Larry David is the king of living out his fantasies on screen. Not sexually—well, then again he probably did once fantasize about having sex with a Palestinian woman—but primarily with respect to telling people when he thinks they’re being assholes. In line at Starbucks, in traffic, playing golf, eating dinner…the list goes on forever, because it’s an epidemic with the guy. Curb Your Enthusiasm, a work of pure genius, is actually a show that’s impossible to binge, purely because after a few episodes of Larry fucking things up in the worst possible way, you legitimately get drained.
That’s pretty awesome, and just fine, because Curb was never meant to be binged, and Larry probably doesn’t give a shit how you watch the show anyway. You have to respect a comedian who still has no regard for decency, because as Bill Simmons pointed out in a recent B.S. Report with LD himself, people are just getting too sensitive for comedy these days. In classic Larry David fashion, he’s all but convinced the show won’t come back for a ninth season, but you know, not totally willing to say it outright. If we really have seen the last of him inappropriately telling friends and strangers alike what they’re doing wrong, at least he’s not the only funny person who’s willing to take the most ridiculous thoughts in his head and give them life on TV (or in film).
Girls and Broad City. Both landmark shows, both about young women in New York City, and because of those things, essentially the same thing (along with Sex and the City) in the eyes of sexists and ignorants and sexist ignorants (new word). But as Rachel Syme wrote on Grantland, these shows depict two very different New Yorks, and just an episode of each is enough to see that one show likes to be sad and stuck in the muck, while another prances around like the world is its playground. Try to guess which is which.
Girls, Lena Dunham’s baby, is always going to be heavily criticized. It was a revolution and a hit straight from the start due to its strong voice, and like anything with a strong voice, there are a million other voices trying to shove it down. So give credit to Dunham for blocking out the opinions of all the haters, whether they’re complaining about too many white people, too much nudity, or too much complaining itself appearing on the show. She also has to contend with the assumption that her and Hannah Horvath are exactly the same person, which of course isn’t totally off base, but an unfair strip of double-sided tape all the same.
Having said that, Dunham clearly uses Hannah to feel out some of her own thoughts and frustrations about the world—witness this season, as Hannah completed the entire notion of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People in a swift three episodes’ worth of time studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her character is built entirely on the assumption that she’s the voice of her generation, which was always a bit of a joke, but hasn’t Dunham actually become exactly that, for all intents and purposes?
So the interesting thing to explore then, is to see what would happen if that idea consumed Hannah before she really made anything of herself. The answer, so far, isn’t pretty. Although this might not appear to be as gratifying a fantasy fulfillment as Larry David’s rampages, it plays out just as cringe-worthy, so you know something internal is being satisfied.
Broad City, on the other hand, still very fresh in its second season, is just beginning to tap into the wild fantasies of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. I mean, last week Abbi took a strap-on to the backside of her major crush, Jeremy, but you can sense this shit isn’t peaking anytime soon. The surrealist gags—like Ilana and her mom (brilliantly cast as Susie Essman of Curb) casually winding up in the sewers to buy cheap handbags—are getting bigger and crazier with each one.
So clearly written all over the show is how much fun Abbi and Ilana have making it. It’s a feeling you can’t buy or manufacture, and comes out of their strong friendship and commitment to coming up with ways to take their everyday New York lives to the extreme. Maybe Ilana really does twerk out of excitement whenever Abbi calls to tell her about a particularly delicious sex scenario playing out in the other room, but being kind of a lazy douche at a desk job while also succeeding? Fantasy. And there’s plenty more where that came from.
It really is almost crazy to dissect Girls and Broad City at the same time—they really couldn’t be more different. But the one commonality they have that actually matters (again, ladies in NYC is just an excruciating, embarrassing pitfall) is what they’re consciously or unconsciously channeling via Larry David. It’s about living the dream, whether that dream is painting the world artfully bleak or bright and full of joy.