‘Broad City’ and ‘Girls’: relatable television for any gender



Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The state of television is in a compelling place right now. If one were to ask five random University of San Diego students how they consume television, they are likely to receive five different answers. With streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go firmly planting themselves into American culture, the need for a traditional television set with cable access is inching toward obsolescence.

With that in mind, it is fascinating to examine the shows that are still part of the more traditional realm. Making a show for a television network that airs at the same time every week creates the uncertainty of what will happen next that drives people to keep watching.

Two of the shows carrying the torch for weekly episodes, especially among the 18-34 demographic, are Comedy Central’s “Broad City” and HBO’s “Girls”. On the surface, the shows have a long list of commonalities. Both have all-female main characters. Both depict the lives of women in their twenties trying to find their way in the convoluted universe of New York City. Both heavily rely on the theme of female friendship, and use it as a vehicle for comedy. Both feature Hollywood A-listers as executive producers, with “Broad City” employing Amy Poehler and “Girls” using the work of funnyman Judd Apatow. Both also premiered their new seasons last week.

When comparing the two shows side-by-side it is easy to surmise that “Broad City” is the more juvenile, albeit undeniably hilarious option, whereas “Girls” occupies a more mature space and time.

This idea is supported by many factors, starting with the air time of the shows. “Broad City” slithers its way onto Comedy Central airwaves on Wednesday nights, following reruns of “Southpark”. “Girls” nabbed one of the coveted Sunday night slots on HBO, immediately preceding the highbrow political satire of John Oliver. Even the recent season premieres lived on opposite ends of the serious spectrum.

The third season of “Broad City” opened on Feb. 17 with a split-screen montage of lead characters Abbi and Ilana using their bathrooms for a myriad of activities, ranging from marijuana smoking to goldfish funerals. Other shenanigans from the season’s first 21 minutes included the duo trying to fish a set of keys out of a Manhattan sewer using bubblegum, and Abbi using a port-a-potty that gets lifted off the ground by construction equipment.

“Girls” rolled out its fifth season on Feb. 22 with an episode centered on the character Marnie’s wedding and all the high-stakes, adult drama that comes with it. Juxtaposed with the childlike hardships of the Broad City girls was Marnie’s fiance being overwhelmed with the daunting reality of marriage, and subsequently getting cold feet about the whole ordeal.

Perhaps these differences are merely a product of the networks that control the shows. Comedy Central, a cable channel, surely understands that people don’t watch them to see extreme character development or heavy, heart wrenching situations. For that reason, “Broad City” is anchored on the intense, borderline romantic relationship between Abbi and Ilana.

Junior Christina Belloso thinks the palpable connection between the two is what makes the show such a delight.

“I really enjoy the genuine friendship that’s held between Ilana and Abbi,” Belloso said. “They are unapologetically and hilariously themselves in every situation that life throws at them.”

Rarely does the pair experience any sort of trauma or tragedy that will have a lasting effect on their life. When they do, it typically washes away with each new episode, in the same way that when a cartoon character destroys a city it is perfectly intact for the show’s next installment. In short, Abbi and Ilana deal with lots of unconventional scenarios, but they do so together.

Belloso admires the show’s ability to acknowledge the ridiculousness of its characters’ lives, and have them endure the ridiculousness together.

“The best part [of Abbi and Ilana’s relationship] is that they navigate life and its messiness together and somehow get through it, always,” Belloso said.

While “Broad City” is championing the unmatchable power and energy of female friendship, and all of the highs that come with it, “Girls” emphasizes the low points that inevitably happen amongst close friends. “Broad City” is, for the most part, all rainbows and sunshine, with occasional badness like one of the characters getting fired or going on a bad date happening in a purposefully lighthearted way. “Girls” mixes the rainbows and sunshine with a healthy dose of dark clouds in the form of conniving interactions or mental disorders.

Sophomore Blakeney Fairey also notes that the show portrays the natural insecurities of female life very often, and many of them come from the hook-up culture that has taken over the millennial generation.

“I think you can see in the main character of ‘Girls’ that she has a lot of insecurities about herself,” Fairey said. “Maybe that’s why she’s hooking up with a new guy every day.”

While both “Broad City” and “Girls” are female-driven, the humor that emanates from their raw, lifelike characters is easily relatable for any gender. Watching the “Broad City” tandem express themselves freely, in a way that only intimate friends can, provides several moments that can remind college students of their own friend situations.

Listening to Lena Dunham’s character Hannah, the central figure of “Girls”, explain her life in simple yet profound terms is refreshing for young adults looking for television that tackles the same issues they are facing. Whether watching them via the Internet, television, mobile app or any other medium, “Broad City” and “Girls” are shows that straddle the line of laugh out loud humor with authentic real world experiences. It just so happens that they do so with predominantly female characters.