Review: Broad City (TV series)

By Tina Giannoulis

No matter how far feminism has taken us, Broad City is a game changer for women in the media. Lead by comedic writer-performers Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the show runs like a version of Fight Club that replaces violent masculinity with casual, but rampant, intersectional feminism. The first rule of Broad City is to have fun and be yourself. The second rule of Broad City is to have fun and be yourself.

Season one of soon-to-be cult classic Broad City is a paroxysm of colour, energy and lead characters who are larger than life. I feel ashamed at my trepidation in recommending the series to a man, but a truly evolved consumer wouldn’t flinch at lines such as: “Dude, did you just pull a bag of weed out of your vagina?” or, “Nose, vagina, butthole. If God didn’t want us to put our fingers in there, then why did She make them perfectly finger-sized?” Then again, we’re still using blue water in our tampon ads.

Following Abbi and Ilana, who play heightened versions of themselves, the series delves into the ins and outs of being young, poor and female in a big city. Separately, their characters are powerhouses for one-liners; together, they flare up and away from reality into the surreal space occupied by only the most intimate of friends. If you’ve ever had a friendship that other people have described as “kind of married”, you’ll be all too familiar with Abbi and Ilana’s dynamic. Helped along by the show’s applaudable depiction of technology, it portrays its characters in a closed circuit of near constant communication, and plays on their synchronicity. As single, adventurous, low-paid and generally disorganised people, the duo are infinitely relatable and unendingly hilarious.

In essence, Broad City is a romance; Abbi and Ilana’s friendship is always at the very centre of each episode and every other relationship – with men, work, adulthood and drugs – is a satellite. In a strange twist on convention, Broad City could almost be criticised for not having any three-dimensional male characters, but Hannibal Buress’s earth-shatteringly funny portrayal of Lincoln, Ilana’s “purely physical” sex partner, ties the piece together. Jaime (played by Arturo Castro), Ilana’s migrant flatmate, also serves up some sugar-sweet, but ultimately biting, social commentary.

As a female-lead series set in New York, the show has drawn many comparisons to Lena Dunham’s Girls. Produced by Judd Apatow, Girls could have been cast as the female equivalent to the male-dominated touchy-feely comedy he’s become known for; the loved-up buddy movie that’s fuelled by talk of blunts and balls. But it’s no secret that Lena Dunham’s series has been met with criticism and the kind of politicisation that the rest of Apatow’s work has never garnered. Yes, the show can be funny, touching and explicitly open about the range of struggles of its demographic, but where Girls is weighty, strangely apologetic and self-pitying, Broad City unabashedly bumps and grinds to its own beat in all its white haze, cultural homage and vagina-filled glory.