There is also a slight embrace of the surreal that makes Broad City feel – at times – like a less disciplined or driven version of Louie. Specifically this is seen in the pilot when Abbi and Ilanna are bucket-drum panhandling, only to see their flash-business model come crashing down when an opportunistic break dancer decides to horn in on their territory. The same can be said for the scene where Abbi and Illanna clean an apartment in their underwear to get money from a creepy deviant (as played by Fred Armisen, who joins indie-comic stars Chris Gethard and Hannibal Buress as notable guest stars) so that they can go to a Lil’ Wayne rap concert and avoid a crushing night of stir-fry cuisine.
On Girls, such a horrific event might have (rightly) scarred one of the characters or served as ammunition for a blog post. We’d all be inundated by think-pieces about what Lena Dunham was saying about self-worth when she put one of her characters in a situation where they were willing to go through that kind of indecency for a material thing – but that just isn’t going to happen here. With Broad City, the half-naked maid service joins work and semi-romantic frustrations, furry slacker pseudo-roomate troubles, borderline shop-lifting, pot dealer barter-trading, and sidewalk drinking on the list of things dealt with during a normal NYC day.
Is it possible that that kind of comedy may come off as too detached from reality, too broad, or too exclusive and standoffish? Is it possible that people might be put off by the show’s indifference to whether you “like” these characters? Possibly, but it’s important to realize that this also feels like the evolution of the kind of un-apologetically cruel and unlikable characters and antic-based-humor that propelled a show like Seinfeld. That show revolutionized the exploration of nothingness in a way that half-inspired the Friends generation of sitcoms that comics like Abbi Jacobson and Ilanna Glazer probably grew up watching (in addition to Seinfeld).
All of these inspirations and similarities don’t mean that Broad City comes off as a work of lazy pastiche, though. It’s true, there are parts of Broad City that feel spiritually linked to shows from the past, but the show’s tone is also confident in a way that is singular and doubtlessly forged by the struggle to come up through the overcrowded Web (Broad City was initially a web series) and bolstered by the approval of someone like Amy Poehler (a producer on the show).
Unlike many other series’ that get to the point of being on a major network, though, Broad City also feels daring and immune to the plague of careerism. You get the sense that Jacobson and Glazer are leaving everything on the screen for you, that they are unafraid to push boundaries (a challenge that stifles something like Two Broke Girls) and that they aren’t looking to use this as a stepping stone. This is them and this is their idea of what funny is. Enjoy it… or don’t, but respect it as more than just “Comedy Central’s version of Girls“.
Broad City airs on Wednesday nights on Comedy Central @10:30PM ET