Every comedy adheres to certain specific TV cliches. All shows at one point must weather these tropes and come out on the other side stronger shows. “Broad City” defies convention and taste at every turn. However, after three seasons of pushing boundaries, it was time for them to do the inevitable. The girls go back to the day they first met. If that trope wasn’t enough, the episode examines two alternate timelines. In typical “Broad City” fashion, the event in question is whether a random passerby nearly pukes on the girls in the middle of a subway station. Is there any action that could more perfectly set in motion the joining of these two offbeat, unique humans?
For those new to the show, “Broad City” fancies itself as the more “rough and tumble” version of your classic “best friend” show. Both Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer) are two struggling millennials who stumble through life’s problems with a stoned joie de vivre. It’s an ode to those who barely scrape by to live a below par life in the big city. Abbi hopes her art can carry her to success, or that she can at least move up a bit at her position at the gym. Ilana thinks only far enough to get her through the day, or even the hour. The oddly symbiotic bond between the two women gets them into plenty of shenanigans, but also enables them to MacGyver their way out of it.
That’s what’s missing most from the premiere, the shenanigans and their consequences. The timeline that sees Ilana and Abbi apart misses out on the one of a kind rapport. In terms of interactions with people other than each other, it’s wonderful to see where our favorite side characters were in 2011. Abbi comes home, in one timeline, to a fit Bevers (John Gemberling), her first meeting with the infamous mooching roommate. Likewise, our favorite gay immigrant best friend, Jaime (Arturo Castro), started out as Ilana’s college boyfriend, naturally. Yet, when the two women share the screen, even after minutes of meeting, it’s clear they are destined for each other.
Yet, the “Sliding Doors” sequence premise hints at something very interesting and profound about Abbi and Ilana’s friendship. When apart, both are much more conscious of what the people around them think of them. Take for example Ilana’s conversation with her roommates, whom she un-affectionately calls “Madisons.” They shame Ilana’s wall, which is covered with hard core pornographic material. After valiantly attempting to defend herself, Ilana ends up succumbing to them on a smaller point. One roommate remarks that, when curly, Ilana’s hair reminds them of something unpleasant. Ilana retreats to the bathroom to straighten it. It’s jarring to watch a character known for her boldness adjust herself based on the instruction of someone she doesn’t well regard. Finding friendship with someone who gets you doesn’t just make you happier, it reaffirms that you should be proud of the person you truly are.
The season four pilot comes nowhere near to the highs that the show has reached in the past. It also probably wouldn’t be the most enticing entrance into the series for the uninitiated. However, the lunacy that permeates the show shines through even the most typical of premises. No matter the timeline, Abbi and Ilana were destined to meet and become friends. The only thing that varies is the life expectancy of our heroines. There’s something oddly comforting in knowing that there’s no reality, alternate or not, that doesn’t bind these two women together. More so, the episode underlines what those who love the show already know. Life would suck if Abbi and Ilana never became friends.