The effervescent, whip-smart “Broad City,” still the best rendering of best-friendship on TV, returned last night with an eye on one of New York (and women’s) most essential and least glorified subjects: the bathroom. A split-screen opening segment in “Two Chainz” shows Abbi and Ilana in their respective johns doing all the things one might do in there, and then some. (Is Ilana trying to FLAT IRON her pubic hair?) Weed, that longstanding supporting character, also makes it into the montage — if pot is ever legalized in New York, the only decent thing to do will be to announce it via this show. We then segue into a travelogue episode in which one of the main objectives is finding a place to pee.
Many of this show’s best episodes are about the ways in which being not-rich in New York can, well, suck. The premiere is a highly realistic depiction of the heartbreak that is being out for the day in this city without a go-to pit stop (though I will add that you develop a certain ability, with age, to swagger into a restaurant, as if you are DEFINITELY meeting friends there, and scoot into the restroom). Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer) are cruelly denied at a brunch place by the very hostess who seated them there an hour earlier; at a sample sale, where there are no bathrooms, no changing rooms and seemingly no code of civilization; when Abbi does find a place, her Port-a-John is unceremoniously hoisted off the ground by a crane. Here, the show continues its trend of putting Abbi in the most humiliating situations possible, which Jacobson pulls off with her usual aplomb.
In all three of the episodes available for review (none of which, regrettably, were the one with Hillary Clinton guest starring), Jacobson demonstrates some fabulous physical-comedy chops: In the second episode, she’s forced to masquerade as Ilana during a shift at the organic food coop, and in the third, she goes full, ultra-competitive, “all-caps Abbi” in a Soulstice competition in the park. Both actresses are adept at this kind of comedy, but Jacobson, simply by virtue of her role as straight woman, always makes it feel more unexpectedly, deliciously disastrous. That said, one of these episodes’ top sight gags is Ilana getting magnetically stuck to an enormous pair of bronze testicles in an art gallery. (Oh, to be a fly on the writers’ room wall.)
In addition to the upcoming Clinton cameo, they’ve got quite a roster of stars this season; this is the show to be seen on, and recognizable faces are now branching out beyond UCB A-listers. In the second episode, Oscar winner Melissa Leo plays the constantly breastfeeding, defiantly makeupless co-op manager who condemns the two to a lifetime of eating processed foods after they violate the volunteer policy. Vanessa Williams appears in the third episode as an investor at Ilana’s workplace (Deals Deals Deals) and an instant crush for Ilana. And Whoopi Goldberg — well, I can’t spoil that one, actually.
Fundamentally, though, the show is not about its guest stars, nor its romantic interests (even Hannibal Buress, who has really never been better than when he’s playing Ilana’s mellow f-buddy, Lincoln the dentist). In fact, it’s so not about dating that I’m surprised they haven’t ever just featured a sight gag involving a fish and a bicycle.
“Broad City” has a decent reverence for its forebears — it name-checks “Sex and the City” in the first episode of this season, when Lincoln is inspired to learn trapeze after seeing it on the show, and Cynthia Nixon will also appear at some point. But it has also completely transcended the genre of quirky gals looking for romance in the big city. If we’ve learned anything over the past two seasons — and the upcoming episodes — it’s that no guy Abbi or Ilana meets will ever remotely compare to how much fun they have with each other. Sure, Ilana likes Lincoln — but her dramatic reaction to his announcement that he hooked up with someone else is, shall we say, not what he was expecting. In “Co-Op,” Abbi finds a co-worker hot, but he’s ultimately a humorless bore. The conceit remains that both have an eye on dating, but to give either of these characters a traditional happily-ever-after by pairing one of them off is almost unthinkable. Seriously, I can’t think of any way it wouldn’t be an occasion for great sadness.
The borderline-reality of New York in “Broad City,” besides its towering disregard for any sort of gender/race/sexual orientation discrimination, is a place where having your best friend for a life partner is the best of all possible worlds. And as we live in a world where movies like “How to Be Single” are still getting made, I’d say Abbi and Ilana continue to have their work cut out for them.