"Broad City": A fresh, funny debut, with help from some "SNL" friends

The YouTube hit comes to TV, executive produced by Amy Poehler and with Fred Armisen as a creepy-funny guest

Published January 22, 2014 3:24PM (EST)

Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer of "Broad City"              (Comedy Central/Lane Savage)
Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer of "Broad City" (Comedy Central/Lane Savage)

Tonight, during the premiere of "Broad City," series regular Hannibal Buress looks on as Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer try to raise money to attend a surprise Lil Wayne concert by drumming on buckets in Washington Square Park. "They just need time to find their audience, yunno," he observes. "The first season of 'Seinfeld,' not that many people saw that show. But it got time to grow ..." The sentiment is delivered for laughs, but perhaps there is a little bit of wishful thinking behind it as well, since "Broad City" is a brand-new launch for Comedy Central.

Fortunately for "Broad City" co-creators Jacobson and Glazer, they will not have to look any further than the comments sections on YouTube to pinpoint an audience for their quirky, female-centric program. The show, in smaller doses, of course, has been running as a Web series for years and has amassed a following that includes Amy Poehler and thousands of other loyal viewers. (Jacobson and Glazer were both members of improv comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade. Fellow UCB'er Poehler serves as executive producer on "Broad City's" television incarnation.)

Personally, I became aware of "Broad City" after stumbling upon and instantly falling in love with this refreshing insightful nugget of homage magic:

Kudos to Jacobson and Glazer for switching formats with finesse. What worked well enough as five-to-seven-minute riffs on the demoralizing absurdity of city living for two identifiably broke girls, seems to work even better stretched out to sitcom length. For one thing, "Abbi" and "Ilana" -- Jacobson and Glazer play twisted versions of themselves -- seem less like halves of the same self-absorbed brain and more like individual characters with a decent amount of fun friction between them.

Also, with more time to fill, "Broad City" makes great use of regulars and guest stars. Buress as Ilana's long-suffering boy-toy is a deadpan scene stealer. And John Gemberling, as Abbi's inconsiderate roommate, breathes a respectable amount of new life into that old chestnut of an archetype. For the premiere, Fred Armisen offers up another of his signature throwaway creeps to bring the episode to an amusing, if slightly overlong conclusion. Expect Armisen to be the first of many appearances from Poehler/"SNL"/UCB-related folk.

Attempting to grift the city that never sleeps out of $200 to go see a pop-up rap show may sound like a thin premise for a half-hour of television -- the premiere does feel a tad stretched at times. But next week's episode gets deeper into the girls' money troubles with the help of guests Rachel Dratch and Janeane Garofalo as oddball yet oddly authentic employers. By then, the humor is humming along nicely and -- what do you know -- "Broad City" has found its rhythm.

By Neil Drumming

Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

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