I think I just watched a perfect episode of television. Or, at least, the funniest, most self-aware, unique, and relevant episode of 2019 so far. What could that possibly be, you ask? The Season 5 premiere of Broad City’s, “Stories.”
Comedy Central’s Broad City, created by and starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson made a splash for its inventive window into the lives of 20-somethings figuring out life in New York City when it premiered in 2014, and has since been a steady, but more quiet performer for the network. The quality of the show has ebbed and flowed, but it came into its final season this January with a bang.
In “Stories,” to celebrate Abbi’s 30th birthday, Abbi and Ilana decide to spend an entire day walking from “the tippity top to the tippity bottom” of Manhattan, documenting their journey along the way through Instagram stories. Through the bulk of the episode we are literally watching Ilana’s story, which proves a great filmic device for storytelling. The format allows the episode to jump to the most important points of their walk and the inherent rapid cutting, animation, and combination of photos and videos of the medium provides ample opportunity to tell jokes in an entirely new way for television, but one that we are getting more and more comfortable with through apps.
Because Instagram stories are a relatively new structure, we aren’t programmed to watch or produce them in a certain way. Broad City’s carefully curated style is fresh and creative. It allows their humor to shine in a way that isn’t possible in the parameters of a regular episode of television. The episode’s best jokes aren’t always dialogue. Many come from a crash cut, a smart compilation of clips, a poll for their followers, or a well-placed gif – all things that don’t work as well in our established rules of television.
Both Abbi and Ilana’s phones break by the end of the episode, right as they reach the bottom of the city. They can no longer record their journey, so we jump back to a regular third-person camera just as they notice a triple rainbow. They’re devastated that they can’t record this last amazing bit of their journey before they realize that it’s ok to just watch and enjoy something for yourself.
The episode’s main lesson is in teaching our generation to unplug from social media, but it was so game-changing in its approach to Instagram stories that it has me thinking about what I’ll do on my own story. Rather than taking time away from the Internet, it’s driving me toward it. Go throw me a follow, because I’m about to ignore the advice of the show and step up my Instagram game.