Mar 19, 2015

TV Retrospective: "Broad City" - Season 2

Last year saw the premiere of an unprecedented hit in Comedy Central's Broad City. Considered the anti-Girls, it didn't so much make dirty jokes but embraced the culture with consistent plots revolving around sex and drugs where the punchlines didn't end with morals but actual jokes. As the series came back, it felt even more assured about what it was trying to do. It was a New York-based show full of madcap moments that work because of how much we love protagonists Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Upping the ante on every front, there was even more of the crass charm to spare and in one very odd addition a whole lot of poetic female nudity dancing to Lady GaGa's "Edge of Glory." It remains a show unlike any other, which may be why it's hard to admit a slight disinterest in this season.
What exactly was different about Broad City as they came back? Not much, really. It was still the stories of Abbi and Ilana as they dealt with their lives. However, there was a stronger sense that the show's biggest attribute was that it could shock people. In the first season, there were plots regarding picking up mail and finding cell phones on epic journeys. These were inspired stories outside of the jokes. However, it is hard to find an episode this time around that wasn't somewhat rooted in a big sexual twist. True, Ilana has always been a character who has been into kinky stuff, but it felt more centralized this time. Even in episodes that introduced her mother, she was kind of erotic about things. I applaud this show for being progressive, but it is also why I have trouble actually liking it.
There are a lot of moments that do work and the openness of the sex is a big factor. Much like how Girls used nudity for comedic effect, Broad City took a more cartoonish approach to it. There were encounters in which Abbi discussed dildo structures with the man she has had a crush on for years, a boy next door if you will. It is demeaning and unforgettable in a season full of moments like that. It is nice to see that the show manages to go there and take risks without ever sacrificing some form of smarts. However, that's all like it felt happened this time around. Even in the finale, Abbi and Ilana sit and discuss their future with jokes about sexual fetishes and candid gross-out humor.
This isn't to say that the show isn't funny. In fact, it remains pretty funny. Even the episodes in which Abbi gets high and is either buying expensive food or being stuck in a hole in the park have their moments. It is absurdity at its finest, even with one episode doing a faux-Black Swan thing between Glazer and Alia Shawkat. The characters haven't changed and still know how to make ribald moments click. However, there still isn't any moment as cathartic as last season when Abbi sold her painting to a racist organization. There isn't a standout episode on par with that.
It all depends on what one plans to get out of Broad City. Yes, it is a comedy and yes it does manage to be outwardly funny. However, I do feel like relying on a singular focus of humor does take away a little bit of the charm. It doesn't present the characters in any complicated ways. At best, the supporting cast manages to bring some brilliant moments, notably Hannibal Burress, who remains brilliant with his deadpan delivery and ability to comment on the situations correctly. There are stories within episodes that have moments and that essentially make it work. I just wish that there was more substance to the main stories.
Broad City is still a funny show, but it is more about the chemistry than the plot this time around. For those that want to hear candid sex and drug humor with ribald results, this is pretty perfect. However, it does manage to get redundant and relies on how much you care to hear Ilana talk sexually of Abbi. It is a crux of the show as well as a crutch. However, I think the show has made its statement clear and has determined who this show is for. After a brilliant first season, it unfortunately slides back and focuses on stoner humor meant to gross you out. It may be enough to keep me on board, but I still leave this season disappointed.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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