Girls And Broad City Totally Similar, Super Different


They’re just some ladies in New York trying to live their best lives. This could be a description of either Girls or Broad City, both of which premiered new seasons last week (it is also what I yell when I get catcalled with a friend). Girls’ premiere showed Hannah (Lena Dunham) and company running into all kinds of trouble in the hours before Marnie’s (Allison Williams) wedding. In contrast, the Broad City premiere was mostly about Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana’s (Ilana Glazer) hunt for a public bathroom in the city. That’s the thing about these two shows. While their premises are essentially the same, which leads to seemingly endless comparisons, the shows have found two completely different ways to approach the lives of twenty-something New York women.

The world of Broad City is full of good vibes. They radiate outward from the heart of the show, which is Abbi and Ilana’s friendship. The show is based on the notion that the world may be crazy, but at least you have your best friend. On Girls, most of the conflict is derived from in-fighting between the four main characters. Depending on which season you’re watching Marnie and Hannah won’t be talking to each other or they will be and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) will be mad at them or it’ll be everyone against Hannah. Really just imagine any configuration of four people be upset with each other and you’ve just drawn the outline for a season of Girls.

But the girls of Girls are doing something interesting in this new season: they’re trying to grow up. Marnie’s getting married, Hannah is going to be a teacher, Shosh has moved to Japan for a job and Jessa is, um, well, Jessa may still be fucking around, but three out of four ain’t bad. Thus the difference between these two shows becomes apparent. It seems safe to say that Ilana and Abbi will never have a huge, season-long falling out. That’s not what the show is about. Girls mines content from the inter-personal struggles of its characters, whereas Broad City finds conflict in two girls vs. The World.

In the season five premiere of Girls, Marnie is crying in the bathroom because her makeup is horrible, it’s raining and everything seems to be going wrong on her special day. Hannah comes in to have a moment that seems emblematic of the show “I’m sorry. I’ve been so fucking awful today,” Hannah says, to which Marnie agrees. Hannah continues, “I don’t have a good excuse, except that I was scared…You’re getting married. That’s everything changing.” That’s basically what Girls is all about. Everything is changing all the time and that can be really scary.

In a scene from the Broad City premiere, on the other hand, Ilana toasts Abbi at brunch, calling her “my frond, ’til the ohnd.” That’s “my friend ’til the end” for those of you who don’t speak Ilana. Later in that episode, Abbi lubes up an underwear-clad Ilana in order to help her shimmy out of a bike chain that she’s got stuck around her waist. That’s something you only ask a ride or die to do for you. The world of Broad City is inhabited by just as much awful shit as the Girls universe, but at least they’ve got each other to rely on every step of the way.

The lenses through which these two shows look at friendship, New York and youth are both entirely valid. It would be ridiculous to try and place one above the other, because the shows are trying to do different things. Just as friendships between women are varied and complex, so can be the television shows about them.

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