'Broad City' Season Premiere Review: Rape Culture and Kittens
Our long wait is over: Broad City begins its second season this week on Comedy Central, and oh how we've missed the adventures of Abbi and Ilana, the pals who always know how to have a bit too much of a good time in New York City. This week's episode covers a lot of territory: rape culture, kittens, Seth Rogen, Colin Farrell, and the ladies' recurring obsession with Bed, Bath and Beyond, so listen up.
As created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, Broad City attracted a lot of attention last year not only for its loose yet wild humor, but also for its portrait of a friendship rarely seen on comedy television: Two distinctively different eccentrics (Freudianly speaking, Ilana is the anarchic id to Abbi's shrewd super-ego), whose loyalty to each other trumps everything else — men, money, air conditioning. (Well, as the season premiere suggests, air conditioning may be a deal-breaker.)
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Every half-hour of Broad City organizes itself around a discursive plot that takes shape slowly but surely as each scene progresses. In the season premiere's case, Ilana and Abbi are sweltering in the summer as only New Yorkers do: There's a slime of sweat pouring off them and everyone around them. This interferes with Abbi's attempts to charm and seduce a new guy — Stacy, or as Abbi calls him, "male-Stacy" — played by all-purpose huggy-bear Seth Rogen. To edit myself for publication purposes, let's just say that, in the midst of a perspiration-drenched love session, Stacy dozes off, but Abbi completes her task... and afterward, it occurs to her that she took advantage of her partner when he was unconscious. Abbi confides her anguish to Ilana: "I raped male-Stacy! I'm a monster!"
The Broad City women discuss rape culture as only they can, with discussions of "reverse rapism" and "raping rape culture." Glazer and Jacobson come on like chill, improvisational creators, but they are really, of course, wily women fearless in their choice of subject matter if they can find a way to frame it with the necessary funniness.
We haven't seen a friendship like this in TV or movie comedy before. You have to reach back to much older duo teams for comparisons — and most of those are, inevitably, male, because Broad City is working in territory that is at once new and connected to a great tradition. There's some of Abbott and Costello's verbal confusion and emotional interdependence; some Laurel and Hardy slapstick; a bit of Rowan and Martin's absurdist laugh-ins; and the sibling rivalry of the Smothers Brothers transmuted into occasional, sisterly bickering. With her curly mop and fondness for pulling a long face, Ilana has a bit of Harpo Marx in her; with her neurotic sensibleness, Abbi's persona connects to writer-performers ranging from Elaine May to stand-up-comic-era Woody Allen. Mostly, however, Abbi and Ilana are their own creations. Neither plays the straight-man; they are, simultaneously, specific women and Everywoman, in their own minds and in ours.
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There are priceless moments in the second-season debut: The opening montage as the two pals walk through the cars of a subway train, each one filled with more Manhattan fright or intimidation than the last; or Abbi's synchronized dancing with the guy in the Flatware Department of Bed, Bath and Beyond (a call-back to last season's coupon incident). All this, plus kitten-shaming. It would be appalling if it weren't so funny.
Broad City premieres Wednesday, Jan. 14 at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.