In 2012, Lena Dunham — as her character Hannah Horvath — famously declared she would be “the voice of my generation.” When Girls debuted that spring, the media hailed it as everything from “the next Sex and the City” to the female update on Woody Allen/Louis C.K./Philip Roth. (Back when you might have wanted to be any of those people.) I will always lovingly defend Girls, believing Dunham a savvy — and savage — mirror/window to millennial culture, but the show never quite found its footing in the zeitgeist the way Dunham’s own iconoclastic gaffes have. Instead, as we enter the 2020s, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s weird little slice of postcollege New York, Broad City, will hold the legacy Girls never did. They are the true voices of their generation.
The Comedy Central series premiered in 2014 (practically a century ago in this news cycle) as a hilariously zippy and grotesque vision of perpetual summer in New York City. Electric imp Ilana Wexler (Glazer) fashioned herself a Kween of Pleasures, a Jewish feminist satyr always bedecked in the flyest ensembles. Nerve-wracked aspiring designer Abbi Abrams (Jacobson) was, in contrast, the classic fool: More obviously wanting than her friend — a career, a partner, a home — she was thus doomed to continuously fail in these endeavors. (Imagine an id and a superego who love each other more than anything else in their lives.)
Their comically surreal adventures through evanescent jobs and exuberant sex and bodily horror ignited a cohort of post-recession 20-something viewers who looked up to these carefree women while their own trajectories felt aimless. The show’s kaleidoscopic animated opening titles, set against bouncy Chilean hip-hop, seemed to tell us everything we needed to know about Broad City‘s kinetic energy. As it enters its fifth and final season, and as its target audience moves into their early 30s, it feels like the right time to say goodbye to our heroines.
Season five begins with an instant-classic episode following Abbi and Ilana through a sprightly series of short Instagram video “stories” documenting Abbi’s 30th birthday celebration. The framing device works perfectly here, as we watch the duo narrate their day wandering from the northern point of Manhattan to the southern tip of Brooklyn, their hilarious videos replete with the flashing cartoon effects and pithy textual comments associated with the popular social media app. Among the day’s escapades: lusting after Lisa Frank school supplies at a drugstore, living every New Yorker’s nightmare by falling into a sidewalk grate, and befriending a “lost” preschooler called Gadonna (which, let’s be real, is immediately going on the baby name list).
Both Abbi and Ilana realize the summer of their lives is coming to a close. (This was also a major theme in the winter-set previous season, as each dealt with panic and depression over Trump’s election.) But while Abbi seems excited about new horizons — including a possible romance with a cute doctor — life might be moving too fast for Ilana, who must contend with significant career and relationship choices this season. You get a sense that these friends’ lives are becoming more insular as they age, Abbi’s birthday brunch paired down to just Ilana’s boyfriend, Lincoln (Hannibal Buress), her roommate, Jaime (Arturo Castro), and Jaime’s new partner, Johnny (Guillermo Diaz). Neither woman has expanded her circle in a while, emotionally or professionally, but I have a feeling this season will reintroduce them both to the wider world.
Savor the crackling jokes while they last: sporty Abbi looking so wrong in a floral beaux-arts Anthropologie work sweater; the unexpected gore of a platform shoe’s betrayal; Ilana’s alarming use of a cheese grater for grooming purposes. Still, the show’s impact will live on when you’re talking to your co-worker about her roommate problems and you both laugh hysterically when you shout, “That guy is a total Bevers!” Or when I remember Ilana’s Long Islander mom pulling her into a secret cavern on Canal Street to buy knockoff designer handbags and fondly flash back to my childhood and doing the same exact thing with my dad. Nothing gold can stay, but acid-trip rainbows are eternal.
Cast: Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, Hannibal Buress, Arturo Castro, Guillermo Diaz, Susie Essman, Clea Duvall
Executive producers: Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, Tony Hernandez, Brooke Posch, Kelsie Kiley, Ryan Cunningham, Lilly Burns
Premieres: Thursday, Jan. 24, 10 p.m. ET (Comedy Central)