Tag Archives: Broad City

Review: Broad City S5E8 Sleep No More

One’s early and late twenties (And let’s throw 30 in there for good measure.) is a time of great change. But this change can be difficult, and this difficulty and the emotions that follow are the core theme of the Broad City episode “Sleep No More”. The episode gets its name from Sleep No More, an immersive theatre experience in New York where you walk around a film noir type space in an old building and see a silent version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The eerie setting of the theatre is a fantastic backdrop for director Lucia Aniello to do some atmospheric filmmaking while chronicling Abbi telling Ilana that she’s moving to Boulder, Colorado to do an art residency. “Sleep No More” is penned by Ilana Glazer, and she gets to put Ilana and Abbi through the paces of awkward comedy, melodrama, earnest drama, and utter farce that is the Abbi/Ilana breakup.

“Sleep No More” also addresses the enduring pop culture trend of TV sitcoms wearing out their welcome and resorting to tricks, like weird new characters or playing off the same dynamic over and over again until the ratings get too low and cancellation happens. (Or doesn’t in the case of The Simpsons.) Abbi and Ilana are fun characters, and many fans of Broad City would love to watch them to go on hilarious, random, and sometimes surreal adventures in New York. And this is what the character of Ilana wants to do, and you can tell by the puppy dog look that Glazer puts on every time that Abbi mentions a possibility of staying.

However, human beings are not never aging yellow people. They change, grow, and want to find fulfillment, which is something Abbi isn’t finding in New York right now. Between Ilana’s destruction of Sleep No More props, Abbi gives her reasons for moving that include not having to clean human pubic hair (Shout out to Soulstice!) or dispose smelly leftover food from catering gigs and just focus on art. And Ilana can visit her via a very complicated, two layover flight or FaceTime her. However, in the moment, she doesn’t get this.

In “Sleep No More”, Glazer gets to act pure rage and showcase the darkest parts of her character that are used kept down beneath “Yas queens”, flashy outfits, and performative wokeness. She isn’t reasonable when Abbi talks about going to Boulder, but goes absolutely apeshit and can’t fathom a world where she’s without Abbi. And, on the other side, Abbi tells her that she’s her only friend so she has to go through a brave new world as well.

Lucia Aniello and Glazer get to mine a vein of deep sadness after Sleep No More happens as Ilana gives Abbi a handshake before she leaves for her apartment and finds out her new roommate has new Great Danes named Jay-Z and Beyonce. It’s sadness all around, but the actual ending of the episode is hilarious and a great callback to Ilana and Abbi’s bathroom FaceTimes throughout the series. Maybe, things will be okay for them over the next two episodes of the city, but their lives will be very different.

You can almost feel Glazer and Jacobson coming to terms with ending their hit sitcom that started out as a scrappy webseries and became a pop culture phenomenon through this episode. They have bright futures as actors, comedians, writers, directors, Jacobson as a visual artist, and as talented human beings, but “Sleep No More” gives viewers a sad reminder that all good things, including iconic comedic pairings running through New York, must come to an end or end up doing nuanced, dramatic performances like on this episode. And, honestly, it’s for the best in a world where thousands flocks to arenas to watch KISS lip sync their greatest hits to name one particularly pathetic example off the top of my head.

Overall Verdict: 9.0

Review: Broad City S5E6 Lost and Found and S5E7 Shenanigans

Episode 6 “Lost and Found”

“Lost and Found” is definitely the cutest episode of Broad City this season as Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs tell the story of Abbi and Ilana spiriting Ilana’s 16th cousin and Holocaust survivor, Saul Borowitz (The Sopranos’ Jerry Adler) out of his nursing home and to a drag brunch and Ikea. And, of course, he gets lost along the way, and they make pit stops at a Jewish grocery store, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a sale at the department store. It’s a lot of fun, and Sasha Velour and Alan Cumming show up. But, along the way, Abbi and Ilana get to explore their Jewish identity and through the metaphor of a nice, yellow hat deal with the growing rift in their relationship because Abbi is dating a woman aka the attractive nurse from last episode, Lesley (Clea Duvall).

Director Aniello does a nice walk and talk scene that is punctuated by the ever present yellow hat where Ilana projects her freaking out a little bit about Abbi having a “girlfriend” onto the hat. The sequence showcases Aniello’s ability to easily switch tones in scenes because the previous was ultra hella cute Abbi and Lesley snuggling and talking about snoring and deviated septums. It also is a big breaking point in their friendship because in past episodes (And even back to the webseries.), Abbi vowed to Ilana that if she ever had a sexual or romantic relationship with a woman, it would be with her.

As in previous episodes of Broad City that have dealt with everything from pegging to poly relationships and Abbi’s nascent, there’s a nuance to the show’s portrayal of queerness. And Aniello and Downs continue this tradition in “Lost and Found” with Ilana’s very mixed feelings about Abbi having a girlfriend. Sometimes, you have a relationship that goes beyond friendship, and it can be painful when a new romance gets in the way. No one’s in the wrong; it just happens, and Glazer and Jacobson show this with their performances. They’re presumably having a good time breaking out 90-something year olds out of assisted living and fangirling all over Alan Cumming, but there’s a sadness underneath the fun and games.

But “Lost and Found” is still a very fun episode because intergenerational hijinks are always good for a laugh. Aniello and Downs also do a “never forget” Holocaust story without making it an overserious narrative. They parody the awkward moment after you really think about the loss of lives in the Holocaust after a film or museum visit when Abbi and Ilana take a pit stop at the Holocaust Museum as they look for the sweet, hilarious Saul. Adler definitely seemed to be enjoying himself in the role, and he’ll go down as one of the all time great Broad City guest stars for his dance moves and affinity for adventures. He even causes some waterworks when he talks about that he loves Ikea because Sweden was where he lived immediately after escaping from a concentration camp. And who doesn’t love those meatballs?

“Lost and Found” has it all from Ilana trying to turn her Jewish heritage and history of mental illness into a grad school entrance essay to Abbi and Lesley being adorable in the honey moon phase of their relationship and the sheer existence of Saul Borowitz. In between the funny moments and guest stars, Lucia Aniello and Paul W Downs begin a slow burn dissolution of Abbi and Ilana’s friendship that has a new level of urgency because it’s the final season.

Overall Verdict: 9.0

Episode 7: “Shenanigans”

Writer Gabe Liedman and director Paul W. Downs use “Shenanigans” as a vehicle to air out some of the things that people have said about not wanting to be friends with Ilana and Abbi in real life because they are living embodiments of Murphy’s Law. The episode title comes from Abbi’s short lived girlfriend Lesley (Clea Duvall) saying how they’re incompatible because she’s an adult with a job as a doctor and meaningful hobbies while Abbi gets into “shenanigans”. And Abbi doesn’t even have the excuse of being in her twenties either. Even though she does silly voices and ends up hanging by her walking boot backstage behind a performance of a play about Anne Frank, Jacobson gets to play Abbi dramatically as she gets in heated arguments with Lesley and channels her passion for art that has been seeded throughout Broad City’s run and has gotten added emphasis this season.

On the other hand, Ilana gets to just have shenanigans because she was accepted into Hunter College’s Masters in Psychology program and deserves a reward. In the middle of an argument with a salon employee about a student discount, she is discovered by the salon owner (A fabulous Nathan Lee Graham.) and gets to be a hair model because of her “plump but light” curls.

This leads to her definitely acting like she’s pumped on swag until Downs hits a great comedic beat when what Liedman describes as “AC pre-cum” and “ninja turtle juice” hits her in the eye, and we’re off to the Ilana is a bad situation races complete with guest appearances from Janeane Garofolo, a veterinarian who treats one human and a pedi-cab realtor played by Amy Sedaris. Both Garofolo and Sedaris appeared on previous episodes on the show, and they’re along for the (sometimes literal) ride as Ilana desperately tries to salvage her modeling career that ends up going to her amazing mom (Susie Essman). Bobbi Wexler was due a win especially with her son leaving New York City.

And the season five theme of leaving New York City for pastures with cheaper housing that began with Jaime moving in with his boyfriend in Jersey, and Lincoln starting a dental practice in Maryland, continues with Eliot. He hasn’t appeared much in this season, and Gabe Liedman uses his leaving as a parallel to Abbi, who is considering her own departure and looking at art fellowships alone on her laptop after Lesley dumped her yet again. Broad City is all about Abbi and Ilana’s friendship, and the deity tier chemistry between Jacobson and Glazer plus their anarchic comedic chops are what make this show great. But, hey, character development is great too, and Abbi leaving New York to pursue an art fellowship in Colorado would be a great cap to her arc although it would leave Ilana devastated.

But no lasting damage has been done yet, and “Shenanigans” closes out with Abbi and Ilana goofing off on the couch making fun of the sayings that the hair photographers said to Ilana’ mom earlier that day. The growing divide in their relationship is swept under the proverbial, comedic rug as Gabe Liedman and Paul W. Downs continue this season of Broad City’s theme of hiding bad feels under jokes, pranks, silly oufits, and yes shenanigans.

Overall Verdict: 8.3

Review: Broad City S5E5 “Artsy Fartsy”

At the midpoint of its final season, Broad City crafts some crossroads moments for Abbi and Ilana in the Ilana Glazer directed and Abbi Jacobson written “Artsy Fartsy”. In this, and the previous episode where Jaime moved out, Ilana decided to follow her dream as a therapist, and Abbi quit her job at Anthropologie in a blaze of glory, Glazer and Jacobson have switched from telling stories of cultural satire to more personal ones. The episode chronicles Abbi juggling the two worlds of being a guest at a prestigious MOMA party and the caterer at one, and Ilana negotiating her relationship contract with Lincoln (Probably Hannibal Burress’ farewell) over a prix fixe pasta meal. Also, Lucia Aniello, who directed Broad City’s pilot and many of its best episodes, gets to step in front of the camera as the artist formerly known as Smelly Pussy Donna and current MOMA big wig.

The episode begins with Abbi being saved from being a third wheel on Lincoln and Ilana’s anniversary/relationship negotiation dinner by running into an old college friend, Donna, who has done well for herself in the art world. The context is that Abbi and Ilana are watching, eagle eyed, at the MOMA gift store to see if anyone buys Abbi’s cute, celebrity favorite food postcards. After getting fired from Anthropologie and getting a new job as a caterer, Abbi is jumping back into the art game, and Donna’s name dropping about teaching and residencies shows her a glimpse at a world she definitely wants to be a part of. Aniello plays Donna as a little stuck up, but likable and friendly and open about what techniques she used to shed the college nickname of Smelly Pussy Donna.

However, the emotional heart of the episode comes in Ilana and Lincoln’s plotline where Glazer (directing herself) lingers on the pain that Ilana feels when she thinks Lincoln is going to propose. Thankfully, the box just has some dangly, trendy “Jewess” earrings. This awkwardness does show that maybe their relationship isn’t long for this world even though they seemed pretty happy in the season 5 premiere. It extends to the dinner, which is shot almost pornographically by Glazer, because that’s some pretty good pasta they’re eating on.

But after the tasty food, their conversation turns from little, funny things, like letting Lincoln watch three romantic comedies (Ilana enjoys roasting the.) a year and going down from having sex in a roller coaster to the more manageable Ferris wheel, to more serious matters that have been building up for quite some time. Lincoln wants to move back to the more affordable Maryland and open a dental practice with his brother that’s adorably called Tooth Factory, get a house, married, and have kids. Ilana wants to stay in New York, try the becoming a therapist thing, and kiss at least fifty people in addition to Lincoln. They both love each other very much, but Ilana and Lincoln’s life goals have become incompatible so I guess it’s quits for them. Thankfully, Glazer and Jacobson punctuate the feels with a lot of fart jokes.

While this is going on, Abbi is having a throwback to Season 3’s “Burning Bridges” and having to play the role of guest at artsy fartsy party and caterer at one. (Lincoln and Ilana also broke up in the Aniello directed episode so they’re kind of companion pieces.) It leads to a lot of awkward physical humor from Jacobson as she tries to avoid her ever vigilant supervisor Kevin (The Punisher’s Todd Alan Crain) and still schmooze around the complex art world. And it ends up being a complete disaster involving drink spilling on artist heroes, lots of misunderstandings, and general feelings of inferiority. Abbi desperately wants to be a part of the art world, but she’s still a beret wearing caterer on the outside looking in.

But thing take a fantastic turn in one of the best character beats created for Abbi. After she passes out at the party and is brought to the hospital, she ends up flirting and hitting it off with her doctor, Leslie (Clea DuVall). Jacobson and DuVall have immediate chemistry as they shyly ask each other if they’re seeing someone between Leslie giving Abbi glucose pills and instructions. At the end of the episode where Abbi and Ilana chat, Abbi says that she was hesitant to ask Leslie out because she’s used to dating men. This scene shows that queerness and coming out isn’t always a “very special episode”, but it can sometimes be thinking that someone the same gender is attractive and asking them out. It’s a powerful, quiet moment that is well-written and acted by Jacobson and visually captured by Glazer.

“Artsy Fartsy” turns its focus back to earlier Broad City themes of feeling inadequate compared to your more successful friends (i.e. Donna) and the ever evolving nature of relationships in your late twenties and early thirties. Abbi and Ilana are changing, and this episode boasts fantastic character development for a show that’s not super serialized. It’s worth checking out for Lucia Aniello’s dance moves in the ending credits alone.

Overall Verdict: 8.4

Review: Broad City S5E3 Bitcoin & the Missing Girl

Broad City S5E3 Bitcoin & the Missing Girl

For better worse, Broad City Season 5 is settling into a routine, and that routine includes Abbi and Ilana getting in a crazy situation that ends up being a satirical look at white privilege or 21st century society. And Abbi and Ilana are usually apart from each other except for the cold open and stinger. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer no longer get to play off each other, but against a cast of usually well-cast comedians and character actors. In “Bitcoin & the Missing Girl”‘s case, these actors include James Saito (Who played Shredder in the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film) and Mark Consuelos (Hiram Lodge in Riverdale).

It’s fun to watch Abbi freak out over losing the sweatshirt she lost her virginity in, or Ilana in a full-on PVC leather Matrix get-up. But sometimes you wish these shenanigans were happening with them together. However, writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs and director Lilly Burns craft a story that fits Abbi and Ilana’s personalities as well as Jacobson and Glazer’s comedic styles plus the season’s recurring theme of big picture and personal satire.

When you thought The Matrix parodies were dead and buried, Aniello, Downs, and Glazer in a trench coat brought them back in a plotline where Ilana has to track down a guy she had a one night stand with “between 2010 and 2011” to cash in her 1/3 of a Bit Coin that she got in return for getting him Wacka Flocka Flame tickets and open her phone wig “wizness”. (It’s just human hair glued to cellphones.) And said guy is played by the previously mentioned, Mark Consuelos, who proves the old adage that acting is reacting by trying to stay even keeled and corporate while Ilana twerks in the equivalent of a Trinity cosplay on his venture capitalist desk.

The Ilana BitCoin plot doesn’t really scratch the surface of ethical issues with cryptocurrency, but it is a loving spoof of The Matrix, a film that I have way too much nostalgia for. (And so do other millennials.) It’s also an excuse for Glazer to prove once again that she can pull off any outfit and spread queer, cyberpunk anarchy in a staid, sterile corporate world. It’s a little more subtle, but Burns, Aniello, and Downs also riff on the Bourne films when Ilana visits her bank vault. There aren’t passports, firearms, and Matt Damon’s credibility as an action star there, but burner dick pic phones, a must need item for anyone on a family phone plan.

In contrast with the highs, lows, sheer swagger, and energetic nostalgia of Ilana’s plotline, Abbi’s story is more, shall we say, normcore. With a little extra spending money thanks to her offscreen job at Anthropologie, Abbi decides to use a laundry business instead of going down to her build’s downright horrifying laundry room. This seems like a good idea, and of course, she does nothing productive while waiting for her clothes, but then she loses her favorite sweatshirt.

What follows is a satire of the “single white female” trope in news media where any missing white woman gets around the clock news coverage and probably a Lifetime movie. Abbi placing fliers around town for her sweatshirt inadvertently led to people think she was missing and some hilarious cameos from her former Soulstice co-workers, including Trey (Paul W. Downs), who still has a thing for her. Her story is deadpan funny, especially James Saito’s reactions to her demands, but is more serious than Ilana’s as her white privilege ends up trampling the world around her just like the toilet plot from last week’s episode.

In yet another deadpan sequence from Lilly Burns, Abbi removes her missing sweatshirt posters, only to reveal posters about more important things like Black Lives Matter and Abolish ICE. It’s a stark reminder of how self-centered and myopic she was, and hey, maybe the laundry owner is right in banning her for life. Her story might not have the pure comedic bite of Ilana’s, but it continues Abbi’s storyline of checking her privilege this scene.

It’s sad to see Abbi and Ilana continue to be apart, but Glazer’s cyberpunk antics played against Mark Consuelo‘s corporate stiffness make “Bitcoin & the Missing Girl” an amusing episode that also manages to explore white privilege in its B-plot.

Review: Broad City S5E2 SheWork and Shit Bucket

Writer Lisa McQuillan (Blackish) and director Abbi Jacobson spin shit (Aka the most used word in this episode) in metaphorical gold in “SheWork and Shit Bucket” an episode that turns poop jokes and the running gag of Ilana being unable to find a job into a sharp satire of gentrification and technocracy. The episode splits Abbi and Ilana up for the most part as Abbi tries to improve the plumbing in her apartment building, and Ilana uses free charging ports, trash, and nicotine addictions to create SheWork, which is like Elon Musk’s Hyperloop for co-working spaces.

Building off last week’s episode’s barbs about social media stories and how they shape every day experience, McQuillan and Jacobson continue to show that Broad City’s final season is big picture oriented and more than two girls having shenanigans in New York City while still building off jokes from previous seasons and the chemistry between Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. “She Work and “Shit Bucket”‘s tech satire begins in the unlikely way that is Ilana applying for an office manager job at WeWork, a co-working office space that offers great “millennial friendly” perks like free snacks and beer.

But they’re actually trying to get her to buy office space, and she ends up on the street charging her dead phone on one of New York’s free charger’s station. However, a chance meeting with her old temp agency boss Linda Lodi (Rachel Dratch), who has a smoking habit turns into her arranging old New York street junk into a smoking friendly workspace for the price of 50 cents a minute. She’s basically doing what the tech bros are doing, but outside and with more cigarette smoke and transforms a free or inexpensive service (Chargers on the street) into a moneymaking scheme a la HyperLoops or that bus thing that Lyft and/or Uber were going to do. She calls her start-up “SheWork” to add a veneer of white feminism to it and then still ends up selling the business to WeWork for $500, and they end up stealing her money. Guess, there’s still money in the tobacco industry.

Unlike a show, like the excellent Silicon Valley, which comes at the tech sector from a male, insider POV, Lisa McQuillan takes an intersectional feminist perspective of start ups, and how women are often undermined and minimized in them. However, she also turns the tables and shows that the lure of making a profit off something that was previously given away for free or a very low cost crosses gender boundaries. She and Abbi Jacobson take a stab at some big issues in hypercapitalist American society, but with Ilana running around and picking up random odds and ends in a crop top and sketch comedy Dratch just reacting to the strangeness around her in a more extreme, open air version of her previous role as the MoneyPenny of temp agencies.

Abbi’s storyline in which she gets all gentrifying imperialist faux woke on her Latino landlord Fernando (Nelson Ascensio) starts as a bunch of poop jokes and an opportunity for Jacobson to do a highly choreographed high five/dance thing with her character’s favorite Bed, Bath, and Beyond employee. However, it turns into a critique of the kind of activism that is actually just code for gentrification. In campaigning for better plumbing so she can flush paper down the toilet, Abbi ends up losing Fernando’s job, raising rent, and being very problematic along the way.

McQuillan’s writing for Abbi is either very broad or quite subtle. For example, Abbi calls herself the “Rosa Parks of poop” as well as the “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Astoria” although Ocasio-Cortez does, in fact, represent Astoria, Queens in Congress. These two lines show that Abbi is the heiress of a long line of white women, who take credit for what activists of color have done, and McQuillan boldly doesn’t give her a happy ending, but a more sinister one using her apartment building as a microcosm of how gentrification has made New York City, especially Brooklyn and Queens, unlivable and displaced the immigrants and children of immigrants who made their home there. But there’s also a funny joke about how everyone in the building know that Abbi pegged the late, great written out of the show Jeremy.

Although Lisa McQuillan and Abbi Jacobson riff off old Broad City jokes (and songs; “I Shit” becomes “She Work”), they aren’t content to retread old plots as “SheWork and Shit Bucket” is an episode that is both socially responsible, madly hilarious, and shows that both Abbi and Ilana need to check their privilege and not be seduced by exploitative capitalism.

Overall Verdict: 8.7

Review: Broad City S5E1 Stories

Broad City S5E1 Stories

Broad City’s final season premiere, “Stories”, is high concept, joke dense, a little bit satirical, and definitely a celebration of the friendship between Abbi and Ilana. The Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer penned episode gets its name from Facebook and Instagram Stories, which if you’re some kind of a Luddite, are real time snapshots of your day. They can be saved, but for the most part, it’s a here today, gone tomorrow deal kind of like Abbi and Ilana’s phones. (But not their friendship.)

Director Nick Paley frames the entire episode as a series of social media stories as Ilana and Abbi celebrate Abbi’s 30th birthday by walking all of Manhattan. It’s the perfect idea for a series that has centered around Abbi and Ilana’s adventures running around New York, and this epic quest doesn’t disappoint. Also, using the Instagram story format allows for lots of visual jokes like when Abbi and Ilana see the “real life” version of the peach and eggplant emoji, and when Ilana keeps filming even after she falls into a manhole.

Paley also leans into the feels a little bit and creates some cute montages of Jaime (Arturo Castro), Lincoln (Hannibal Burress is back, yay), and Jaime’s boyfriend tipsily sending birthday messages. There’s also a montage of Abbi’s butt in various scenes of the show, which is a fantastic payoff to one of the series’ best running gags, and it continues to be riffed on throughout “Stories”. Glazer and Jacobson’s performances are non-stop energy in this episode, and the handheld style of filming is a throwback to when Broad City was a webseries and not a pop culture phenomenon. I could also not stop cracking up when Ilana was dancing with her one padawan-style braid in a self-deprecating scene where Glazer acknowledges her cultural appropriation in earlier seasons.

However, “Stories” isn’t all fun and games, and Glazer and Jacobson definitely dig into the existential crisis part of hitting the big three zero. Ilana stops with the crazy filters for a second as Abbi muses on her thankless Anthropologie job and posits that maybe she could have been a mom with kids by now. It doesn’t help when her old college friend Cheese (Cody Lindquist) shows up to retrieve her child in the mall that Abbi and Ilana were supposed to take to security, but end up using as an adorable and slightly creepy prop. Cheese reprimands Abbi and Ilana for their footloose and fancy free ways before having a total meltdown that is punctuated by dropping several “F” bombs at one of her four kids. Basically, even “stable” adults with kids don’t have their shit together. I really liked how Glazer and Jacobson showed how people can be similar ages and have totally different lives after college.

“Stories” is also a great satire of social media without being preachy or heavy handed. Broad City already showed Abbi and Ilana’s inability to function without their phone in the season 2 episode “The Matrix”, and almost four years later, it shows their inability to function without filming every second in “Stories”. The comedy from the Instagram story framing device shows that Glazer and Jacobson enjoy social media, and how it can capture fun moments, but also during the “stories”, they aren’t really living in these moments. It’s definitely a love/hate thing that I’ve thought about while being at concerts, good brunch places, and general fun experiences. Am I actually enjoying myself or just chronicling this for social media? Glazer and Jacobson ask this question in a humorous way and don’t give a definitive answer.

“Stories” starts off Broad City’s final season with some visual inventiveness, chains of jokes both visual and verbal, and of course, amazing friendship moments between Abbi and Ilana. Plus it’s a better and funnier love letter to Manhattan than the film with the same name…

Overall Rating: 9.5

TV Review: Broad City S4E10 Friendiversary

“Friendiversary” is really freaking weird episode of Broad City and it’s also incredibly simple. Unlike the Season 3 finale, which was a two part episode and involved serialization and a plane flight to Israel, director Nicholas Jasenovec and writers Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson just have Abbi and Ilana running around New York City. It starts as Ilana doing a scavenger hunt for Abbi complete with creepy masks, pretending to be a puppy and horse, and nauseatingly good chicken fingers and turns into a murder mystery. Having the girls bounce off each other in hilarious and heartfelt ways continues to be just as good as it was when they were scrounging up money to see Lil Wayne by cleaning adult baby Fred Armisen’s apartment back in the first ever episode of Broad City.

The murder mystery with a super freaky plot twist isn’t the only tension causing part of Broad City. Glazer and Jacobson decide to inject a little drama into Abbi and Ilana’s friendship as Abbi forgot it was their friend anniversary and didn’t have a gift or activity planned so she improvises with a facial mask and a trip to the top of Empire State Building. This pales in comparison to Ilana giving Abbi her family heirloom (Its backstory is Fiddler on the Roof meets Christopher Walken’s character in Pulp Fiction.) and dropping four figures on blowing cardboard versions of each other’s faces. Early, in the episode, Glazer gives little pauses, and there is a little less pep in her line readings as she realizes that Abbi flat out forgot their friendiversary. It shows a quieter, sad side of the character, but things are back to full energy when Ilana realizes that the observation deck on the Empire State Building is perfect for watching people have sex and also get “murdered”.

For many of the stories in Broad City Season 4, the writers have given Abbi and Ilana separate plots that dovetail towards the beginning or end of the episode. “Friendiversary” is full fledged team-up and a love letter to one of the most fun and endearing friendships on television. A lesser show would have them fighting over Abbi’s forgetfulness, but Glazer and Jacobson create a film noir story with a Broad City twist and show that she really cares about Ilana. I mean she would break into a possible murderer’s apartment and hide in his closet for her.

Although the cold open is all wacky comedy reveals and playful costumes worn by Glazer, Nicholas Jasenovec gets to go a little psychological thriller in his direction of “Friendiversary”. There’s a nice hip hop montage when Abbi and Ilana share chicken fingers and margaritas, but that is replaced with cold, steady direction as a man paces in his apartment with a knife or goes into the back room of a karaoke bar with a suitcase and leaves with no suitcase. Abbi and Ilana are the most unlikely gumshoe detectives, but their friendship conquers skill deficiency and genre tropes. Somehow, they end up in the man’s apartment, and the conclusion of the episode gets on-screen and offscreen laughs, but after Jasenovec does these tight, true crime angles that create an air of menace. It’s cool that “Friendiversary” gets to be a relationship study and a bit of a genre exercise.

In a Broad City season filled with mostly successful experiments and a few duds, “Friendiversary” is relaxing in its lack of ambition. Glazer and Jacobson, Abbi and Ilana put it all on the line, show how much they love each other, and get a little freaky along the way, which is all I could want out of a Broad City finale. Character growth would be interesting, but sometimes it’s nice to have a show that revels in its hilarious, chemistry filled status quo. Who doesn’t love a murder mystery that can be solved by the power of friendship?

Overall Verdict: 8.0

TV Review: Broad City S4E9 “Bedbugs”

BroadCityBedBugs

Broad City gets back to its winning ways in ” Bedbugs” as writer/director Ilana Glazer and co-writer Abbi Jacobson lean into both New York and Abbi and Ilana’s friendship. This might seem formulaic, but it works, and there’s the added wrinkle of money problems. Abbi still hasn’t bounced back from losing her fancy design job after killing her boss’ cat while high and is scraping by selling recycled cans and bottles and trying to return snacks to the bodega. In contrast, Ilana is living large and buying gifts her for all her friends and family, including $1,300 purses. But this lucky streak ends when she and Jaime (Arturo Castro) get bed bugs in their apartment, which originated from an illegal prostitution ring in the Sushi Mambo.

The cold open of “Bedbugs” is why I will never drive in New York (And Washington, DC and probably Chicago.) as Abbi and Ilana roll in the cool convertible that they inherited in “Florida” and subsequently can’t find a parking place. There aren’t hip hop beats or slow-mo rigs just terrible attempts at parallel parking (The one where your friend gets out of the car and tries to get you in position.) and cold wind blowing as they refuse to put the top down. The scene demonstrates that Glazer can pull off awkward, visual observational comedy as a director as well as fun montages and stoner movie riffs. The cold open is also a metaphor for their life situation in the episode. Abbi is watching her bank account and dignity (She gets financial planning help from a mugger played by an aggressive and not neurotic Steve Buscemi.) blow away in the wind while Ilana thinks she’s cool with the money stashed in her mattress and her gift giving ability, but that too is eaten by disgusting bugs.

Glazer and Jacobson continue the separate Abbi/Ilana storyline plot structure that has been Broad City‘s M.O. in Season 4 even though they converge in important and meaningful ways like Ilana giving Abbi a purse that adds +10 to charisma, or when, of course, Abbi lets Ilana hang out at her place when she gets bedbugs. Another crossover  is their relationship to Massouma (Zephyr Ingle), the teenage bodega worker, who Abbi mistakenly thinks is named Bodine. (That’s a great name for a racist grandma to be honest.) On the other hand, Ilana knows Massouma’s name and has her cellphone number. Abbi was so self-absorbed with her lack of a job and money situation that she didn’t stop to take time to get to know someone who helped provide her cheap food and good service.

Ingle, who previously had starred in a Star Wars fan film and a creepy horror short film, is one of the comedic finds of 2017, matches wits with Abbi at every turn, and even makes the 2nd Amendment funny with her delivery of a one-liner about how she helped her parents study for their citizenship tests so she’s a Constitutional expert. The gun she wields is a great prop, and Ingle and Glazer use some split second timing to execute a great gag where Massouma immediately pops off the gun when Ilana says she has bedbugs. Hollywood casting directors, you should definitely add Zephyr Ingle to your ensemble comedy film or sitcom.

“So relatable” should be the title for Abbi’s story arc in Broad City Season 4. Jacobson nails the patheticness of the “starving”, yet privileged artist trope when she and an older “starving artist” sort through their cans at the recycling plant. There are no voices of a generation to be found here. But Glazer and Jacobson also do right by her and give her some real swag when she pops into Anthropologie for an impromptu job interview after an almost one take montage of her feeling confidence while walking down the streets of New York. She nails the interview, but ends up underemployed as a part of the “asset protection” team. This totally happened to me right after college, and Jacobson plays the excited to get a job and nervously joking about her “uniform” with disappointment in her real position with a lot of empathy. Poor Abbi just can’t catch or sustain a break this season either in her personal or professional life.

Bolstered by strong guest and supporting performances from Zephyr Ingle, Steve Buscemi and the always reliable Hannibal Burress and Arturo Castro as Lincoln and Jaime, “Bedbugs” is a back to basics episode of Broad City showing the painful comedy of underemployment and catastrophic life situations. Also, I’m surprised that it took almost 40 episodes for the show to deal with one of the most New York problems ever…

Overall Verdict: 8.7

TV Review: Broad City S4E8 “House-Sitting”

Even though it featured the return of wealthy, privileged youngster Oliver (Of “Yas kween” fame.) for a short cameo, guest stars Mike Birbiglia, and has an amazing running laundry gag, “House-Sitting” is probably one of the worst episodes of Broad City ever. Writers Kevin Barnett and Josh Rabinowitz, for the most part, move away from the political comedy of the previous two episodes while keeping the fish out of water theme from “Florida”. The plot of the episode revolves around Abbi, Ilana, Jaime, Lincoln, and Abbi’s high school English teacher-turned-Bumble-date Richard (Mike Birbiglia) housesitting one of Ilana’s very wealthy, former employers while she goes off to the Hamptons with her son in an Uber helicopter. (Apparently, that’s a thing.)

But “House-Sitting” isn’t all negative. When director Abbi Jacobson isn’t extending a fart noises as hand guns gag to an unbearable length, she, Barnett, and Rabinowitz find some sweet and funny moments in the relationship between Lincoln and Ilana. (After a little bit of hesitation, she calls him her boyfriend.) Hannibal Burress and Glazer have great chemistry and share some fun moments, especially trying on fancy golden outfits and tuxes from the spacious rich people closets. They get to be part of the episode’s best gag, which is various characters losing their damn minds that the super fast and spacious multiple washing machines in the house’s basement that apparently the owner herself doesn’t even know about. Broad City is at its best either when it’s in “It’s funny because it’s true” mode or doubling down on Abbi and Ilana’s friendship, and this running joke with a twist ending definitely fits into the first categories for users of weird, shaking washing machines or have had one too many quarters eaten at laundromats/rooms.

The bad (and gross) comes from Abbi’s plotline, which has her going on a really awkward date with her old English teacher, Richard. Birbiglia plays the role of sleazy wannabe intellectual very well, especially in his tweed jacket, making the most of an uncomfortable part where he admits to masturbating to his students. He still sees Abbi as his student and not a woman in her late 20s, and did I mention that Jaime is watching the whole thing behind stuffed animals in Oliver’s bedroom. Obviously, Barnett, Rabinowitz, and Jacobson portray Richard as a terrible person, but seeing the whole ingenue/mentor forbidden romance thing for the millionth time isn’t really funny.  They really lean into some darkness in Ilana’s long monologue where she basically says that teachers jerking off to students is better than having sex with them. Ilana has said plenty of problematic stuff in Broad City, but this is honestly one of her worst moments.

The way Barnett, Rabinowitz, and Jacobson handle the end of the Richard/Abbi storyline is just plain weird as they start by Abbi telling him off and then turn into a half-assed Breakfast Club parody complete with the most overused 80s teen movie song of all time. (At least, they use the original and not the bad pop punk cover like Easy A did.) The storyline comes across as gross and pointless and just an excuse to give Abbi something to do while Lincoln and Ilana define their relationship and healing from adult circumcision Jaime tries to avoid getting a boner, which is adorable as much the Abbi B-plot is disgusting. I guess it reinforces that Abbi isn’t relationship material, but it’s mostly just frightening.

A bottle episode inside a palatial New York City mansion is a fun premise, and Abbi Jacobson seems to have a good time playing with the opulence of the interiors while Kevin Barnett and Josh Rabinowitz’ bidet setting jokes really cracked me up and fit the characters of Abbi and Ilana. However, this fun and some sweet Ilana/Lincoln material is unfortunately overshadowed by the appearance of a creepy pedophile character played by a pretty good comedian that also takes down Ilana with him in a painful bit where she hopes that Lincoln and her theoretical children are jerked off to by their teacher.

After writing that last sentence, I have to take a shower in the opposite of the setting of this episode…

Overall Verdict: 6.0

TV Review: Broad City S4E7 Florida

In a solid, yet unspectacular episode of Broad City with the amazing stunt casting of Fran Drescher as Ilana’s Aunt Beverly, Abbi and Ilana travel with Ilana’s mom (Susi Essman) and brother Eliot (Eliot Glazer) to Florida to pack up and divide her grandmother Esther’s worldly possessions after her passing. “Florida” is also Ilana Glazer’s directorial debut, and her greatest contribution to this episode is using a handheld camera to slowly puff, puff, pan between each member of the Wexler extended family and smooth out all tensions, including Ilana’s aunt and mom fighting over a family heirloom or Eliot being on the phone.

“Florida” is also proof that Broad City isn’t afraid to get political two episodes in a row as Glazer and writer Jen Statsky spin a fish out of water tale of blue state millennials visiting a red state. After dealing with frizzy hair and community Abbi and Ilana become true suburban kweens and  immediately fall in love with the low rents, green grass, and orange trees of Florida and are even okay with grannies toting assault rifles and “Make America Great Again” because the rent is so damn low. ($425 a month to rent a spacious condo halved between two roommates, please confirm this Floridians.) However, by the end of the episode and after some racist and homophobic slurs (The good, elderly folks at Darling Estates think Abbi and Ilana are a couple.), they realize that maybe the Florida life isn’t for them, and they’re better off braving the frozen pipes of New York that the hot, bigoted sun of the “dangling dick of America”.

I liked how throughout the whole episode that Statsky had Abbi and Ilana try to adapt to life in Florida and think old people are adorable with their tennis matches, white fish salads, and casual racism, but then realized how alien this world is to theirs. There is a golden bit of writing when Abbi and Ilana talk to two separate old ladies about having sex with JFK and realize that this wasn’t achievement for either of them, and he was a creep. They are old tennis rivals and a possible reflection of Abbi and Ilana when they grow up. The whole campaigning to be the newest, youngest residents of these condos is frankly hilarious if filled with the undertone of systemic racism as Abbi and Ilana realize that the only people of color at the condos are gardeners, nurses, and paramedics. It’s super awkward.

The B and C plots of “Florida”  have great comedic potential, especially with the annoying nature of airline hold lines,  Eliot Glazer’s willingness to rock old lady fashion, and the verbal sparring between Susi Essman and Fran Drescher. However, they kind of just sizzle out, and don’t get the nurturing of Abbi and Ilana running around the Florida suburbs with MTV style cuts to them rolling in Grandma Esther’s Cadillac. Drescher and Essman are super believable sisters, and the logic of their arguments are quite humorous with Beverly saying that Grandma Esther’s ring is the closest she’ll ever have to an engagement ring. But Glazer cuts away far too often to the suburban shenanigans as Drescher continues to make the argument for her getting an “auteur style” sitcom like Aziz Ansari’s Master of None or Donald Glover’s Atlanta. We definitely need more hilarious, middle aged women like her doing comedy TV. (Also, shout out to The Nanny for being one of the greatest Nick at Nite shows ever.)

Jen Statsky and Ilana Glazer mine the deep romantic subtext between Abbi and Ilana in “Florida” as they fleetingly consider living together in a world that hates and fears them. This episode is good for a few painful, fish out of water laughs, and Broad City hits the guest star jackpot again with Fran Drescher. But it’s greatest development is the possible reunion of Ilana and Lincoln (Hannibal Burress) with a gender reversal of the classic “big gesture” romantic comedy trope that is too adorable to spoil here.

Overall: 7.7

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