Broad City's satire of young, urban life is as sharp as ever

The thing that sets this show apart is its characters, and the warmth of their friendship.

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“Another one bites the dust! The New York City Snipper is at it again.” This news voiceover opens the fourth season of Broad City. Barely ten minutes later, Abbi’s ponytail has been lopped off, and Ilana’s been fired from her job, picking up a black eye to boot. Where else could we be but Abbi and Ilana’s strange and often horrific New York City?

When it premiered in 2014, Broad City – created by and starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer – was praised for its unusual mix of a relatable female best-friendship with dreamlike plots. Four seasons on, you might worry this combination would be getting tired. Meandering plots have familiar triggers, like undelivered parcels and unexpected short-term windfalls, while this season adds RuPaul and Shania Twain to Broad City’s long list of celebrity guests (none top last season’s Hillary Clinton cameo).

A not particularly subtle episode about Ilana’s sex life reveals she has been unable to orgasm since Donald Trump was elected president. But the show’s understanding of the gruesomeness of young, urban life is as sharp as ever. “I did read that terrible New York Times headline about the exploited salon workers,” Ilana says patronisingly to a nail studio owner, skewering liberal millennial reading habits, attention spans, casual racism and white guilt in about ten words.

The thing that sets Broad City apart from its peers is its characters, and the warmth of their friendship. A flashback to the day Abbi and Ilana first met, in 2011, is set to New York City pop duo Cults’ track “Go Outside”, released that year. Coming after a barrage of terrible, farcical events, it’s a surprisingly touching scene: nostalgic, familiar, and funny. It’s moments like these that keep us watching these ridiculous, recognisable characters, almost four years after our own first encounter. 

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's deputy culture editor.

This article first appeared in the 28 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tragedy