and they take and run with nearly every one. And when the comedy isn’t aimed at self-deprication or a skeptical view of the rules of an increasingly restrictive city-society, the series emits a distinctly feminine and refreshingly open-minded view of sex and relationships. Underneath a jittery confidence and obvious talent for work and invention, Jacobson barely hides the trembling roots of a born romantic, while Glazer brilliantly embodies an adventurous, experimental lover and friend. With Glazer’s character’s boyfriend, played by Hannibal Buress, she demands that he share all the details, which she ultimately finds incredibly arousing; she reacts by demolishing municipal property out of what seems like sheer uncontrollable desire. Similarly, the inspired, raucous third season of Broad City evokes a deep love for the five boroughs by at once trashing the place and its denizens, while also perfectly encapsulating the tremendous freedom and promise that the city offers young, creative women who are simply looking for a place to find and be their own unapologetic selves.
Rating: ★★★★ – Very Good