Last Call — “Broad City”

Sometimes in pop culture there are clear end points, and — effective or not — they can provide insights to a whole series, oeuvre, or discography.


It took me too long to find Broad City. I didn’t scramble to it at the end or anything like that, but my overloaded viewing schedule contributed to my mistaken evasion of the comedy series in the early going for any number of foolishly dismissive reasons: its origins on YouTube, its pickup by Comedy Central at a time when I didn’t have a lot of faith in the network beyond its almost accidental news-adjacent programs, or the early emphasis on Amy Poehler’s somewhat peripheral role as a fan who provided the boost of claiming a producing credit, which I took less as a stamp of approval from a valued creator and more as a lack of confidence (or the part of someone, though I couldn’t have identified who) in the actual show. When I finally spied the dynamic wonders of the joint creation of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (and their various skilled collaborators), the adoration was swift and decisive.

A major part of the appeal of the show is that the adoration is also pronounced between the two leads, meaning both Jacobson and Glazer as performers and Abbi and Ilana, the characters they play. I’m hardly the first to observe that Broad City delivered a powerful and empowering version of female friendship, but that truly was the strength of the show that rattled my senses from the point of my introduction. There were shenanigans aplenty to be sure, and yet the core of the show — its profound center of gravity — was the connection between Abbi and Ilana. In some ways, it was a classic comic pairing of id and super-ego, the vivacious hedonism of Ilana countered by Abbi’s reticence, a characteristic so fully-realized it practically carried mass. Despite the well-worn mechanics, the duo’s togetherness never came across as mere contrivance. They obviously needed each other. More than that, the love between them was true.

The final episode of the series, dubbed “Broad City,” carried the relationship forward to the only place that it could logically go — to an end point. In a general sense, Broad City was about young adulthood, when the endless possibilities of one’s early twenties were tempered by the haphazard opportunities provided by a clamorous, indifferent world. After five seasons on Comedy Central, the proper gift for the characters was a chance to grow up, with all the misgiving and tentative hope afforded by that progression. For all the fiercely reclaimed feminist lewdness the show put on display (and which often accounted for the most audacious and beloved moments), there was always a current of convincing emotion coursing through the overarching story. In the final script, penned by Jacobson and Glazer, the show leaned into those cascades of feeling, unworried that it could turn into empty sentiment. The purity of purpose had long ago been earned.

The closing scene of “Broad City” cemented the episode as the ideal close for the series, partially in terms of its emphasis that technology means that modern women like Abbi and Ilana never have to be truly separated, no matter the geography. More notably, the scene expands, with a minimum of fuss, to emphasize that the specificity of the pair’s friendship stood in for a universal reflection of how people bond, with needs fulfilled, secrets shared, innermost suspicions aired, and poignant trust abounding. Abbi and Ilana were essentially stand-ins for anyone who cared deeply about another person and felt that care returned. Under those terms, everyone can hopefully look to Broad City and find a reassuring mirror.

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