Aside from evil stepmothers and “these riddles three,” the most dangerous aspect of any fairy tale is wish fulfillment. “Be careful what you wish for” is a very real danger, if only because raised expectations are just inherently harder to meet (and also because people sometimes wish for very stupid things). “Coat Check” sends Ilana and Abbi off on their own wish fulfillment quests, and while neither ends up satisfied, the journeys at least make for some truly awesome stories.
First there’s Ilana’s brief fling with her doppelganger, played by Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat. Even aside from Shawkat’s skills as a comedic actress, Glazer and Jacobson have talked about the resemblance between her and Glazer ever since they met. Jacobson has even said that when they first joined the same improv team, she thought Glazer was Shawkat for weeks.
Having Shawkat be such a part of Broad City’s beginnings makes her actual appearance in the show both more special and more difficult to pull off without coming off as a gimmick. The show has been on such a creative roll that it would have been disappointing to just point out how similar Glazer and Shawkat look, so the Broad City team (with writers Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs) make the smart decision to wrap the eerie resemblance in a more nuanced storyline. Glazer and Shawkat end up having awesome chemistry together even beyond their looks; the moments when Ilana and Adele laugh in disbelief before making out like their faces are opposite pole magnets are gold. And so even as Shawkat’s Broad City appearance fulfills a long-running joke between Glazer and Jacobson, her character Adele fulfills a long-running desire Ilana didn’t even realize she had: to hook up with herself.
It’s the ultimate Ilana storyline, isn’t it? Ilana Wexler, who prides herself on her open-minded views and approach to sexuality, falls head over heels and identical chest over identical chest in love with herself. She ultimately decides it’s too creepy to keep going—a decision she doesn’t regret once Adele reveals she doesn’t smoke pot. The creep factor is a fair reason to break it off, but there’s still something kind of beautiful about the whole thing. Ilana is so much the living, breathing embodiment of Amy Poehler’s now famous line “I don’t fucking care if you like it” that her intense self-love has become its own kind of radicalism.
Then there’s the fact that the show doesn’t make a big deal of Ilana exploring her queer side; it’s just a part of who she is and how the world works. One thing Broad City has always been great at is incorporating more progressive jokes and storylines without fanfare. It doesn’t congratulate itself for including things like queer characters, interracial relationships, and sex toys without judgment. The show’s refusal to adhere to stereotypes is almost casual, like it has never realized that it’s doing anything unusual. The fact is, the team behind Broad City is just younger and more diverse than most in television, which naturally contributes to the show’s more relevant reality. Yes, the show’s fans span beyond Jacobson and Glazer’s immediate millennial demographic, but the reason it’s become the phenomenon it has is because people who couldn’t see themselves in other shows see something familiar in Broad City. So while it’s hilarious when Ilana talks about having her first simultaneous orgasm from just a kiss with Adele, it’s also deeply refreshing. I didn’t even realize until I was writing this review how I’ve started taking Broad City’s laissez-faire approach to sexuality for granted, but in the grander scheme of things, it’s still pretty stunning that the joke isn’t just on Ilana falling for a woman.
While Ilana is off quite literally exploring herself, Abbi is fulfilling her dream of having a drink with American Sweetheart Kelly Ripa. After traipsing all over New York to find Kelly’s coat, Abbi finds herself walking out an elevator straight into a sparkling loft that meets all her expectations of Kelly Ripa, Morning Show Host. When Abbi’s excitement over seeing Bed Bath & Beyond coupons convinces Kelly to invite her in for a drink, it seems like everything’s coming up Abbi—and for a while, that’s exactly what happens. They drink white wine, develop inside jokes (“prank!”), and poke fun at Kelly’s co-host (“Strahan keeps sending me all these gift baskets because he wants to switch sides, but everyone knows I sit camera left”). The second Kelly turns to the closest bottle of moonshine that makes both their faces wrinkle up into themselves, though, the night takes a turn for the bizarre and the glorious.
It says a lot that in an episode that includes Alia Shawkat bringing Ilana Glazer to cartoonish orgasm (“yas kween!”), Ripa still manages to emerge as the standout guest star. (To avoid confusion, I’ll refer to the actual Kelly Ripa as “Ripa” and her fictional counterpart as “Kelly,” and you can just fill in the “America’s sweetheart” where you see fit.) Celebrities playing twisted versions of themselves is nothing new. Hell, Entourage and Extras practically made celebrities skewering themselves a genre in and of itself, albeit in radically different ways. Ripa’s gleeful portrayal of herself as a boozy thrill seeker fits squarely in that time-honored tradition, but there hasn’t been a performance as fun as hers since Daniel Radcliffe flung a condom across a diner. Kelly careens around her spotless loft, slurring increasingly biting rants, and (to use her words) giving less and less of a fuck. Downs and Aniello’s typically sharp script sets Ripa’s inherent brightness against Kelly’s darker interests, and Ripa takes the ball and sprints with it. When Kelly prepares a joint of something to give them “trippier visuals,” grins mischievously, and warns Abbi to “buckle up, buttercup,” Ripa’s combination of sweet and sour is just perfect.
Either of Shawkat and Ripa’s appearances would have been enough to sustain an episode on their own, but “Coat Check” is Broad City at its best, and so it also includes a whole mess of stellar runners and set pieces. At first, Abbi and Ilana’s fond sendups of rich philanthropists were even enough to get me excited about the idea that this entire episode might just take place in the coat checkroom. As I’ve said before, though, Aniello and Downs are especially good at keeping episodes moving and in unexpected directions, so we also get to see Abbi and Ilana interrupt an orgy and threaten David Wain with Civil War weaponry before they even settle into their larger storylines with Adele and Kelly Ripa. I keep hearing people say that Abbi and Ilana are just not as good on their own, but their hilarious split storylines in “Coat Check” are direct rebuttals to that logic. By the time Abbi and Ilana have left the women they had idealized to debrief with each other, it feels less like a relief to see them together again so much as it does a comfort. No matter where Abbi and Ilana go, who they sleep with, or what they smoke with America’s Sweetheart Kelly Ripa, they will always be able to fall back on each other.
- Jeff Tomsic’s direction is a lot of fun this episode. Special shoutouts to his claustrophobic close-ups during Ilana and Adele’s hookup, shaky camera during Abbi and Kelly’s sloppy stretch sessions, and the dreamlike spinning when Ilana and Adele first meet.
- Abbi runs a tight coat check ship: “Who’s got this Chanel jacket?” “MINE.” “That was a trick question. There is no Chanel. Do not play me guys. Not today!”
- Ilana has sex with all kinds of people: all different colors, shapes, sizes, innies, outies, Catholics…
- Another encounter that could have been the whole episode: the post-breakup orgy. (“We’re living together how long? I never saw his nipples. I don’t understand how that happens…here, forgot his Civil War shit.”)
- “Too much teeth?” “No, the biting was dope.”
- “Silly Betty, get me another serving of bald eagle and then stomp on my balls with high heels please, thank you.”
- Just FYI: Ripa-Consuelos are a Shape Ups family.
- So very many Kelly Ripa lines I want to quote, but I’ll go with the one that convinced me we could hang: “Abbi, no! I ordered Domino’s for after!!”