When it debuted on HBO, Girls was one of the best first seasons of any cable comedy I had seen. It was incredibly edgy, overtly sexual, and was never afraid about being itself, much like its creator, Lena Dunham. But, around the conclusion of its second season (and the start of its third season) the show began to wear thin. Its plot began to run circles, running out of ideas before it even reached a third season. At the same time, another show debuted on Comedy Central called Broad City; and this is where the debating of which was the dominant show started.
Like Girls, Broad City was lampooning the culture of millennials in the NYC area, especially within the changing landscape of the gentrification in Brooklyn. The difference was quickly apparent: where Girls preferred to be darkly humorous and incredibly honest, Broad City embraced the insanity and irresponsibility that came from being in your twenties, delivering a broader comedic program; this proved to be its coup over Girls.
The embrace of full blown comedy helped Broad City stay fresh and, at the same time, stay relevant. While there is a basic narrative structure in place, Broad City doesn't follow the serial structure quite as closely as Girls does. With Broad City heading into its third season and Girls heading into its fifth, the debate constantly rages on with which show is the better representation of this culture. For me, there is very little competition for Broad City.
Girls's biggest issue is that it has become redundant with its serialization of its story. The initial plot of Hannah Horvath (played by show runner Lena Dunham) being cut off from her upper class parents to make her own living goes from major to minute conflict within the first couple of seasons. Hannah plays into the procrastinator in all of us - the intellectual who feels they're too intelligent to do entry level work. She constantly punishes herself, going back and forth and back and forth (and back and forth) to her boyfriend Adam (played by Adam Driver).
While Hannah and her friends's procrastinations are definitely relatable, they ultimately go on for way too long. The characters often repeat the same mistakes while the audience is treated to many scenes of the characters crying and whining about why their lives aren't better. Again, this covers relatable territory for anyone in their quarter-life crisis.
Broad City, however, has similar protagonists who often feel entitled and will procrastinate, especially Ilana, who is an over-sexed pothead constantly up to no good. The girls of Broad City contain some form of genuine underdog quality that is often unsuccessfully at by the girls of Girls. Ilana and Abbi's middle class lifestyle make them out to be the perennial underdogs, while on the other side of the pond everyone huffs when Hannah complains about her cushy college masters program at Iowa.
But is it that Broad City is so much more likable because Girls purposefully sets it up to be the harder sell? For me it's yes and no. Yes, Hannah and her friends are made to be annoying and unlikable, but at the same time when the same song and dance has been going on for five years, it gets a little intolerable.
The season 5 premiere of Girls is set during Marnie's wedding. The opening minutes come off like a 'best of Girls' montage. The characters often repeat dialogue that reflects the lack of change in any of their characters, still bickering against one another. I get that this is the point of the show, but is it a point worth watching for up to six seasons (which Dunham has said will be the last)?
In half the time, Broad City has run circles around Girls in terms of quality and the audience's attachment to the characters. The escapism to a more comedic world in Broad City easily bests the forced realism and honesty of Girls. Broad City taught us about pegging (oh yeah... google that one), and gave outsiders a look at how absurd [yet close to reality] the gentrification process is; while at the same time its two leads never hold grudges or ever seem out to get each other. It's all about love and friendship, and that's a beautiful thing.
Hannah may have the same over-confidence and conceded attitude of Ilana, but she never exudes the same level of honesty and truth that the female units of Broad City will forever have, and the ladies of Girls will forever try to replicate.
You can catch Girls on HBO on Sunday's at 9pm and Broad City on Comedy Central on Wednesday's at 10pm!