For all that's been written about the outrageousness of "Broad City," Comedy Central’s pot-propelled raunchfest chronicling the dysfunctional lives of twenty-something New York BFFs Abbi and Illana, the duo managed to boil down their appeal to one acronym: FOMO, the fear of missing out.
In the best episode from last year's second season, FOMO drives Abbi and Illana manically from party to party. Then a sloshed Abbi, usually the mousier of the two, heads into a time capsule of a speakeasy where she's known by the ancient regulars as Val – and wows them with a Judy Garland-worthy rendition of “Get Happy.” After sobering up, she claims no memory of her secret second life.
There may not be much outright (or at least sober) happiness in "Broad City," but the Val episode epitomizes the show’s knack for upending expectations. The comedy’s third season premieres Wednesday, giving viewers passage back into the strangely enticing world created by Abbi Jacobson and Illana Glazer. If you miss "Broad City," you're missing out.
The new season lands just four days before Sunday's return of "Girls." While there are surface similarities – disillusioned young women navigating New York – "Broad City" occupies a different zip code than the angst-filled and occasionally melodramatic terrain staked out by Lena Dunham’s HBO show.
"Broad City" plays more like an updated TV version of Martin Scorsese's underrated 1985 proto-hipster screwball comedy gem, "After Hours" – only Glazer and Jacobson can mine urban oddities and futility for laughs, surreal and otherwise, anytime of day. Last season delivered on those counts in nearly all episodes: Abbi got stuck in a giant hole in the park on her way to a doggie wedding. Ilana and Abbi went to extremes to cope with the heat. Abbi learned the hard way that not all plastic is dishwasher safe.
The show, which began in 2009 as a web series, got off to a much ballyhooed, if uneven, TV start two years ago. But the second season brought the program’s often-crude stoner humor to a new level: It's crude stoner humor wrought with intelligence and delivered with occasional purpose.
That includes a 420 take on the One Percent: While Abbi and Illana are more underemployed than underprivileged, they draw pointed humor from New York’s increasingly tense haves-and-have-nots dynamic. They encountered a spoiled and substance-abusing version of Kelly Ripa, who deftly played against her down-to-earth image. They battled a snotty consignment store clerk. They chased a purse-snatching street kid home to find he was neither young nor poor: It turns out he lives in a fancy townhouse with his well-to-do family.
It’s unclear where Glazer and Jacobson will land next (though more appearances by Val would be welcome). The new season of "Broad City" arrives with the anticipation that the stars will defy more expectations, with nothing to fear except for missing out on what comes next.
Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.