Broad City

Many shows this year have attempted to grapple with the Trump administration whether in broad or pointed strokes, and Broad City’s route has focused on the emotional and psychological effects of the 2016 election that feels specific both to the characters and to the show’s setting. Broad City doesn’t just reference Trump for the sake of a joke or to feel relevant. It’s capturing a sentiment. Even episodes that don’t explicitly make current politics a plot point have touched on themes very relevant to Trump’s America, like the brilliant cold open from a few weeks back that commented on the schism between New York’s extremely wealthy and everyone else. “Florida,” like “Witches” references Trump explicitly in its central storyline, and while the plot unfolds predictably, it encompasses the dark direction this season by grounding it in political realism.

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Abbi and Ilana travel to Florida, where they’re quickly taken by the lax lifestyle of retired white people. They’re willing to overlook the rampant guns and Trump support for the sake of cheap rent and warm weather. It’s an easy trap to fall into: New York is a city of extreme highs and extreme lows, and those lows are especially draining in the winter. It’s always interesting when Broad City takes Abbi and Ilana out of New York, because the city is such an essential part of the show. New York exhaustion and ennui sinks into Abbi and Ilana as they glance around at their comparatively sunny and calm Florida retirement community surroundings. “Florida” perfectly encapsulates the feeling that New York transplants often get, especially when outside of the city: Why move to and live in a place that can be so hard to live in? Abbi doesn’t want to rise and grind anymore...she wants to rise and just go back to sleep.

At this point in the season, Abbi and Ilana also both happen to be in places in their professional and personal lives that make it even easier to forget what keeps them bound to New York. Abbi’s out of a job and stressed about aging, and Ilana’s working at one that she hates and also struggling to get over Lincoln, an arc that takes a very unexpected but delightful turn at the very end of the episode. It tracks that both Abbi and Ilana’s arcs this season would sooner or later culminate in some kind of doubt about New York itself. It’s the first time such doubts have really had any major play on the show, and it comes from a genuine emotional place. Pro-Trump skywriting should be a huge red flag about the community they’re about to move into, but then Ilana gets a text from Jaime about below-freezing temps and burst pipes. Their attitudes toward New York also seem at least implicitly connected to their overall response to Trump’s election.

The way Abbi and Ilana willingly turn a blind eye to the warning signs also highlights their privilege. It isn’t until Ilana and Abbi directly benefit from the racism of their surroundings that they realize they’ve made a huge mistake, and suddenly they piece together all the things they previously ignored, like the fact that they’ve been only surrounded by straight white people for the past few days. It takes someone literally using a racial slur to open their eyes. Suddenly, New York doesn’t look so bad after all.

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Again, the specific beats of the story are all pretty predictable, and this isn’t the most noteworthy or subversive episode of Broad City, but the character work is solid, and Ilana Glazer’s direction is dynamic, the brightness of Florida a perfect backdrop for her bouncy style. The centerpiece then is the mini music video mid-episode, a montage of Abbi and Ilana fully assimilating to the retired white Floridian lifestyle with their tacky makeup, visors, large sunglasses, windbreakers, and grocery store grub. It’s both weird and sexy, a combination that this show pulls off flawlessly all the time. Even the scene near the end of everyone around the table passing around a joint is elevated by Glazer’s fun direction. Jacobson and Glazer have both made their directorial debuts this season and both have been impressive.

With a great script from Jen Statsky, some of “Florida”’s small subplots are actually its best assets. The sisterly squabbles between Ilana’s mom and aunt (guest star Fran Drescher with a scene-stealing performance) are refreshingly simple and grounded, the conflict believable but still funny and in line with Broad City’s overall voice. Elliot’s lost luggage subplot captures the nightmare of having to deal with airline customer service, and his gradual exploration of their grandmother’s wardrobe is oddly fun. These smaller details of the episode make it feel very lived in, brings the weirdo spirit of Broad City to Florida. You can take Broad City out of New York but not the New York out of Broad City, if you will.

Stray observations

  • Jacobson and Glazer have both made their directorial debuts this season, and both have been really impressive and also distinct to who they are.
  • Abbi and Ilana both have great hair in this episode. Honestly, the humidity is working for them.
  • The ending with Lincoln is genuinely touching!
  • Also the physical humor the suitcase is great!

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