Broad City Is A Fearless, Priceless Ode To Female Friendship

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Broad City, the beloved Comedy Central show about two NYC-based best friends with a steady appetite for cruising dudes, getting stoned, and causing general mischief, kicks off its second season tonight, but it already feels like we've known these women (and they've known each other) forever. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson have crafted an addictively quotable ongoing ode to friendship that treads the line between sweet and downright disgusting, and consistently proves that the most important relationship a woman can form in her life is with her best friend. It's a cult of two so cool and inviting that everyone watching wants in.

A large part of Abbi and Ilana's success as TV characters is that they're mirroring a real-life working relationship: Broad City started as a web series, after the duo met while doing improv at New York's Upright Citizens Brigade. As producer Amy Poehler recently put it, "We really wanted to make sure that everybody knew that at the end of the day, this show was a love story between Abbi and Ilana." Throughout the 10-episode first season, the girls tackled everything from apartment-hunting to weddings to dating mishaps together, reminding each other of their awesomeness all the while.


Is the televised version of this friendship realistic? Yes and no. While the larger storylines might be comically exaggerated (they get locked out and wind up homeless for the day; they sleep with two dudes who keep trying to force a foursome), what feels real is the way the girls support and uplift each other, constantly crowing about the other's achievements and hotness. ("She has chocolate-brown eyes and the ass of an angel," Ilana says casually when searching for Abbi at a party.) This notion isn't feminist or crazy, nor does it merit the cringe-worthy tag "bra-mance." Aside from Ilana's fleeting lesbian fantasies about Abbi—a funny instance of girlfriend-boundary-blurring—the bones of Broad City's partnership are actually not that unusual, onscreen or off.

That's because the show takes all the best parts of real-life friendship—the compliments, the loyalty, the inside jokes—and magnifies them to a point where they're both absurd and universal, from the duo's love of '90s hip-hop to their bucket-drumming past to Ilana's "doodoo ninja" thing. But their bond is meant to reflect the best-friendship of any young woman in terms of sheer intensity, and if it's not a mirror, it's certainly an inspiration. Would you grab the collar of the dude your best friend was eyeing at the bar and hiss at him regarding his STD status? No, but you might if you really cared. And would your best friend carry you screaming through a restaurant if you were having a gnarly allergic reaction? In those circumstances, hopefully!


Admiring critics like to place Broad City in the rapidly expanding tradition of the female fuck-up, among all the other flawed girls who don't have their shit together and are seemingly stunted in adolescence, long a norm for men but a relatively new phenomenon for women. While the golden age for messy women in television is certainly here, from Girls' Hannah Horvath to Transparent's Pfefferman sisters to Veep's Selina Meyer, Abbi and Illana's antics never overshadow the sincere, refreshingly normal nature of their friendship. Sure, they lament the slim pickings for dudes, they blow off work, and they get too stoned to do anything properly, but their bond is healthy and strong. And what sets these two apart from the arguably much-needed Dawn of the Unlikeable Female Characters (backed by writers who don't give a shit if you don't like them) is that in this case, viewers actually really like them.

"Can I just worship you for three seconds?" a young fan told Ilana, quoted in the New Yorker. "They're my spirit animals," another told the Chicago Tribune. "Thank god they're coming back for another season," Alison Willmore wrote, not so much about the show as about the girls themselves. "I dreamed of a world on the screen that looked like the real one, populated with chill women who refer to everyone as 'dude,'" wrote Grantland's Molly Lambert. "Broad City is that world." Ann Friedman described them as her "true feminine ideal." Before writing this, I quickly texted my best friend, "Who's your favorite friend duo on TV right now?" "Abbi and Ilana," she replied a minute later. "They always have minor spats, but they're so ride or die BFF. Which are how all my good friendships are." She added a heart emoji.

The power of Broad City is that no matter what happens in each episode, the show returns to the stable cornerstone that is Abbi and Ilana's friendship. There are no long plot arcs: After each new instance of the girls messing up and/or experiencing some fresh insanity together—whether that's fulfilling some near-naked Craigslist services for cash or getting maced in the face—they forgive each other when it's all over. The show has less in common with its millennial city-centric sister Girls or its workplace-comedy brother Workaholics, and a lot more DNA from something like Seinfeld, in which characters you've grown to love spin their irritable flaws into gold every week, than wipe the story-slate clean. This is more than the return of a trendy half-hour comedy; it's the reunion of two awesome old friends.

Hazel Cills is a writer whose writing has appeared in Rookie, Grantland, Pitchfork, and more. She tweets @hazelcills and, like Ilana, believes the vagina really is nature's pocket.


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