Broad City S3E06 “Philadelphia”
Broad City airs at 10 PM EST on Comedy Central.
“Philadelphia” is the first Broad City episode to take place completely away from New York City as director Todd Biermann uses rapid cuts interspersed with Abbi and Ilana taking selfies of the other sleeping on the train to show their Amtrak and train journey from Penn Station to the Philly suburb Wayne, Pennsylvania. Yes, “Philadelphia” doesn’t take place in Philadelphia at all, but deals with the awkwardness of going back to your hometown as a young adult and seeing how it and you have changed. But this being Broad City, there are plenty of hijinks, including Ilana doing hardball negotiations in Mandarin Chinese over a commemorative Jon-Benet Ramsey Beanie Baby, a character named Syphilis, and a subplot about looking for Will Smith’s mom’s house because Wayne is technically west of Philadelphia that has an amazing punchline at the end of the episode.
The Jon-Benet Ramsey Beanie Baby subplot is yet another example of Ilana’s drive to make money in the most creative way possible as well as a bit of a satire on nostalgia culture and profiting on the death of celebrities. It also show that she has talent and energy, but doesn’t know how to harness it into her real job. Knowledge of Mandarin (Yiddish) Chinese, negotiation skills, and the exchange rate between the yen and the dollar could definitely come in handy on a C.V., but Ilana uses them to almost get $13,000 for a Beanie Baby. It’s pretty hilarious to see her constantly on the phone or taking shots of the plush toy while Abbi deals with the guilt of doing a dance benefit or inadvertently giving one of her former classmates the nickname “Syphilis” for the rest of his adult life after a field trip to colonial Williamsburg.
And the main throughline of “Philadelphia” is Abbi’s quest for redemption in her own way by returning the $900 that she raised for her classmate Alice, who was hit by a schoolbus on a Saturday. (So unlucky.) This money has been sitting in an envelope for God knows how long, and Abbi is on a trek across Wayne to find Alice and closure at the same time. But, like an P.I. with “expenses”, she and Ilana end up spending most of the money along the way on random things, like bowling shoes and liquor for teenagers. The teens don’t end up getting the booze or giving the girls a ride after a tense, silent Mexican standoff-like sequence where the police stare down the teens, then Abbi and Ilana, and run off. This scene is another footnote in an Infinite Jest length work about how visual comedy is all about editing. By the time she finally ends up at Alice’s (played by actress, model, future star of the Baywatch reboot) basically mansion, the money has dwindled down, and Abbi gets called an “asshole” for having the nerve to bring up her accident and lie about the money she raised. But even though she might not be the most tactful person, Abbi has an amazing friend named Ilana in her corner, who gives the Jon-Benet Ramsey Beanie Baby to Alice so Abbi can find “atonement” and not feel guilty any more. This is a big and kind of insane move on her account because Alice is a wealthy model with 10+ campaigns while Abbi and Ilana are barely scraping by. But the episode ends with a nice dance/cooking montage featuring Abbi, Ilana, and Mr. Abrams (played by the one and only Tony Danza) so it’s not all sad feelings and awkwardness.
Broad City continues its gold streak of guest stars with Tony Danza’s turn as Abbi’s divorced single dad and health enthusiast, Mr. Abrams. He’s the perfect mix of parental embarrassment and warmth with his anecdotes about Stevia and telling a young Abbi that he was divorcing her mom by the trash can so that she would stop playing in trash. Abbi still professes a liking for it, and this is a nice segue to the discovery of the Beanie Baby as well as her old dreadlocks from her jam band obsession day, which is a fun payoff from her Phish references in “Co-Op”. His elaborate handshake/dance/high five combination is truly an achievement in physical comedy from both Jacobson and Danza, and it’s a pity he doesn’t get more screen time.
In “Philadelphia”, writers/series creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer get down and dirty in exploring the complicated feelings of going back home and seeing your old friends and enemies success and failures in their careers and as human beings. It also continues Broad City Season 3’s trend of showing the consequences of Abbi and Ilana’s actions while not abandoning its weird and wonderful comedic take on life for twentysomethings.