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Why 'Broad City' Is The Anti-'Girls'

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire March 28, 2014 at 4:12PM

"Broad City," which wrapped up its first season last night on Comedy Central, has been the most pleasant surprise TV's offered up in this still-young year, a profoundly funny, bawdy and affectionate half-hour series starring and created by two newcomers, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, with the help of executive producer Amy Poehler
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Comedy Central 'Broad City'

"Broad City," which wrapped up its first season last night on Comedy Central, has been the most pleasant surprise TV's offered up in this still-young year, a profoundly funny, bawdy and affectionate half-hour series starring and created by two newcomers, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, with the help of executive producer Amy Poehler. The series, which stars Glazer and Jacobson as outsized versions of themselves, is about being broke and young and a hot mess in New York, which, alongside its focus on female friendship, means it has a lot in common with Lena Dunham's "Girls."

But while "Girls" went particularly dark this season (to great effect), delving into drug abuse and using sex as a self-esteem booster and how having a day job can drain you of energy for creative pursuits, "Broad City" is buoyantly joyous and silly. Like Hannah Horvath and her friends, Abbi and Ilana can say and do awful things, and they face daily humiliations and defeats -- but it always come out on the light side.

"Girls" deliberately lets its characters grate when they do things like fixate on the future of their ebook at their editor's funeral, daring audiences to say they weren't capable of (hopefully less monstrously) narcissistic behavior at that age. It's easy to imagine a similar scene in "Broad City" being played for big laughs -- Ilana already approaches her job at a Groupon-type company with a breathtaking level of nonchalance, so it would make sense that were her boss (Chris Gethard) to die, her first thought would be about what new gig she would need to get to support her pot habit.

They may occupy similar territory -- Hannah turned 25 this season, while Abbi's 26th birthday was the subject of this week's season closer -- but "Broad City" is the anti-"Girls" in its treatment of being young. It's a celebration of being unencumbered by serious relationships or dependents or career responsibilities -- of, say, completely taking for granted the delightful, dependable guy you sometimes sleep with (Hannibal Buress' tragically underappreciated Lincoln). Abbi and Ilana may be cheerfully oblivious about many aspects of real life in the slightly surreal New York they inhabit, but the series never forgets that can be a blissful thing as well as an embarrassing one. And that was never more evident than in "The Last Supper," Wednesday's season finale, in which the pair caused a scene while eating out at a high-end restaurant on Abbi's parents' dime.

While Abbi and Ilana got high (in order to better enjoy their clams) and discussed the fact that Abbi peed out a condom that may have been a remnant of an encounter that took place several days ago, their waiter (Seth Morris), whom they were both swooning over as classy, was engaged in an ongoing and bitter fight in the kitchen with his chef girlfriend (Poehler). The interspersed scenes emphasized the protagonists' ignorance, but also saluted it.

There's a grown-up world out there of alcoholic sisters and battles over who would keep the apartment in a breakup based on whose name is on the lease, but Abbi and Ilana aren't there yet. Things still look shiny and fresh to them, even if they can't afford to pay their own tabs. And later, at the hospital to which Ilana was sent after blithely ignoring her shellfish allergy, they listened to someone die while discussing their own bucket lists, which included the impossible (Ilana's "to be an Asian girl") and the amusing (Abbi's "do heroin under the aurora borealis").

Life is short, and "Broad City" makes as compelling an argument for not rushing toward adulthood as "Girls" does that youth can be excruciating. And it's done it while, or maybe by, holding the relationship between Abbi and Ilana steadily at its center. If "Girls" shows, piercingly, how you can hate your closest friends, "Broad City" depicts how you can be in love with them (sometimes literally, with Ilana's goofy boundary-pushing). Various men are shown passing through Abbi and Ilana's lives, but their friendship is the most important thing to them (another function of their age), and many of the series' best scenes are about how much the two of them enjoy just hanging out, ogling men in basketball shorts (until they're told to leave), discussing the cartoons they had crushes on and which of them is more like Jay-Z or Beyoncé. It's fitting that the season ended with their walking off into the sunrise together in their mildly inappropriate fancy dresses, happy to be shooting the shit about nothing in particular -- thank god they're coming back for another season.

This article is related to: Television, TV Features, Broad City, Comedy Central, Girls, Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham