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Broad City: “In Heat”

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Broad City’s first season only had 10 episodes, but the series exploded and stayed in the cultural zeitgeist with such force that it became something bigger. Articles upon profiles upon thinkpieces emerged, hailing co-creators and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson as the future of, in the words of Grantland’s Molly Lambert, “the female fuckup.” That buzz then translated into real, tangible success for both the creators and the network that, according to Comedy Central’s Kent Alterman, bought “them, what Abbi and Ilana are when they are together.” The ratings were good enough to order a second season of Broad City only a month after the show debuted; today, hours before the second season premiered, the network announced that it would get a third. Glazer and Jacobson headed a cross-country live tour that sold out almost every show. In Los Angeles, they not only sold out two shows in the same night, but added a secret third show at 1 a.m. in the newest and biggest Upright Citizens Brigade that sold out in about thirty seconds (not that this stopped many, including this reviewer, from trying and failing to get in off a lengthy waitlist). Glazer recently told Grantland that this kind of furor was the case even in the less traditionally liberal parts of the country, saying, “every queer person or person of color within a hundred miles of Dallas turned up to see us. We were like… holy shit.”

Glazer might have been surprised, but I wasn’t. Broad City has become a beacon of hope in many millennial circles for people who never thought they’d see themselves on television. Whenever I hear a Broad City fan talk about the show—and yes, whenever I talk about the show—there’s always a powerful sense of relief. It’s like we’re heaving a collective, therapeutic sigh of “finally.” Finally, a show about a female friendship that feels like a real friendship! Finally, a show about New York that doesn’t pretend everyone is rich and white! Finally, a show that doesn’t treat women or minorities like another goddamn species!

As important as these points are, though, this kind of big picture thinking can get dangerous for a series. Salon’s Sonia Saraiya went so far as to call Broad Citymore of a state of mind than a show” in her excellent discussion of how the show has a greater significance within a cultural context, and man, what a ton of pressure that is. What Broad City has grown to mean culturally has often overshadowed the work Broad City is doing as a comedy, and as Pilot Viruet said in her pre-air review, the first season was so consistently good that it would be understandable if a sophomore slump followed. Luckily, “In Heat” showcases everything I love about Broad City in a way that makes me confident this season can keep up with our outsized expectations.

In fact, “In Heat” feels an awful lot like a heightened version of Broad City’s pilot. In “What A Wonderful World,” Abbi and Ilana went on a disastrous quest to find enough money for Lil Wayne tickets, which included a doomed job for comedian Fred Armisen. “In Heat” sends Abbi and Ilana on a disastrous quest to find enough money for an air conditioner, which includes a doomed job for comedian Kumail Nanjiani. That latter scene, in which Abbi and Ilana bust their asses to fill a moving truck while Nanjiani talks to his GoPro camera, is the only one that sticks out in this second season premiere as an unnecessary retread (though I wouldn’t mind seeing Nanjiani pop up again, seeing as he’s awesome). Otherwise, “In Heat” finds enough ways to freshen up the Quest so that it becomes an indication of how Broad City has progressed and sharpened its own particular brand of spontaneous lunacy since that first episode.

For one, the show has widened both its budget and its scope. That’s not to say that the production is suddenly super slick or anything, because the direction still has a handheld quality that keeps things grounded in Abbi and Ilana’s ramshackle reality. Broad City has always operated as a constantly moving machine, sending its heroines ping-ponging across New York City in pursuit of sex, spliffs, or just a good fucking time. The cold open of “In Heat” launches us right back into the show’s frenetic pace as the broads sprint down the subway stairs into a series of increasingly bizarre cars, with Lucia Aniello’s canny direction guiding us every step of the way. Credit for this impressive sequence also goes to the hair and makeup, casting, and production design departments, which combined their forces to create a hilarious three-ring circus out of the New York subway. As Abbi and Ilana push their way through to the back of the train, they stumble past New Yorkers who are exaggerated versions of themselves, but still instantly relatable. There’s the couple that won’t stop making out, the disgusting crotch-grabber, and the white men in suits who are too busy on their phones to notice the pregnant woman who might like to sit. There’s a car that’s almost entirely deserted thanks to a pile of unidentifiable shit in the middle—but there’s still a passenger jaded enough that she won’t let that keep her from her subway snack. There’s even a bizarro world version of Abbi and Ilana, circa the great “Lockout” when they got maced within an inch of their lives:

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This attention to detail is what makes Broad City feel as grounded and lived-in as it does. Everything in this sequence has been methodically thought out and exaggerated just so in order to sell as many jokes as they can get in a frame. It’s also notable—not to mention incredibly refreshing—that everyone on this show from the main and recurring cast to the background extras seem like real people from all walks of life. It helps that Broad City is actually shot in New York, but even on-location shows tend to cast the same kind of people (read: thin and white) so that they end up looking nothing like the actual world these characters are supposed to live in. Broad City, on the other hand, features people of varying races, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds in scenes from those subway cars, to trendy restaurants, to dorm rooms and back again without announcing its inclusion in a self-congratulatory way. Even the show’s writing room looks far more diverse (and younger) than we’re used to seeing, which no doubt contributes to what ends up onscreen. Broad City includes a wide variety of people because that’s just the world it knows.

On a more specific casting note, I have to give it up for whoever thought of tonight’s Celebrity Cameo—and no, I’m not talking about Phil of the Future as an (ew) venture capitalist, though that was pretty great, too. I laughed when Male Stacy turned out to be Seth Rogen, but not because it was so unexpected. Seth Rogen and his swamp-ass fit perfectly into the shameless New York this show depicts—not to mention that his very presence winks at the love Broad City has among the stoner demographic.

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Rogen’s Male Stacy is also gateway for the sharpest difference between “In Heat” and “What A Wonderful World”—Abbi. When we first met her, Jacobson’s Abbi was more necessarily reserved opposite Glazer’s no holds barred Ilana—though in Broad City’s world, “more reserved” means labeling her vibrators with the days of the week versus Ilana’s Skyping during sex. As the first season went on, though, Abbi became less Ilana’s voice of reason and more like an equally twisted partner in crime. She pushed herself to be more adventurous, like when she bought an expensive dress, snorted coke, and became the life of the party in series standout, “Fattest Asses.” She had just as much casual sex as Ilana did, which ended with her peeing out a condom in the season finale. When Ilana admitted that this horrifying sex thing had never happened to her, Abbi’s eyes widened in shock: “Everything that’s happened to me has happened to you.” And yet.

“In Heat” takes that perverse ball and lets Abbi run with it. So Abbi is the one with the weird sex story this time, as she has sweaty sex that begins with Male Stacy taking paper towels out of his ass and ends with him passing out during the act (causing an episode-long runner in which Abbi worries that the seconds in which she didn’t realize he was out cold meant she might have raped him). Meanwhile, Ilana ends up discussing rape culture at an adorable restaurant with Lincoln and his sophisticated friends for his birthday. Later, when they try to get an air conditioner from Ilana’s old dorm room and end up super stoned with collegiate freshmen, Abbi makes out with what turns out to be a 16-year-old (“ohh, I’ve done it again”). Make no mistake; Abbi’s horrified by her dirtbag turns in this episode, but I would bet that this isn’t the last of her being as unrestrained as Ilana has been in the past, and that’s just fine by me. Broad City shines brightest when Abbi and Ilana embrace their chaos above all else.

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Stray observations:

  • Hello and welcome back to weekly coverage of Broad City! I’m thrilled to be back reviewing this show, not least because of the growing community of fans on this here very site. (And for newcomers: I refer to the creators as “Glazer” and “Jacobson,” and to their characters as “Ilana” and “Abbi.” I’m chill that way.)
  • I’ve always loved Lucia Aniello’s direction on this show, so I wasn’t surprised that the “getting high in the dorm room” sequence is one of the only pot-smoking sequences I’ve ever seen that I haven’t hated for being a giant cliché. (You hurt me bad, Orphan Black.)
  • I would like a webisode with Abbi and her Bed Bath & Beyond friends creating their handshakes, please.
  • Random New Yorker of the Week goes to: the Elaine Stritch lookalike on the subway who thought she knew Abbi. (“Val! VAL!”) Jacobson’s “what?” reaction was also perfect.
  • Origin story: Lincoln met Ilana at the Times Square Foot Locker. “She wasn’t shopping. She was just chilling.”
  • Abbi to the cutest kitten in the world: “Who the fuck are you?”
  • So has anyone else used the new Broad City emoji keyboard to steer conversations with their mom away from The Future and towards Judith Light/garbage bagels? Just me? Neat.
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