If you've seen Comedy Central's Broad City, created by and starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, you probably either immediately fell in love with its refreshing, goofy, lady-centric spin on slacker buddy tropes or you were turned off by its Girls-like sexual frankness and millennial obliviousness. Mixed reactions are few and far between. On the other hand, if you haven't seen the show yet, this hilarious new second season DVD release is as good a place as any to start.
It's not easy to sum up Broad City, because it's a New York-set show about nothing really (but... not like Seinfeld). Abbi and Ilana (played by Jacobson and Glazer, naturally) are smack in the middle of the extended adolescence known as "after college," and the show concerns itself with the trials and tribulations -- both life-size and wildly outside the norm -- of existing at this difficult age. Abbi, the more reserved member of the duo, is stuck cleaning up gross body fluids at a gym and longing to be a trainer there instead, while Ilana, who is all id, doesn't seem to grasp the idea that she is required to do some sort of work when she is at work (at a Groupon-ish company). Abbi is beleaguered by her (never seen) roommate's annoying boyfriend Bevers (John Gemberling), who has basically taken up permanent residency in her apartment, and she can't figure out how to act on her crush on Jeremy (Stephen Schneider), the dude across the hall. Ilana tries to screw anything that moves, including her own doppelganger (played amusingly by one-off guest star Alia Shawkat), but she doesn't seem to realize she is actually growing into a relationship with her main friend-with-benefits, low-key dentist Lincoln (your favorite and mine, Hannibal Buress).
While most of these basic situations are carried over from season 1 of the show, the writers do a nice job of developing them just a bit more over the course of the new season. This allows many of the sketched-out peripheral characters to gradually get filled in, in interesting ways. Bevers's desire for friendship with Abbi now feels ingratiating and genuine about as much as it is disgusting and off-putting. Ilana's boss Derek (Chris Gethard) and her co-worker Nicole (Nicole Drespel) grow more neurotic in the face of Ilana's behavior, in oddly specific, unexpected ways (nipple clamps?). Abbi's boss at the gym, Trey (Paul W. Downs), ends up having a seedy past that involves frosted tips and pool toys. Ilana's drug-dealer friend Jaime (Arturo Castro) gets a nice little subplot about becoming a naturalized citizen.
The show would fall apart if it was just quirky characterizations and oddball incidents, but the friendship between Abbi and Ilana is so genuine and warm that it logically explains much of the ridiculousness. Sure, Ilana is constantly getting Abbi into predicaments -- like giving her too much Vicodin and marijuana after dental surgery, which triggers hallucinations and a hilarious Whole Foods rampage, or suggesting they leave their phones at home before roller-blading, which ends with Abbi falling into a secluded hole in the ground -- but Ilana, in her convoluted, semi-inept way, does her best to get Abbi out of those predicaments right afterward. They truly care about each other.
Even with two appealing leads, and what is slowly growing into a nice surrounding ensemble, the show isn't afraid to drop in some guest stars for a little extra fire power. Seth Rogen shows up to smoke weed and sweat (big surprise), Susie Essman and Bob Balaban are shockingly perfect as Ilana's parents, Janeane Garofalo returns as her veterinarian character from season 1 (this time, officiating a dog wedding), Amy Ryan plays a clueless bourgie mother who applauds babysitter Ilana's "queering" of her son, Kelly Ripa plays an unhinged variation of herself, plus there's Patricia Clarkson, Kumail Nanjiani, Leo Fitzpatrick (from Kids), Aidy Bryant, and David Wain.
The second season of Broad City shows the perfect amount of growth for a sitcom about arrested characters. They've grown up a little bit -- but just a little. The world of the show seems a little richer without significantly messing with the formula that has already proved effective. There are lots of places for the show to go, and I'm excited to see where it goes.
The Video & Audio: