Culture

The Defiant, Joyous Return Of ‘Broad City’

CREDIT: Comedy Central

FOUR AND THREE AND TWO AND ONE: Broad City is back.

The series, starring and created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, returns Wednesday night for its third season. In the first few minutes of the premiere, “Two Chainz,” — a split-screen of Abbi and Ilana’s bathroom, over an indeterminate period of time but an absurd, delightful number of outfit changes — Ilana straightens her pubic hair, gives and gets oral, and holds Abbi’s hair back while she vomits; Abbi kisses a negative pregnancy test, flushes like 18 goldfish (RIP), and twerks on the edge of a bathtub. They both, obviously, smoke a ton of weed, and also read Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices.

By the time the main story of the episode starts, complete with its requisite only-in-New-York mini-disaster scenarios (rude hostesses at brunch places that don’t take reservations; Hunger Games ferocity at the pop-up shop) viewers are totally immersed in Abbi and Ilana’s buoyant, let’s-do-this universe. The feeling of sliding back into the show after its nearly year-long hiatus — made bearable for fans only by off-season “Hack into Broad City” web exclusives — is like reuniting with your best friend after months apart. It takes no time or effort at all to be back in the Broad City groove, where low-stakes problems somehow escalate into wild, bizarre catastrophes from which our beloved duo always emerge (mostly) unscathed.

This time two years ago, Broad City had to worry about getting noticed as a rookie in a television space as packed as the L train during rush hour. Having Amy Poehler as an executive producer helped, but Jacobson and Glazer, with the exception of the small, devoted following they’d cultivated from the web series that attracted Poehler’s attention in the first place, had next to no name recognition with the general public. For its sophomore year, the challenge was to live up to a standout, critically-adored and totally-fangirled-over debut season. This year the ante is upped even more, as the stars seem to be reckoning with higher-than-ever expectations and what it means to be, really, stars. The second episode of this season, “Co-op,” has Abbi and Ilana swapping places, a self-aware bit that relies on the audience’s fluency in what makes Abbi, Abbi and Ilana, Ilana.

Even while indulging in the things about millennials that are kind of terrible — Ilana, in the premiere alone, demonstrates both a tendency toward under-informed, self-righteous outrage and a passionate, deeply inconsistent code about what is and is not racist — Broad City taps into something positive about the most maligned, trend-storied generation of our time. Abbi and Ilana sprint all over New York with so much naive, ridiculous optimism. The series is a weekly shot of effervescence. Straight joy, no chaser. It’s a lovefest between two women who are unreservedly supportive of each other. (Ilana, to Abbi: “You look sexy and vivacious and artsy and like, young-wife material, but taut and tease-y still. It’s a perfect combo!”) It’s hilarious, weird, and vital.

In real life, women are warned every second of every day about the ways in which the world can, and will, cause us harm. We are commanded to employ constant vigilance to keep this inescapable danger at bay; anything less will court violence and agony for which the woman will be solely responsible. Watch your drink, don’t drink too much, don’t dance like that, don’t walk there at night, don’t walk there ever, don’t go out alone, don’t go home with that guy, don’t have sex with that other guy, maybe never have sex, don’t do drugs, don’t dress like that, no, not like that either, don’t be too loud, don’t be too quiet, and God, would it kill you to smile more? Because it might kill you if you don’t.

To this colossal Kilimanjaro of sexist bullshit, Broad City gives the finger. Two fingers, actually, pulling up the edges of a smile.

On Broad City, sex — with girls or guys, with strangers or crushes or significant others — is an adventure, sometimes a misadventure, but never a real threat, never a cautionary tale. There’s plenty of, “Oops, I shouldn’t have put that dildo in the dishwasher” and “Welp, didn’t realize this creepy Craigslist guy who hired us to clean his apartment would make us vacuum in our underwear.” But the usual fleet of SVU-ready predators, with whom the streets of New York are reportedly littered, never make a cameo.

Abbi and Ilana live in a kind of girl power paradise; New York City is a disgusting, fantastic, gorgeous garbage-town, where anything is possible, except for the worst things, which never befall our heroines. Everything goes wrong in that comedy way: professional opportunities crumble, hijinks go south, disguises melt off. In a bit that carries the premiere, a heavy bike lock chain stays stuck around Ilana’s waist after she drops the key down a sewer drain; considering her usual fashion inclinations, it doesn’t look that out of place on her. But this mishap, which would derail the Sunday of an ordinary human, is, in the Broad City universe, just an accessory to Abbi and Ilana’s escapades.

In one of her many moments of Abbi appreciation, Ilana gushes that her ally is “smart and sexy. She’s unreal, this girl!” As some unknown monster from deep within the sewer grate gurgles back: “She really is.”

Broad City premieres Wednesday on Comedy Central at 10 p.m.