Broad City Is Back, As Imperfectly Perfect As Ever

In their third season, Abbi and Ilana continue to find success in constant failure. Lock up your porta-potties and art-installation scrotums.

The first episode of Broad City’s third season, premiering Wednesday night on Comedy Central, finds its hapless protagonists on a modest mission: Abbi and Ilana have plans to go to a friend’s art show. Of course, this being Broad City, by the end of the show’s 22 minutes, Ilana will have stuck her whole arm down a sewer grate, Abbi will have been forklifted inside a porta-potty, they’ll both be responsible for ruining their friend’s elaborately dumb feather painting, and Ilana’s magnetic bike chain will get stuck on a giant, hanging art-scrotum. Even the best-laid plans go awry, and Abbi and Ilana, as written and portrayed by series creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, are never especially well laid in the first place. These are people who can barely roll out of bed in the morning.

Abbi and Ilana are persistently incompetent and perpetually late. They crash every system dumb enough to grant them entry. Their natural state is chaos, and their natural effect is disaster. The new season finds Abbi and Ilana failing in business, in society, and in love — same as ever, inept as ever. In just the first three episodes, Ilana manages to tank Deals Deals Deals with a video containing bestiality, Abbi tanks a Solstice team-building event with her uncontrollable competitiveness, and Abbi’s attempts to impersonate Ilana at a vegan co-op crash and burn her scheme to date the crunchy Phish fan she’s got her eye on.

But if at first Abbi and Ilana don’t succeed, Broad City isn’t about to make them try, try again. Their many failures aren’t categorized as misadventures on the way to eventual and desirable success. Instead, on Broad City failure is an adventure, pure and simple — not just the means, but the end itself.

Failure has been a part of comedy since man discovered carelessly discarded banana peel, but Broad City changes the way our amusement is situated. Usually we’d laugh at the idiot who slips on something so obvious as that peel, comfortable in our superior survival instincts and powers of observation. But the genius of Broad City is that Abbi and Ilana’s peel would be part of a corporate initiative for eco-friendly composting, a memo Ilana and Abbi would have received if only their emails were set to a more investor-friendly domain than What’s funny isn’t that Abbi and Ilana fail, it’s that the system around them dooms them to either failure or conformity, and they just keep on not conforming.

If anything, the only real danger on Broad City is that one day Abbi and Ilana will stop failing and start to succeed. After all, just look at the people on Broad City who are successes: Abby’s uptight coworkers Nicolette and Derek are professionally devoted to meaninglessness in their work at Deals, Deals, Deals, and their misery is matched only by the stupidity of Abby’s coworkers, douchey Troy and Gemma, who are physically impeccable but emotionally and intellectually clueless.

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