Season five of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s “Broad City” (2014–) unfortunately proves that all good things must come to an end. The cult favorite comedy follows two best friends, Abbi and Ilana, as they both struggle with their day jobs, exploring New York City during their time off. This season marks the end of a very impressive show that has pushed the boundaries of television comedy. While the first episode of any “Broad City” season is slow, season five’s pilot episode, “Stories,” leaves much to be yearned for. A few narratives and jokes from the past season were brought up, but the episode’s overarching themes land as cliché at best.
While “Broad City” has always been political, this new season looks to take the show’s critical tone even further. The writers of the show decided to bleep out Trump’s name in season four, and numerous political jokes and commentaries were made in the first episode. While a few were quite funny, like a shot of Ilana’s platform shoes captioned “running uncontested on a platform of horniness [American flag emoji],” others were frankly unoriginal. The episode took the form of a montage of Instagram stories of Abbi’s 30th birthday, in which Ilana and Abbi decide to walk from the top to the bottom of Manhattan.
When they both sit down for breakfast at Michael Samuelson’s Red Rooster, Abbi shows Ilana a funny article in The Onion, and Ilana responds with “Dude, that’s the New York Times,” while Abbi looks back at the article dumbfounded. This type of humor can be found in any article in the New Yorker’s Borowitz report, which comment on the absurdity of the world at the moment. This joke, along with many others, lacks the same impact or distinctive style of the show’s humor in the past. There is also a moment in the show where Abbi and Ilana are in front of a Trump property and begin to voraciously curse and throw their middle fingers in the air. Ever since Trump’s presidency, many tourists and New Yorkers alike have flocked to take their own images of flipping off Trump tower. Again, the imagery is not original or ground-breaking. Since “Broad City” is known for its absurdity-driven humor, this reviewer would have liked to seen something more original and out-there for this scene and others like it.
Also pervasive is Abbi’s existential struggle on her 30th birthday, as she does not have the life she once imagined for herself at this age. Again, the theme of a woman reaching a certain age and worried that she has not yet had children is pretty overdone, and “Broad City” unfortunately does not offer a much funnier alternative. While on their journey, Abbi and Ilana find a young girl without her parents at the Midtown Mall. As they bring the child to the security office and document the whole event on social media, they find out that the girl’s mother is a woman Abbi went to college with, nicknamed Cheese. Cheese, having seen Abbi and Ilana holding her child, begins to argue with them as she feels they’ve been overaffectionate instead of promptly bringing her daughter to the security desk. Cheese returns later in the episode, when Abbi and Ilana reach the bottom tip of Manhattan. She has followed the two the whole day via their social media tags and admits that she is jealous of their freedom. They both profess that they are jealous of each other — Cheese of Abbi’s freedom, and Abbi of Cheese’s family. “Broad City” often brings back minor characters in funny ways, but the whole narrative is ultimately a tired one, and does not have the same originality as most of the show’s humor.
As the title of the episode suggests, the majority of the show is captured on social media, and the viewer watches as if they are one of Ilana’s or Abbi’s Instagram followers. Towards the end of the episode, Ilana and Abbi are both rendered phone-less, and a triple rainbow materializes in the sky. Abbi remarks, “I guess we could just experience it,” suggesting that they should process the event without the added filter of social media, and Ilana responds, “Ew.” Yet again, the episode offers an overused critique of social media use and how no one experiences real life anymore because they are constantly documenting it.
While “Broad City” season five’s first episode has its laugh-out-loud moments, it ultimately falls flat; however, many of the show’s season premieres have been below par, and as the season progresses, hilarity ensues. This die-hard “Broad City” fan, like a frustrated parent, is not mad, but disappointed, and hopes that the best friend duo can take on political humor while still being witty and original, as they have in the past. Hopefully, this episode is just the launching pad for a much funnier end to one of the funniest shows on television.