Amy Poehler’s ‘Broad City’ sitcom reenvisions ‘Girls’ for new audiences


Contributing Writer

We all have that friend. The friend who you can call or Skype whenever even if it’s to talk about nothing. The friend in whose presence you leave feeling better about yourself, even if you did nothing but lie on their bed and sing along to Fall Out Boy for three hours.

With its first eight episodes available on Hulu, the Amy Poehler-produced comedy “Broad City” is a show about this type of friendship. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are constant friends in each other’s lives. They accidentally Skype each other while having sex and answer each other’s calls while on the toilet. They have long conversations about which kind of dog they’d like to be. Their friendship is the driving force behind the show. They may have their differences; Glazer’s more easygoing while Jacobson can be a bit intense.

Every challenge they experience, whether it’s dealing with their roommate’s uncouth boyfriend or rushing to make it to a wedding, is made that much funnier because they experience it together.

 At first glance, there’s not much to distinguish “Broad City” from the glut of comedies about twenty-somethings struggling to find their way. It is much less ambitious than the television show “Girls,” to which it can easily be compared to. The main characters in “Broad City” aren’t striving to accomplish anything great; they’re just focusing on getting through each day.

However, there is something about the chemistry between the two leads that elevates “Broad City” into something special. Glazer and Jacobson have been working together since 2009, when they created the web series, also called “Broad City,” that evolved into the television show.  Each woman has her own particular comedic strength: Jacobson excels at physical comedy while Glazer has a way with tone and line delivery. The two women have become incredibly skilled at playing off each other. Their easy camaraderie also benefits their character development. You really come away from an episode believing these two women are friends.

While singing the praises of the two leads, I also want to take the time to note the strengths of their supporting actors. The recurring characters are all played by alumni of Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), the improvisational comedy troupe where Glazer and Jacobson also studied. Each actor manages to create a fully realized character in their limited amount of screen time.

Of the recurring characters, my favorite is Lincoln, played by Ilana’s boyfriend Hannibal Burress who says in the pilot that he is  “totally OK with a no-strings relationship.”  Burress’s deadpan delivery and goofy physicality are utterly charming. The guest stars that crop up throughout the first season, Janene Garofolo and Rachel Dratch to name two, add extra layers to the humor without stealing the spotlight.

Glazer and Jacobson are not afraid to take risks in terms of both style and tone. Some of the episodes toy with cinematic conventions, using split screen, camera angles, and sound editing to enhance the surreality of a given scene. Despite the surreal heights that some of the episodes reach, they remain grounded in reality, a skill Jacobson and Glazer perhaps learned during their time at UCB. From the opening scene of the first episode, when Ilana Skypes Abbi while having sex with Lincoln, the viewer realizes that no topic is off limits. Sexual innuendos, references to numerous drugs and the word “vagina” are thrown around freely. At times, the dirty tone feels a bit excessive, but there is also something undeniably exhilarating about it. Ilana and Abbi talk like my friends and I do, with a complete lack of self-consciousness.

“Broad City” as a whole has an undeniable self-confidence. The writing and editing are sharp and both Glazer and Jacobson are winning characters. They are unafraid to put themselves out there and to occasionally be offensive. “Broad City” may not fit everyone’s taste, but it taps into the inherent absurdity of being young and in the city. These two women are showing the viewer their understanding of the twenty-something experience, and they don’t care if you like it.

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