Thursday, January 24, 2019

REVIEW: 'Broad City' - Abbi and Ilana Celebrate a Major Birthday in a Truly Unique Way in 'Stories'

Comedy Central's Broad City - Episode 5.01 "Stories"

To celebrate Abbi's 30th birthday, Abbi and Ilana travel from the top of Manhattan to the bottom, running into old and new friends along the way.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the final season premiere of Comedy Central's Broad City.

"Stories" was written by Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer and directed by Nick Paley

The fifth season of Broad City opens with a stunning celebration of the bond between Abbi and Ilana as well as their love for the city of New York. It's such a technically proficient conceit as well. Almost all of the premiere is seen through the filter of social media and the ways in which Abbi and Ilana are broadcasting their adventures throughout the city to the world. It presents as if they are recording everything about this special day. It's Abbi's 30th birthday. That's a momentous occasion for her. It's one worth celebrating. The girls have a simple plan of just going from the top of Manhattan to the bottom. They wish to experience all of the fantastic culture that is right in their backyards. Of course, all of this also presents as a biting criticism of the need to broadcast everything and put filters on every single experience. It's no longer just enough to live in the moment and take personal pleasure out of it. Now, it's required that everything is shared in order to receive that validation from others that it is indeed something that happened. That's the ongoing struggle for Abbi and Ilana throughout this journey. They are able to have a ton of fun. Sometimes it comes at the expense of others - like filming a man sleeping on the subway or recording the people working who don't care about what's going on at all. Plenty of people are distressed by what's going on with Abbi and Ilana. They don't want to engage with it at all. However, the filters are also in place to play to a very specific audience. They are broadcasting this out to their followers after all. They want the world to know exactly where they are and what they are doing to celebrate this day. They believe they are being honest by sharing every single emotion felt during this experience as well. Of course, that's not true at all because Ilana cuts the majority of Abbi's difficult feelings in the restaurant bathroom. This is an eye-opening adventure for Abbi in numerous ways. She realizes that it's perfectly reasonable and okay to get two credit cards. Sure, one of them is just for this shoe store she happens to go to because Ilana needs something more sensible to wear. However, it's a big step for Abbi. Then, the girls rescue a lost girl in the mall. They bond with Gadana and actually enjoy spending time with her. That makes Abbi realize that she could truly be this young girl's mom. It wouldn't seem out of place in this environment at all. Of course, she's not. Gadana's true mother is a monster who already has too many children while being Abbi's same age. But it also points out how people with different life experiences can often judge others simply because they are envious by the perfect lives they seem to have even though it's not true. Cheese has her own unique struggles. Sure, she becomes obsessed with Abbi and Ilana to the point of destroying their chance to document their lives. However, it also forges a bond of understanding that is inspiring to watch.

Of course, it's also just hilarious to watch as the phones keep getting thrown out of Abbi and Ilana's hands while they are also getting injured. It's so outrageous that Ilana falls down an open manhole. That is so unexpected as well. It happens at such a random moment in time. It proves that she is so distracted and doesn't know where she's walking. However, she walks away with only a twisted ankle. Sure, it was always going to be a bad idea that she wore heels for this adventure in Manhattan. But it may be worth it for that simple visual alone. And then, there's the craziness of Abbi going down there to drag her back up because Ilana can't simply put her phone down and climb to safety. That's so crazy. But again, it highlights the obsession with social media. It can be a way to stay connected. But it can also offer some profound existential crises whenever the person behind the screen thinks about it for too long. The facade of this episode is only broken when Ilana drops her phone in the river. In that moment, the camera cuts away to a device that isn't somehow connected to Abbi and Ilana personally. It's no longer them shaping this story. Of course, the premise is quickly re-established with Abbi simply pulling out her phone and hitting record. That shows that these two remain the best of friends who will continue to do whatever it takes to have a good time. That may not be completely healthy for a women who is now turning 30. Jaime talks about how glad he is that Abbi is getting older and he isn't. However, that's on the horizon for him as well. Meanwhile, Abbi has to reckon with the idea that her life may not be all that she thought it would be by this point. That may be foreshadowing of this being a season of immense change for the two women. Sure, the audience can always trust that Ilana will be obsessed with Abbi and create a video that mashes up all of the previous shots she has captured of Abbi's butt. That too is a very outrageous and grounded moment that highlights the bond the two of them share as friends. It's also unlikely that either of them will learn any kind of profound lesson from all of this. This is simply an experience that they know they had but may not remember. They may remember the triple rainbow that closes out their day though. That may just be special enough.