By Aymar Jean Christian | Indiewire April 2, 2014 at 9:59AM
The season finale of "Broad City" kept it simple: Abbi and Ilana go out to a fancy restaurant in their "fattest" outfits. In "Last Supper," the two friends decide to treat each other to a luxurious seafood dinner after Abbi makes some money selling one of her cartoons to the world's worst dating website. What follows includes amusing interactions with the fancy waiter, worsening allergic reactions, surprise condoms and a stressed-out chef played by Amy Poehler, who also directed the episode.
"Last Supper" is very different from the pilot, whose segments function almost like loosely connected webisodes. It works. The pilot showed how seamlessly "web humor" can translate to a bigger screen on a higher budget. It was as smart a beginning -- AV Club's Caroline Framke wrote the show was "remarkably self-possessed, even in its first episode" -- as the "Last Supper," a touching ending.
The first season of "Broad City" shows creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, along with a talented team of writers and directors, not so much growing as expressing comedic range. The season had musical numbers and brilliant montages, a diverse cast of supporting characters, consistent themes about the indignities of entry level work and rising inequality in New York City, along with innovative style and coinages ("pussy weed"). Ilana and Abbi, heightened versions of creators Glazer and Jacobson, are a refreshing odd couple. Ratings are solid. "Broad City" is retaining most of its "Workaholics" lead-in, and Comedy Central has given it a second season. Most comedies improve in season two, so fans are excited. Critics have warmed to the pair's casual and confident style, including Alison Willmore in her last column for Indiewire, weekly recappers at The AV Club and Margaret Lyons in New York.
The success of the show proves something I've been arguing for awhile: that web series, or independent television, are valuable because creators can hone their voice and audience outside corporate development. What's more, "Broad City" proves that just because a series is not massively popular online doesn't mean it cannot succeed on television -- its most popular episode,"I Heart New York," posted in 2011, has amassed 170,000 views over three years.
Indie TV is more diverse than traditional TV, where many networks have few or no shows by and about women and people of color. Networks like Comedy Central and HBO should be commended for green-lighting shows by promising young women, but we're a long way from parity.
that spirit, here are some stand-out comedies about women living in the
city, created by and starring women who should be on the radar of
development executives for broadcast, cable and web television. Like the
web series for "Broad City," no show is perfect, but each shows clear
perspective and promise. And there are plenty of great series I may have
missed or forgotten, so sound off in the comments! [Go to page 2 to watch the webisodes.]
Executives might hesitate airing a show about an underemployed actress, but Ann Carr's series is very open to adaptation. It's about more than the plight of the creative worker. Each episode of "The Actress" pits our heroine, played by Carr, against some jerk who belittles or insults her, often with heavy doses of misogyny. She struggles to keep her cool, failing from time to time. In the third season, airing now exclusively on Amy Rubin's ("Little Horribles") Barnacle Studios network, a dermatologist hawks BOTOX, squeezing her face to simulate wrinkles. A successful actress and rival flippantly reveals a (false) rumor that our actress took a break in college to have a baby. The series, whose fans funded season 3, has a sleek new look and hired two directors from the web version of "Broad City": Tim Bierbaum, who directed its first season finale, and TJ Misny, who directed its second.
Premiering soon, "Be Here Nowish" is a comedy from Natalia Leite and Alexanda Roxo about two New Yorkers who decamp to Los Angeles in search of spiritual awakenings. Comparisons to "Girls" are inevitable, but I expect "Be Here Nowish" to have more fun.
Like "Broad City," "Chloe and Zoë" features two young women trying to figure out their passion without much money or self-awareness. Created by Chloe Searcy and Zoë Worth, the series has aired two full seasons, following the protagonists as they set out to shoot their first film. Last month Searcy and Worth released that film-within-the-series, "Killer GPS," a horror short about a Valley girl with dreams of making it in Hollywood. It's funny and features a twist at the end, of course! If you're hungry for more Zoë Worth, she and her non-profit team of collaborators, The Collectin, are currently raising funds for their first feature, "Running Wild," over on Indiegogo.
"F to 7th"
Currently shooting its second season, "F to 7th" is a "homoneurotic web series" about Park Slope residents exploring the complications of gender and sex. The series is notable for witty, awkward scenes featuring comedic actors alongside creator and star Ingrid Jungermann, who started making web series as an MFA student at NYU with former partner Desiree Akhavan ("Appropriate Behavior") in their series "The Slope." Amy Sedaris, Gaby Hoffman, Michael Showalter and Ann Carr all made appearances in season one.
Debuting on Issa Rae's YouTube channel on April 2, "First" is a "Love Jones"-inspired series about two childhood friends falling in love. Created by Jahmela Biggs, "First" helps cement Rae's channel as a hub for entertaining series from Hollywood's next generation of black writers.
New Zealand is becoming a source for great TV programming, most noted for "Top of the Lake," but the government is investing web series as well, most recently announcing a fund for Maori shows. "Flat3" follows three "painfully single" roommates as they stumble through the trials of work and love, mostly love. The show is bright, accessible and consistently entertaining, featuring amusing performances and assured editing. With help from NZ On Air, the country's independent broadcast funding entity, Flat3 is currently working on its third season.
The newest show from One More Lesbian and tello films, the subscription-based network for lesbian film and television, follows two friends living in Chicago's "Girls Town" (Andersonville) who rely too heavily on social media for dating. Written by and starring Caitlin Bergh and Laura Zak, the series is a great showcase of their different comedic styles. Bergh's character is bubbly, warm and a little oblivious where Zak's is sardonic and skeptical. They're a pleasure to watch.
Since "Living Single" and "Girlfriends" we haven't had too many buddy comedies starring black women, so Ashley Blaine Featherson and Lena Waithe's ("Dear White People") "Hello Cupid" fills a major void. Written by Waithe and starring Featherson and Hayley Marie Norman, "Hello Cupid" is fun and easy to watch because its leads have great chemistry and charisma. It is currently airing its second season on Black & Sexy TV's pay-per-view channel on VHX.
Does Comedy Central already have its "Broad City" follow up under its wing? Fans of "Workaholics" will recognize comedian Jillian Bell as one of the show's funniest supporting players. You can now see her in "Idiotsitter," a comedy she created with co-star Chartlotte Newhouse about a rich girl under house arrest and the friend who has to look after her. Bell is brilliant at being bad, something she doesn't get to do often enough in primetime.
There's never been a better time to be a Kardashian, unless you're their butcher, browner sister, Kam. Shot in Chicago by Ryan Logan, who co-created the show with star Fawzia Mirza, "Kam Kardashian" is a witty send-up to celebrity culture and the mainstreaming of gay culture, with standout supporting performances from Beth Stelling and Joel Kim Booster. In the second season, currently airing, GLAWD (a satire of GLAAD) is trying to makeover Kam's image with the help of their intern, played by Booster: "They're going to take you from this broke-down, dumpster Anne Heche caterpillar and make you a beautiful Portia de Rossi butterfly!"
It won't change your life, but "Kelsey" is a bright sitcom about a single woman looking for the right woman in New York after a breakup. The series just wrapped its first season earlier this year. Come for star Nichole Yannetty, stay for the cheery, diverse cast and relaxed style.
Rubin's series about a "self-indulgent lesbian" is a delicious cocktail
of awkwardness. Like "The Actress," the show pits the protagonist
against an antagonist, and often Amy, played by Rubin, is her own enemy.
Amy wants to control her surroundings and self-presentation but
indulges her vices and reactions to others. Watching Amy fail is the joy
of "Little Horribles," but Rubin smartly cast a slew of stellar
supporting stars, many with their own web series, including Ilana
Glazer, Ann Carr, Cynthia Stevenson, Sue Galloway, Nicole Byer, Sasheer
Zamata, among others. [Watch all of "Little Horribles" below:]
Now that Sasheer Zamata is a cast member on "Saturday Night Live," I'm not holding my breath for more "Pursuit of Sexiness," the UCB web series she co-stars with the equally hilarious Nicole Byer. Still, the show about two friends trying to get well-laid in the Big Apple is at least proof Zamata and Byer could carry lead roles on television. On its own, season one is delightful and inventive, but we want more!
New Orleans improv comedians Kyle June Williams and CJ Hunt created this gem of series, a "Portlandia"-style sketch show set in the Big Easy. "Sunken City" shies away from "Portlandia's" curious randomness choosing to focus on a set group of characters and how they try and fail to make it in the city.
A standout at the last New York Television Festival, Becky Yamamoto's comedy just finished a strong first season. The show focuses on Sarah, a recently unemployed thirtysomething unsure of where her life is headed, and tackles common struggles -- overqualification at work, under-enthusiasm about marriage -- with equal parts brutality and tenderness. Yamamoto shows, through humor, how uncertainty about who you are makes it difficult to relate to other people. Sarah's lack of direction, her shattered self-confidence, is the heart of the show's humor.