Broad City Is Growing Up


The fifth season premiere of Broad City was shot to look, mostly, like one big Instagram story. At arm’s or selfie-stick’s length—complete with stickers, dumb captions, and at one point, a homemade montage of Abbi Abrams’s butt—it was a close-up view of another day in the life of Abbi and Ilana Wexler’s ironclad friendship. The social media-centric tactic is new for creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, but the theme at hand was not: The show has always put the unbreakable bond, between two gals alternatively cruising and stumbling through their mid- to late-twenties, front and center. Except that one thing is different now—Abbi is turning 30.

True to form, this episode is a credibly wacky homage to the millennial experience, unafraid to depict how weird and gross young women can be. There are hijinks: As Abbi and Ilana walk the length of Manhattan to celebrate, someone falls down a manhole, and later, they must outrun security at the Midtown Mall, where a college classmate of Abbi’s has accused them of being pedophiles after they find and return her young daughter. Like episodes past, it’s absurd without losing its relatability, as the friends sail over road bumps, barely able to believe it themselves.

In a scene with characteristic nuance, Abbi goes to the bathroom while Ilana is filming a social video with their friends. When Abbi doesn’t come back, Ilana suspects that she had to poop, and still filming, gets up to find her. A blurry photo of Abbi sulking in the bathroom reveals that she didn’t want to come back to the table. Here, again, the show demonstrates its intelligence without being showy: the promise of the internet was, at one point, that there’s no limit to how much you want to post, share, like, etc. Broad City knows that there’s an upper bound to human disclosure on the social media, and it is never the full story.

The show doesn’t linger here and risk getting sappy—but later, it does brush up against something that I’ve come to identify as the subtext of most Broad City episodes, which is: “Should I be doing something else with my life?” One of Glazer and Jacobson’s strengths as writers is that the show never stops to contemplate this question for more than two seconds; in skirting the existential quandary, which fans have surely asked themselves or confessed to their own best friend, Broad City renders it irrelevant. The resounding answer, every time, is that it doesn’t matter if your life has not gone to plan, if the prescribed “something else” you should be doing—having a stable job or having a kid—feels entirely out of reach at this juncture.

On the season premiere, Abbi feels this acutely when Midtown Mall mom follows her across Manhattan to confront her, and Abbi comes face-to-face with the what-ifs and could-have-beens of her life. Where other shows might fall into a trap of being overly corny or sentimental, this episode of Broad City treats the reality of getting older like it would anything else: with humor and empathy in equal measure. It reminds us that everyone, no matter their age, is still figuring it out.

It’s unclear whether the show will get more serious from here on out. But there’s something encouraging about how the season premiere—still, as ever—refuses to give license to any of the characters’ fears about growing up and getting older. It’s not avoiding the hard questions; it’s just sticking to what it knows best: An buoyant sense of optimism in the face of mayhem and absurdity. That’s to its credit. Broad City isn’t becoming a different show—it’s just ending, and that’s a good thing.

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