With each new episode, HBO’s series Girls generates countless thinkpieces about the various problematic elements that arise week to week on Lena Dunham’s controversial show. But why does it generate so much praise and damnation? Could it be because of Dunham’s outspoken political views? Another show out there that skewers its central group of solipsistic New York women is Broad City, which has its Season 3 premiere tonight at 10pm on Comedy Central. Yet Broad City fails to generate even a quarter of digital ink that Dunham’s show does despite being much more adept at satirizing New York life and generational malaise and entitlement. The reason is simple: Girls asks the audience to sympathize with its millennial leads while Broad City doesn’t. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s show simply asks you to stare in disbelief at the actions of its characters and their escalating absurdity.
For its Season 3 premiere, Broad City sets Abbi and Ilana on a rather simple farce through New York City which slowly escalates as the two women get further and further from their intended goals over an afternoon. After a cold open, a montage of the two women in their bathroom partaking in bowel movements, pot smoking, and some sexual adventures, Abbi and Ilana attempt to have brunch at a local diner. Ilana drops the key to her bike lock, leaving a 12-pound chain locked around her waist. Attempts to retrieve the key lead to Abbi ruining her clothes, meaning she’ll have to secure a new wardrobe for an art show she’s attending in the evening. Of course, this sets the two women on a course to get the chain removed from Ilana’s waist and Abbi a new outfit and nothing is as simple as its seems.
This particular episode highlights why Broad City works so well as a show. Details that are seemingly innocuous come full circle and lead to hilarious gags and situations that amplified by the two well-defined characters of Abbi and Ilana, with Ilana as the one with the unearned confidence, rambling with her unenlightened liberal outrage over whatever news story she most recently read and Abbi as the timid one, her own worst enemy due to her lack of self-confidence. I won’t divulge all of the twists and situations that arise because these are gags that work much better with the element of surprise, but they do pay off with some serious laughs.
Broad City is among one of the best comedy shows on television for its ability to skewer a generation while still operating on the most basic levels of situational comedy. There’s a raunchy edge to the show’s humor, typically represented by the hyper-sexualized Ilana. As the episode concludes, Abbi and Ilana go through great pains to remove the chain that has saddled Ilana throughout the episode. It’s a fairly ugly scene that leaves Ilana’s chest covered in blood. “Tell me again that this isn’t sexual,” Ilana crudely states to Abbi as the episode concludes. It’s a punchline that took the entire episode to setup, and the final laugh of a truly hilarious episode.