It might be a useless exercise to think of a network other than Comedy Central that could possibly do justice to Broad City’s madcap, 4/20-friendly adventures — but if you like trivia, that network was actually almost FX. Series stars and co-creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer originally sold the show’s script and received a pilot order from the cable network, but it was passed on, with the duo ultimately landing at Comedy Central soon after the rejection. What we didn’t know, though, was FX’s peculiar reasoning for passing on the pilot at the time, which Jacobson details in her new memoir, I Might Regret This.
With the help of Amy Poehler — who signed on to executive-produce Broad City and help it find a small-screen home — Jacobson and Glazer spent about a year developing a script that would appeal to the network’s funny bone, only for one executive to shoot them down with a pretty thoughtless explanation. “After we got to a place we all felt good, it was handed up to the man in charge, the man we never met, the man at the top. He’d probably never heard of us, the show, or the year we’d been in development, and he wasn’t into it,” Jacobson wrote. “It was, as we were told, ‘too girly.’ So, they passed. We were devastated. This thing that was once so far-fetched has actually started to come to fruition, and then was abruptly taken away.”
While a crushing blow to the women, it also made Jacobson question if Broad City was destined for television at all, seeing how flawed and gatekeeper-centric FX’s development process was:
Call me crazy, or naive, but this seems counterintuitive, outdated, and like a complete waste of time. Do I sound annoyed or heated by this snub, over six years later? Maybe, but because I’ve been in the game a minute now and it keeps happening like that. Development for development’s sake. Hard work kept at a certain level, aimed and focused in the direction of what the big boss’s reaction might be. All to please one person. I suppose that’s the vision of any given network, but that’s a tough battle to win.
Leaning on Poehler for support — who Jacobson described as their “saving grace” during this time — FX’s rejection, of course, ended up being a blessing in disguise for Broad City, as a very jazzed Comedy Central came knocking with zero complaints about the X chromosome. “Amy reminded us that we didn’t want to make the show at a place that treated us like a bad boyfriend. She said we’d find a home for it, somewhere that really wanted it, and she was right,” Jacobson recalled. “I am so thankful FX passed, because we then took our misunderstood, ‘girly’ script over to Comedy Central and they got us completely.”
Interestingly, it was Comedy Central that also encouraged Jacobson and Glazer to change their character names from Carly and Evelyn, respectively, back to their actual likeness. (In the Broad City web series, their characters were also named Abbi and Ilana.) “I can’t remember why we changed them from our own when we originally sold the show, but I imagine it was to separate the characters from ourselves, to have a divide,” Jacobson wrote. “We were in the office one day working on revisions, when one of the producers came in to tell us how strongly he felt we should use our real names, that so far, at least in the web series, using our real names was what made it feel so authentic. We agreed and changed them back.”
And so birthed five seasons of one of the most innovative comedies in this hellscape we call the modern age.