One of the biggest clichés about location-shot TV is that the setting itself becomes one of the show’s main characters, but that’s never applied to Broad City. Because while the series is filmed in New York, the city has mostly been a backdrop for more universal stories about the uncertainties of life as a urban-dwelling young person. Like the spirit of Christmas or some roundworm species, the real Broad City has always been in our hearts, right between Jonathan Taylor Thomas and the creeping suspicion that you’ve ruined your life.
Until last night, that is, when a stolen cellphone sent the girls to New York City’s most dreaded tourist destinations in an extremely tight Broad City. Part of what made the episode so solid was its uncharacteristically straightforward “crisis→conflict→resolution” story arc, but I think “Stolen Phone”’s distinct sense of place helped a good deal, too. Which isn’t to say I’m dying to watch another TV show obsessed with America’s second most filmed city, but the outdoor shots definitely grounded Broad City to a concrete reality in a way that various brick-walled interiors haven’t.
Beyond the episode’s structure and shooting, however, were a bunch of really great jokes. This includes what might be my favorite Hannibal Buress line in a show filled with fantastic Hannibal Buress lines (“I was so worried I baked a whole cake…and then I ate a whole cake”) and a series of hilarious and disturbing Ilana faces that were the logical extension of her weird but effective sex appeal. I felt the “hot but embarrassing improv comic” story really paid off too, playing out like a “Modern Seinfeld” plot that would actually pass Larry David’s funny test.
For weeks I’ve been wondering if the very promising Broad City would get the space it needed to really shine. A ten-episode season, after all, just barely matches the run time of your average Peter Jackson movie. But with “Stolen Phone,” it’s pretty clear the show’s team have found their groove. Amy Poehler’s recent announcement that Comedy Central has renewed Broad City is just icing on the worry-cake.