My name’s Jenny and I’m your new Broad City recapper. I’m excited to jump right into “Co-Op,” a slow burn of an episode that breathes life into some sitcom formulas, while playfully subverting the stalest of the bunch.
One thing Broad City captures perfectly is the feeling that, as a young twentysomething in New York, it’s easy to become an inner-city nomad. You move between neighborhoods and apartments, entertaining a shifting bevy of roommates. You spend at least a solid hour of your day commuting. You carry your life in armfuls of tote bags from the Strand. You make friends with people in every borough, so when you have to kill a couple of hours in Manhattan, you don’t have to trek all the way home to Queens. In other words, your life becomes less defined by a series of fixed points — home, car, office, car, home — and more by the people who anchor you at each point. Broad City is about two friends who act as each other’s absolute anchors, so when an episode separates them, it creates two distinct fish-out-of-water stories. This is an impressive feat, and I can’t think of another show that pulls it off with such ease.
Think of it this way: Abbi and Ilana don’t have Central Perk or Tom’s Diner or Cheers. Abbi and Ilana only have … Abbi and Ilana.
A friend like that, surely, is a friend you’d agree to impersonate at a moment’s notice. For those of you not familiar with the cutthroat world of Brooklyn co-ops, let me say this: Broad City’s portrayal isn’t far off. They are big deals. And Ilana is about to lose her membership at a cultlike one — run by an especially formidable Melissa Leo — unless she can finally put in her mandatory work hours. Except Ilana has to go to Long Island for a doctor’s appointment, so she pulls Abbi out of an endless trendy bakery line (a combination macaron/churro called a “churron” — today’s flavor is anise!) and gives her an Ilana Wexler makeover.
Lincoln comes to pick up Ilana, armed with comfort foods, a “ginger blunt man,” and an adorable photo of himself as a little kid, ostensibly to put Ilana at ease before she gets her shot. The fact that Ilana isn’t simply terrified of shots, but also still sees her family pediatrician back on Long Island is such a great character detail. I love Ilana’s vulnerable moments like this one; another show might have let her fall into cartoonish self-parody by now, but Broad City understands the relationship between its characters’ idosyncracies. They each contain a little bit of the other. That’s why Ilana goes out of her way to get an HPV vaccine despite already having HPV, and why Abbi slips so easily into Ilana’s clothes, hair, vocabulary, and aggressively flirtatious style.
Alongside tightly written characterizations of its main duo, “Co-op” features fun guest turns by Judy Gold as Ilana’s doctor and the aforementioned (and brilliantly cast) Melissa Leo. Nevertheless, the episode belongs to Lincoln, who, on the drive back to the city, reveals to Ilana that he slept with someone else. Because their relationship is so hazily defined, both due to Ilana’s immaturity and Lincoln’s … Lincoln-ness, this isn’t a violation of any set boundaries. Lincoln still wants this admission to mean something to Ilana, and it’s clear he feels the stakes are high.
What he doesn’t expect, though, is for Ilana to move right past rage and into a super-turned-on fury. And I mean super turned-on: She demands to know each and every minute detail of the hookup because she finds it so hot. I found her initial reaction to be kind of exhausting as a fake-out, especially since it rings so false to her character, but I love the reveal that Ilana’s really excited to be one of those open, progressive couples. It’s not just a great piece of character and relationship development — it’s a window into the future of sitcom tropes.
Meanwhile, Abbi is really trying her best as Fake Ilana. She’s leaning into it hard, and in some impressive ways — ask yourself: Do I love anyone enough to wear a mesh crop top for them? — but her plan is thrown awry by the introduction of a man named Craig (Chris Roberti). Craig is a hot illustrator who’s into Phish, and Abbi is immediately smitten, but it’s Fake Ilana who has to flirt with him. Craig is increasingly drawn to the Abbi of Fake Ilana’s stories, and even asks to be set up with her, just as the real Ilana — whom Craig assumes to be Abbi — enters to tell the real Abbi about Lincoln’s extracurricular activity. Ilana’s Abbi impression is significantly less convincing than Abbi’s Ilana, so Abbi reveals the truth. Craig is horrified that she tried to cheat the co-op.
The co-op owner pulls Abbi and Ilana into the back room where she deems them S.P.s — a reference to the Scientology slang for “Suppressive Persons” that here means “Shitty People” — and says they “belong on garbage island.” She kicks them out of the co-op world for good, but not before she reveals that every co-op requires a billion-year contract and that local produce has made her fertile forever. It’s delightfully weird, and if there are two topics that will never cease to delight and fascinate me, both in comedy and otherwise, it’s Scientology and hyperspecific details about Park Slope.
Clearly there’s a whole lot to like in this episode, even though the cold open about Abbi and Ilana being catcalled by a group of kids then jumping into a basketball game wasn’t my favorite. “Co-Op” takes a scene or two to find its footing, but once it does, it really does. Three seasons in, Broad City still has plenty of new ground to cover. And even if it didn’t, it’s still got decades’ worth of sitcom tropes to subvert.