Broad City

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s forays into directing this season have been an excellent evolution for both artists and for Broad City. Since the beginning, the show has been told in their voices, but there’s something perceptibly more authentic and specific about the episodes from this season that they’ve individually directed (Jacobson made her debut with “Witches,” and Glazer made hers with “Florida”). They’re flexing their comedy muscles in new and exciting ways, which keeps the series feeling fresh. In “Housesitting,” Jacobson steps into a directing role again, and she imbues the episode with classic Broad City weirdness while also playing with dynamics and movement in a way that makes the quasi-bottle episode come to life.

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As with a lot of the best episodes of Broad City, “Housesitting” takes a very simple setup—in this case, Ilana’s housesitting for the rich family she babysits for—and twists it into a slightly surreal comedy of misadventures, awkwardness, and goofy fun. Broad City is great at heightening everyday rituals, and “Housesitting” rightfully recognizes one of the greatest luxuries one can encounter in New York: in-unit washers and dryers. In New York, simple domestic things like washing machines, dishwashers, backyards, and natural light become opulent. Heidi’s laundry room is as signifying of her upper-class status as her Uber helicopter to the Hamptons. The laundry sequence that plays out three times is superbly edited, reinforcing just how special this ritual is for Abbi, Ilana, Lincoln, and Jaime.

“Housesitting” unfolds like a dramatic ballad, Heidi’s spiral-staircased townhouse the perfect setting for an episode that touches on fantasy. Ilana and Abbi seize the opportunity to play dress up in this immaculate home that isn’t theirs. At first, they literally play dress up, donning evening gowns as they take advantage of the bidet and bathroom champagne station. But they play dress up more figuratively, too. Ilana tries on monogamy and the official label of girlfriend and boyfriend for her and Lincoln. It goes well at first but then starts to crumble. As she lays in bed next to Lincoln, both in full pajamas and reading glasses, Lincoln mumbling about current events and her suggesting that they start a shared Google calendar, she realizes she’s too deep into the conventional relationship lifestyle. She can’t play this role. She wants to find a way to make things work with Lincoln, but this just isn’t her. So she and Lincoln have a strikingly candid talk about their future, neither one wanting to commit to anything forever. And they reach a compromise: They’ll date for a year and then sit down and revisit what they each want or need. It wouldn’t make sense for Ilana to settle into a conventional relationship quickly, and Broad City is great at letting Abbi and Ilana evolve without changing who they are at their core. Ilana and Lincoln define their relationship in a way that makes sense for the characters.

Abbi tries on something new, too, asking her former high school English teacher Richard Miller to come over after they match on Bumble. She’s weirded out at first, but Ilana convinces her it’s hot, so she leans into it and even briefly indulges in Richard’s disturbing roleplaying. Now, I have very mixed feelings about where this storyline goes. Richard’s inability to turn off teacher mode—like when he corrects Abbi’s pronounciation of “supposedly” and starts leading a classroom fire drill when the fire alarm goes off—is certainly funny. But the nonchalant way Ilana talks about all teachers jerking off to their students is troubling to say the least. It’s indicative of the limits of sex positivity: Ilana is so encouraging of others’ sexual proclivities that sometimes she endorses truly creepy behavior. Richard’s actions are a lot more predatory than the episode acknowledges. In fact, Abbi doesn’t shut it down until he pulls back her skin to make her look younger, thrown off more by the suggestion that she looks old than by his creepy desires. Ultimately, Abbi does reject him, and she’s put off by his behavior through out, but it’s still strange that Ilana pushes it as much as she does, and the ongoing joke that all teachers jerk off to their students just doesn’t land.

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“Housesitting” really plays to the strengths of Jacobson, Glazer, Hannibal Buress, and Arturo Castro’s comedic chops. Jacobson plays the awkwardness of Abbi and Richard’s interactions perfectly. Castro conveys Jaime’s frantic determination to remain un-hard with such intensity and seriousness that it feels extremely high-stakes, making it all the more hilarious. Glazer and Buress’ chemistry is on full display, making a strong case for the rekindled flame of Ilana and Lincoln. That food-metaphor-laden talk between the characters is genuinely deep and meaningful character work. Jacobson’s fluid direction weaves the three storylines into a coherent and lively piece held together by the escapism of this fancy house. The characters occupy an unfamiliar place that’s instantly rendered familiar by their actions and relationship dynamics. The starts with fantasy and then ends on very real conclusions about what it means to be in a long-term relationship.


Stray observations

  • Abbi’s resortwear look is very good.
  • The breakdance battle of farts is so very Ilana.
  • I’m haunted by the image of Jaime’s face in the pile of stuffed animals.
  • Will Abbi read a book by the end of the season?

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