I cannot express my relief, midway through a year in television that is turning out to be one of the most disappointing in recent memory (it appears the days of The Wire, Mad Men, and Friday Night Lights are truly behind us, especially now that even The Good Wife is having a troubled season), to see the third season of comedy series Broad City return to its strength this month. A mixture of crass slapstick and clever meta-comedy, toilet humour (literally) and spot-on social critique, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s creation feels like Curb Your Enthusiasm on speed: the setting (New York City as opposed to Los Angeles) is more chaotic, the editing uneven, the camera work jumpy and both the characters and the jokes bounce about like a ball in a pinball machine, moving lickety-split between jokes about masturbation and surprisingly accurate art-world parody, hitting co-op supermarkets and their fetish of community, morality and organic produce, but also viral videos and hipster culture.
Here, Broad City is especially generational, pursuing, like Aziz Ansari’s recent Netflix series Master of None (2015–ongoing), or the writing of Miranda July or David Foster Wallace, each of its topics randomly yet nonetheless frantically, passionately – whereas Curb, and before it Seinfeld, and the literature and art of the 1980s before that, took a more passive, disaffected stance to its variety of subjects.
Timotheus Vermeulen is Assistant Professor in Cultural Theory at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, where he also heads the Centre for New Aesthetics. He is co-founding editor of the academic arts and culture webzine Notes on Metamodernism.