“Modern Family” has won the comedy series Emmy for each of its five seasons. It’s a fine show, funny and expertly crafted, and because it often has something to say about the joys and absurdities of today’s extended family, voters feel good about rewarding it. It owns (but doesn’t burden you with) a cultural relevancy that all but guarantees “The Big Bang Theory” will never beat it at the Emmys.
But we’re six years in now, and maybe it’s time to notice another show that speaks to these times in ways both obvious (those Millennials sure smoke a lot of weed!) and subversive (an unspoken dismissal of boundaries, norms, judgment). That series is Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” and it absolutely belongs in any discussion focusing on television’s best comedies.
I’m under no illusion that this funny, funny show that celebrates female friendship, indiscriminate hook-ups and the perils of buying counterfeit bags on the streets of Manhattan will elbow “Modern Family” aside for the win, though the mental picture of “Broad City” creators and stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer holding Emmys onstage fills me with a joy akin to free air-conditioning on a sweltering Manhattan summer day.
“Broad City” should at least earn a nomination, though, both for the consistent excellence of its 10-episode second season and for the way it speaks to the now in a way that no other television comedy does. Playing heightened versions of themselves (slightly younger, vastly more irresponsible), Glazer and Jacobson tolerate boring jobs and hassling men if only because of their abiding friendship. They are goddesses, in their own eyes (sometimes) and in each other’s (always!), and that’s a powerful message to be sending out into the world. Here are two women not competing but sustaining each other.
That underlying message is wholly intentional, though you won’t see the show’s creators congratulating themselves for its delivery. When Jacobson and Glazer came to The Times for a video interview not long ago, Glazer lamented the reality that “Broad City” had become so notable for the groundbreaking way it represents women on television.
“It’s scary how remarkable it is,” Glazer said. “It shouldn’t be this remarkable. It’s upsetting. It’s weird.”
But perhaps that’s changing. After “Broad City” ended its second-season run, another Comedy Central series, “Inside Amy Schumer,” arrived, delivering scathing and hilarious broadsides targeting the offensive nonsense women hear about their bodies and self-worth. Being a sketch series, Schumer’s show has its own Emmy category and, thus, an easier path, though that shouldn’t preclude the Television Academy from also nominating its star in the comedy actress category.
Yes, you have to possess a certain openness to experimentation (in both form and content) to be fully on board with these shows. But you don’t have to be young or female or know why a certain crowd celebrates April 20 as a special day.
“We tend to not be drawn to things that label us,” Jacobson said. “Like female disclaimers,” added Glazer.
“Broad City’s” joy is all-inclusive. It’s the best gift ever. Kind of like that spooning Tupac comforter seen in the season finale combined with the satisfaction of finally keeping a plant alive for more than two weeks.
Yes, that big. Really. An Emmy nomination feels entirely inadequate as repayment. But it’d be a start.