Tag Archives: Paul W Downs

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.

TV Review: Broad City S4E3 Just the Tips

You gotta love episode titles that are triple entendre, and this week’s episode of Broad City, “Just the Tips”, references the mad dough that Ilana is racking up as a waitress working double shifts at an upscale Manhattan sushi restaurant, her dollar bill/Obama filled $428 nails that she gets done on her day off, and also Jaime’s episode-long pondering about finally get circumcised. Yeah, director Neil Daly and writer Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello begin the episode all salad days-y with Abbi enjoying sex with her “boyfriend” of six days, and Ilana getting ready to spend some money and party after a rare day off from waitressing.

The first half of the episode is decadent and disgusting as hell with money being thrown around, Ilana knowing no boundaries and trying on new leotards in a sex shop with her brother, and Abbi being totally insufferable about her new boyfriend aka the paramedic from last episode. She mentions him at work meetings and in her voice mail and even ditches a pretty rockin’ party to take selfies for him on a fire escape than turns into her “comforting” a woman (Miriam Shor), who is in a rough spot in a long term relationship. Daly shoots the scene like a mumblecore flick with Jacobson and Shor playing it like empathy filled drama until it takes a turn for the absurd when Jacobson adds some big pauses and extra adjectives to her delivery of the line that she’s been in a relationship for six days. The bubble of her perfect life is popped, and maybe Abbi isn’t “relationship material”. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Do you, girl, and also, Broad City makes a decent dramedy at times. Bevers will always be creepy though especially when he randomly climbs into bed with Abbi and asks about her “man meat”.

Glazer really gets to flex (Literally with her newfound wealth and in the acting department.) in “Just the Tips” making a leotard, dreamsicle wig combo work, throwing back drinks, snorting coke, and genuinely living like a rock star while Abbi is stuck in the second act of a really bad romantic comedy. She’s work very hard and deserves to play hard, dammit. However, Downs and Aniello go beyond just the partying and introduce the variable of Lincoln’s return (Hannibal Burress) with his very even keel, normal girlfriend Steph at the party Ilana was invited to. (And forgot who the host was, oops.) The upbeat score turns a little sadcore, and Ilana kind of loses her composure and realizes how ridiculous she looks before shitting her leotard. And with Abbi doing her relationship counselor, it’s Lincoln, who unzips her leotard so she can clean up. They have a real talk about how they wanted different things in a relationship, and it’s very mature with a side of poop jokes. Ilana definitely had an impact on a certain stage of Lincoln’s life, but he’s ready to do the whole “settle down” thing now.

In Broad City Season 4, Jacobson, Glazer, Aniello, and Downs have consciously tried to write Abbi and Ilana as more mature characters instead of being in a kind of arrested development. But I like how even though they have found professional success that they still make mistakes and are learning about how to navigate relationships and friendship in a pretty hilarious way. One reason I love Broad City is that even when it leans into the characters’ interpersonal drama, it never gets too self-serious. Deciding to have a circumcision as an adult is nice fodder for a C-plot, and it’s nice to see Jaime out on the town rocking a boa and black skirt.

Overall Verdict: 8.0

TV Review: Broad City S4E2 Twaining Day

“Twaining Day”  has two hilarious plot lines, two big time celebrity guest stars (Shania Twain as herself, and RuPaul as a Manhattan sushi “restauranteur” Marcel), and Abbi and Ilana going solo for most of the episode. Four seasons in, Broad City has never met a running gag it didn’t like, and writer/director Lucia Aniello and co-writer Paul W. Downs craft an entire an actual A-plot around Abbi training country pop star Shania Twain, who is a comedic gem. Abbi’s unexpected return to Soulstice also brings closure to her romantic (Well, mostly sexual.) relationship with Trey, still played with fantastic earnestness by Downs.

But before Ru Paul starts slinging one-liners, and Twain is more interested in “dishing” about Abbi and Trey’s relationship, Aniello and Downs get a little political in “Twaining Day’s” cold open where Abbi and Ilana are working as women’s clinic escorts fighting off anti-abortion protesters with the power of pink jerseys and puffs of a hash pipe. As a resident of a state with only remaining abortion clinic and personally witnessing graphic imagery in flashbulb billboards and harsh shouting of “pro-life” protesters on my route to work for a whole week, it’s very cool that Broad City aligns itself with progressive causes. Abbi is right that “everyone should chill out”, and maybe men should just chill out and eat giant cookies while under the effects of a contact high instead of telling women what they can or can’t do with their bodies.

Following this fantastic cold open and some gorgeous shots of a graphic design/artsy office space where Abbi is some sort of an executive assistant from Aniello, “Twaining Day” turns its attention to Ilana v. Marcel: Dawn of Sass-ness. Aniello and Downs play with the forced subservience of tip earning service professionals plus the (fading) gourmet reputation of Manhattan restaurants as well as Ru Paul’s (and his imitators) own persona to whip up one tasty Ilana plot. As a character who is often pure id, Ilana takes no shit from Marcel, when he says that she basically isn’t high class enough to work at Sushi Mambo. She goes full asshole and ends up earning his begrudging respect especially when she trips the oldest waiter on staff and gets the nickname “Other Tonya Harding”.

Glazer has real range as a comedian, and it’s a treat to see her shed her daffy, stoner persona and bite down on icy one-liners with a score and swoopy transitions that wouldn’t be out of place on Drag Race. But we know that’s not Ilana and couple literal tin foil monologues, and she’s back to her high energy, fun having self and earning boatloads of tips from all age groups with her quick compliments and knowledge of the best type of sushi to have after a heavy weed smoking session. Throughout the series, Ilana has been established as an outgoing, if non-filter having people person and working this kind of fast paced job fits her personality and is a big step in her growing up process. Plus Glazer and Ru Paul have an excellent repartee that shouldn’t just be wasted on one episode.

While Ilana advances in her career in “Twaining Day”, Abbi regresses a little bit making a terrible, lying excuse about her parent’s divorce to ditch work and pick up a random package at Soulstice. Lying isn’t one of her strong suits, and she utterly fails at subterfuge in trying to get the package and ends up having really hot, genital fracturing makeup sex with Trey and also training Shania Twain along the way. With the help of some improvised vocals from Twain (As confirmed by a behind the scenes featurette.), Abbi realizes that she only has a physical bond with Trey and may not be “relationship material”. And that’s okay as long she is honest with herself about her needs and feelings.

The last third of the episode is one big love letter from Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs (Who both writes and plays Trey) to Abbi and Trey shippers shooting sex scenes from really hot angles (That steam room equals yum.) that are comedically tempered by the fact that Abbi is little annoyed by the new Soulstice cleaner’s sense in interior decor. This combo of sexiness and awkwardness encapsulates Trey and Abbi’s relationship as they have real chemistry, but not much to talk about. However, it’s nice to have “Twaining Day” tie a bow on what was a big part of Abbi’s solo plots over the past three seasons and end her time as a “pube situation” cleaner with a glitzy celebrity cameo that reminded me a lot of Kelly Ripa’s in Broad City Season 2 where a notorious diva-ish celebrity ends up being funny, down to Earth, and a great fit for the show.

With a couple stellar guest performances from Shania Twain and Ru Paul plus some growth for Ilana and a complicated mixture of growth, regression, and closure for Abbi, “Twaining Day” shows that solo Ilana and Abbi plotlines can be just as fun as them together. Plus it nails the super awkwardness of returning to your old work where you’re pretty sure most of the people there resent you.

Overall Verdict: 8.5

TV Review: Broad City S308 Burning Bridges

ThisSucks

Over the past 28 episodes (and a webseries), we’ve had the chance to hang out with Abbi and Ilana through their misadventures, awkward moments, and epic journeys. “Burning Bridges” uses this built up good will and characterization and just lets the emotions come out. Because this is a turning point for Broad City as a show and Ilana and Abbi as characters, it fitting that Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are on writing duties on an episode that shifts the status quo. Abbi and Trey’s (Paul W Downs) one month sex friends thing ends, and the longer, more emotionally resonant relationship between Ilana and Winston (Hannibal Burress) is also over. And it’s not like they’re friends or anything because their former open relationship complicates. I hope that Winston makes a cameo or two as the series continues because Burress’ matter of fact, deadpan delivery is great, and he has a great callback gag in this episode as he is still lugging around Blake Griffin’s basketball shoe as man purse.

But first, the funny stuff. Director Lucia Aniello leads off with a split screen cold open, but switches things up by using a 360 camera effect that you may have seen in those annoying ads on Facebook. The open itself is a simple, yet funny as Ilana has to take a drug test at work and using Abbi’s urine even though she smokes a lot of weed as well. It’s also connected to this episode’s conclusion with the shared drug as companionship motif because they might lie to each other and have relationship struggles, but at the end of the day, they’re still just two friends smoking weed in the bathtub Wait this paragraph was only going to talk about funny things in Broad City, but the feels keep creeping up, which is basically the experience of watching “Burning Bridges”.

For example, the tense, painful for anyone who has tried being in an open or polysexual relationship conversation between Ilana and Winston is preceded by a sunny tracking shot montage of Ilana blithely going through her day. It seems like yet another manic Mon, er, Ilana day, but it gets a little darker when Abbi takes a chair from a guy, who was using it to From his actions on the show and general demeanor, Lincoln is really a kind human being and is trying to let down Ilana as easily as possible. He is straightforward and self-aware about their relationship and wisely doesn’t play the “just friends” card because they’ve really only been sex buddies or talking about sex with other people buddies this season.

But this doesn’t mean Ilana doesn’t feel hurt. And there is a searing pain in her eyes the whole the rest of the episode that she tries to cure with cat-calling random men and women while she’s sitting on a bench with her parents, making out with a married man she falsely assumes is in an open relationship and ends up being a jerk, and just plain walking out when she sees Abbi with Trey. She is currently at a very low point in both her life and career, but Glazer and Jacobson show shades of her old self as she makes dick jokes while smoking weed as the credits wrap. That’s one coping mechanism for heartbreak.

The centerpiece of the episode is a dinner scene as Ilana is celebrating her parents’ anniversary with her brother Eliot (Eliot Glazer) while Abbi is going on her first actual date with Trey. It’s a series of tried and true comedic misunderstandings that culminates in an epic parkour sequence as Trey does the Heimlich on Mrs. Wexel (Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Susi Essman) and finally realize the reason why Abbi has been making worse and worst excuses to leave the table as the night has gone on. (Jacobson’s best work comes when there’s a little truth to the lie like telling Trey, “I’m emotional tonight.”) The fallout of the show is what blows the episode apart as Trey walks in on Abbi telling Ilana that he thinks he’s a “joke” while trying to reunite with him. This is bound to make things awkward because he is her boss at Soulstice. There could be another job search episode in her future.

Burning Bridges” is a huge and potentially risky move for Broad City as Glazer, Jacobson, and Aniello play with some loose serialization by turning Trey and Abbi’s relationship into a kind of three act comedy of errors with a drunk “komboozecha” filled kiss, a Pixar move induced one night stand, and finally an attempt at a real date that fails miserably. Ilana’s storylines have been looser this season with everything from mishaps at a food co-op to volunteering for the Hilary Clinton campaign, but her breakup with Winston is definitely a huge fixed point in her arc and an opportunity to show both her dramatic and comedic range as a performer. And it’s super sad too unless you ship Abbi and Ilana. (This reviewer might…)

Overall Rating: 9.0

TV Review: Broad City S3E07 B&B-NYC

AbbiandTreyPreSex

Broad City airs at 10 PM EST on Comedy Central.

On this week’s Broad City, writers Paul W Downs and Lucia Aniello introduce a couple drama bombs into an episode about sub-letting and sex with NBA players. (Blake Griffin of the L.A. Clippers spends more time sans clothes than with them on.) First, there is the loss of most of Abbi’s worldly possessions as her charming French boarder, Henri, isn’t what he seems and runs off with her stuff for seemingly no reason.  In most stories, this would be the setup for a steamy Euro-romance, but Downs and Aniello just make it an instance of being robbed in New York City with the police assigned to Abbi’s robbery running off to apprehend “a black male pretending to read on a bench” in a darkly satirical takedown of systemic racism.

The second drama bomb happens in the slow fracturing of Abbi and Ilana’s relationship, but it’s played pretty slow and subtle until Abbi lies to Ilana’s face about being alone. This is because she decided to have sex with her co-worker Trey (played by Downs), who she calls to keep her company after the break-in. Downs and Jacobson have a kind of breezy, yet slightly awkward chemistry that stems from their mismatched interests. Trey is into fitness (He said he’d have his “cheat meal” at Remy’s restaurant in Ratatouille, the movie that he and Abbi watch.) beyond it just being his job while Abbi cares more about art. However, Trey is interested in Abbi’s art and even amuses her by pretending to be a cubist painting. But there is something off about their pairing, and this is possibly why Abbi lied to Ilana about having sex with them when they are usually super open about their sex lives. Hopefully, it will be expanded upon in later episodes.

However, this lie isn’t just an attempt to create drama for drama’s sake. Director Lucia Aniello hints at it throughout the episode as Abbi and Ilana (who are killing time until their tenants leave because they have nowhere to crash) overhear a loud, obnoxious pedestrian talking about a private party at the 40/40 Club (an upscale sports bar owned by Jay-Z), and in true Broad City fashion, find their way into this elite establishment complete with hair whipping waitresses. Aniello uses some swag-filled slow-mo to show how joyful Abbi and Ilana are to be drinking and dancing at such an amazing place, and Glazer and Jacobson pull some crazy faces and dance moves while definitely showing that they don’t belong. However, when they interact together, Abbi and Ilana aren’t on the same page and act the exact opposite of the cold open where they were video chatting while in the bathroom. For example, Abbi is too busy laughing at Henri’s “texts that could be sexts” to consider the offer of a three way with Ilana and Blake Griffin, and Ilana ends up putting her phone on “Do Not Disturb” and isn’t there for Abbi when her place is robbed. There could be trouble in paradise.

But along the way, there are a lot of laughs, especially during Blake Griffin and Ilana’s “sex scene”. It opens with Ilana freaking out about how well-endowed Griffin is and then realizing that traditional sex won’t do, and this leads to a semi-montage of different roleplaying scenarios, including drinking tea in chairs, yoga poses, piggyback rides, and Griffin swaddling Ilana like a baby. As well as being an uproarious example of physical comedy, it also shows that fun, sexual activities don’t always have to involve penetration. Downs and Aniello definitely deserve kudos for their creativity and end Griffin and Ilana’s time together with a stealthily feminist discussion about how Griffin thinks that WNBA players are secretly more talented than him, and that he steals move from them all the time. This line is pretty relevant with the whole situation of the more successful (They’ve advanced past the quarterfinals.) US women’s national soccer team getting paid far less than the men’s team.

“B&B-NYC” gets a little sad and serious with Ilana and Abbi’s relationship dynamic even though it features crazy sex with an NBA player, slow-mo dancing, Pixar movies, and Lincoln (Hannibal Burress) using one of Blake Griffin’s Jordans as a man-purse. It’s just a tiny lie, but it will be interesting to see what happens with Abbi, Trey, and Ilana going forward as Broad City embraces small, shifting character arcs (Abbi and Trey previously connected and kissed at a party in “Rat Pack”.) instead of standalone picaresque stories like in the last two seasons.

Rating: 8.0

TV Review: Broad City S3E02 Co-Op

AbbiisIlana

Broad City airs at 10 PM EST on Comedy Central.

In “Co-Op”, writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs put a Broad City twist on a comedy trope as old as Plautus: mistaken identity. For an entire episode, Abbi is Ilana, and Ilana is Abbi. They swap identities because Ilana still wants to be able to use her Co-Op card to buy tasty produce, but hasn’t  It is a perfect opportunity for Abbi Jacobson to do an amazing caricature of Ilana Glazer’s perfomance as Ilana

However, Ilana doesn’t commit to the character at all spending most of the episode freaking out about going to her family doctor Angela (played by stand-up comic Judy Gold) in Long Island and completely geeking out about Lincoln (Hannibal Burress) having sex with another girl. Because poly relationships are completely normal, and Glazer demonstrates this through some uproarious physical comedy that in most sitcoms would be met with angry, melodramatic Grey’s Anatomy style relationship yelling. But this is Broad City, and it’s cool to be in a sexual relationship with multiple people as long as everyone consents. (As Lincoln reminds the rambunctious Ilana when she wants to “trick” his lady friend into having a threesome.) “Co-Op” is a great episode of TV to teach friends and family members about being poly, especially if they ask you if you’re Mormon. (Insert sighing noise.)

Like “Two Chainz”, “Co-Op” most striking visuals from director Ryan McFaul come in the cold open that starts as a commonplace conversation about butts and then swerves into a Muppet Babies version of the street harassment that Ilana and Abbi had to deal with earlier in the show at the basketball court. Abbi tells the rude, pre-pubesecent boys that the only time they’ll touch her boobs is when she’s dunking on them , and the streetball game begins. And this is when things get trippy with a level of slow-mo that would make the Wachowskis and Zack Snyder lose both lunch, breakfast, and their midnight snack to show off Abbi and Ilana’s “sick moves”, including Ilana kissing and twerking on the rim. Of course, they dominate because they’re playing little kids, and McFaul quickly cuts from NBA Jam level of epicness to stark reality with crying kids, who can’t handle TV-MA rated trash talk. Even though the cold open has nothing to with the episode’s plot, it’s an opportunity for McFaul to cut loose and for Jacobson and Glazer to show off their background in sketch comedy.

But it’s not like the other scenes in “Co-Op” are lacking in visual panache, like the extreme close-ups of Abbi as she tries to get into the role of Ilana in both her looks (crop top, pigtails, blingy earrings), speaking patterns (Lots of “yas” and “queen”), and facial expressions. She nails rehearsal, but the real thing is much more difficult with Abbi overplaying Ilana so much that her words are incomprehensible. (Jacobson’s delivery of “queen” as “quayn” to her fellow co-op worker is the funniest part of the episode.) Aniello and Downs even through a romantic wrench in Abbi’s path in the form of Phish fanatic and true believer in the co-op lifestyle, Craig, who is interested in this “Abbi” that “Ilana” keeps mentioning. (He also sports a man bun and can pull off tank tops.) And like a vegan homme fatale (Pardon my French), Craig causes Abbi to blow her cover and speak and act like herself while overselling the Ilana act way too much culminating in twerking.

TwoIlanas

Unfortunately, Craig and Abbi don’t work out due to Craig’s inability to compromise. He cares more about following the rules of the co-op ruled over by Lori (played by Academy Award winner Melissa Leo in time for Oscar Week), the super fertile and super vegan dictator of all natural and organic food in the five boroughs. Abbi cares more about sticking up for her best friend even if it means losing access to tasty food and relegated to “bodega veggies”. It serves to show you can have all the same interests as someone, but not be compatible as romantic partners or even friends. Human beings are deeper than their lists of top ten movies, albums, books, or comics, and successful relationships have this weird, spark of chemistry that goes beyond matching likes and dislikes. So, Abbi might be an enormous fan of Phish while Ilana doesn’t know a single lyrics, but they are incredible because they have shared experiences and just plain click. And the frank discussion of polysexuality along with Abbi rejecting Craig in favor of Ilana might hint and possible romantic developments in the future for the pair.

“Co-Op” proves the old adage that tropes aren’t bad and has Abbi Jacobson give an excellent performance as Abbi pretending to be Ilana while Ilana Glazer shows a new side of Ilana as she loses her usual cool and freaks out about going to the doctor. And along the way, there is a positive portrayal of polysexuality and some neat use of slow-mo, extreme close-ups, and enclosed spaces, like the Co-op and especially Lori’s office, from director Ryan McFaul.

Score: 9.3