Entertainment » Television

In Season 4, 'Broad City' is More Political & Grown Up Than Ever

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Sep 12, 2017

Two major changes come to the new season of "Broad City," which returns to Comedy Central for its fourth on Sept. 13: It's set in New York City during the winter and the show's creators and stars, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, are more political than ever.

How can they not be? The world was a completely different place the last time we checked in on Ilana and Abbi. In Season 3, which was set in the summer of 2016, then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made an appearance on the comedy, where the two stars gushed over their worship for the former secretary of state.

"She's walked on these floors, she's breathed this air. Take it in," the fictional Ilana tells her BFF Abbi at Clinton's Brooklyn volunteer center. After taking a deep breath in, the fictional Abbi adds, "That is power!"

"Smells decisive," Ilana responds.

"Smells like confidence," Abbi says.

"Smells like no bullshit," Ilana adds.

Soon after the hilarious exchange, Clinton walks slo-mo into the building, totally freaking out the women, who can't stop screaming in her presence. The interaction is full of assurance, with Ilana calling Clinton a queen, Madame President and "she-king."

"I vow to tweet once a week to 'Vote for Hillary, YAAS YAAS YAAS," she tells the former first lady.

Fast-forward to the premiere of Season 4 and the once candy-colored "Broad City," full of vibrant New York City flare, and progressive hope is nearly gone. In its place is a gray and soggy winter setting; an alternate reality of sorts, which is fitting under the Trump administration. The first episode "Sliding Doors" also plays on the concept of alternate realities, giving fans the origin story of Ilana and Abbi's friendship with two different timelines.

It's a clever "Rick and Morty"-esque way to deliver how the women first met in 2011. After running to each other on the subway, Abbi swipes her Metro card for Ilana, who ran out of funds. In one narrative, the new friends spend the day together, having a blast while roaming the city and getting high. In the other timeline, the two go their separate ways and both have one of the worst days of their lives. By the end of the episode, one narrative becomes the clear true story of their friendship -- but that won't be spoiled here.

"Sliding Doors" may be light on the political humor (the women do praise President Obama and there's a blink-or-miss-it gag where someone predicts Trump's presidency) but the other two episodes provided for review are ripe with Trump takedowns. "Broad City" will censor the president's name, adding a bleep unusually reserved for swears when a character utters "Trump." It's a clever effect that punctuates Glazer and Jacobson's distain for the 45th president.

Abbi Jacobson (left) and Ilana Glazer in a scene from "Broad City." Photo Credit: Comedy Central

In the episode "Witches," Abbi sells some artwork to afford a Drew Barrymore recommended space heater. Ilana fakes an excuse as to why she can't help her friend, but she's really going to a therapist to help her achieve an orgasm -- she hasn't be able to since Trump's election. During her session, Ilana gets out her anger with regards to the toxic political climate and achieves her goal. It's a clever way to explore the frustrations many have with Trump's surprise win. Much of the new season is exactly that: less laugh-out-loud funny than clever, smartly skewering Trump's impact on today's culture.

In its fourth season, "Broad City" also pushes its protagonists closer and closer to adulthood. With "Girls" ending after six seasons earlier this year, Ilana and Abbi, nearing their 30s, are starting to go down the path of maturity. Ilana is still as cartoonish than ever but she's got a steady job (she's a waitress, wracking up big bucks). Abbi is getting more serious about being an artist and spots her first grey hair -- a true sign that the days of getting high and gallivanting around the Big Apple with her bestie may be behind her.

"Broad City" works best when it's a show about friendship. For all of its whacky and bawdy moments there are several sweet and tender moments, highlighting the bond between Ilana and Abbi. Season 4 offers that same ratio, making its premiere the best of the batch provided for review. Though the new season puts Ilana and Abbi in entirely new situations and circumstances (the mark of any good sitcom), fans of the comedy may feel the familiar beats and rhythms of the show.

"Broad City" is taking some risks, but the fourth season is ultimately fine and just as enjoyable as the show's past installments. The women are growing up to the changing world around them, and Glazer and Jacobson's outlook is an important one to have in the vast TV landscape. They're finding ways to push their comedy to a new place, years after it thrilled audiences and captured the zeitgeist. There's plenty of comedy to mine in the Trump-era and it's clear Glazer and Jacobson are ready to go to work.


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