Guest Host: Susan Page

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: Actor Abbi Jacobson attends OZY Fusion Fest 2016 at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on July 23, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Fusion Fest)

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: Actor Abbi Jacobson attends OZY Fusion Fest 2016 at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on July 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Fusion Fest)

Comedy Central’s “Broad City” is not TV’s first hit show about friendship in New York City—there was “Friends” and “Sex and the City.” “Broad City” plays on some of the same themes of single people finding their way in the “Big Apple,” but the comedy is winning praise for its authenticity and honest portrayal of women. The show’s co-stars, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, aren’t particularly concerned with success or marriage. They mostly want to hang out with each other, which leads to a host of absurd and goofy adventures that celebrate their friendship and the craziness of living in New York City. Guest host Susan Page talks to Abbi Jacobson about “Broad City” and her new book “Carry this Book”.


  • Abbi Jacobson Creator, executive producer, and star along with Ilana Glazer of "Broad City" on Comedy Central
  • Jen Chaney TV columnist, Vulture
  • Inkoo Kang Chief TV critic, MTV News
  • Eric Deggans TV critic, NPR


  • 11:06:54

    MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is in New York receiving the International Women's Media lifetime achievement award. Well, speaking of women, maybe you've watched Comedy Central's hit show "Broad City." The character Abbi Abrams is an artist, Well, a struggling artist who works as a janitor at a fancy gym. Abbi is played by real life Abby Jacobson, the shared name a nod to some of their shared qualities, that includes being an artist and that's on display in her new book.

  • 11:07:29

    MS. SUSAN PAGEIt's called "Carry This Book." She illustrates what she imagines famous people and fictional characters from Sigmund Freud to Homer Simpson might carry in their bags. Abbi Jacobson joins us from New York. Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:07:46

    MS. ABBI JACOBSONThanks so much for having me. What a pleasure.

  • 11:07:48

    PAGEWell, it's a pleasure to have you here. Now, some people who know you as -- for your TV character role may not know that you're -- Abbi Abrams is an aspiring artist, but so is Abbi Jacobson. How important is your artwork to you? How important has that been?

  • 11:08:09

    JACOBSONIt's definitely come back into my life in a big way with this book, but I actually went to art school for under -- I didn't go to grad school, but I only went to undergrad. I went to art school in Baltimore, Maryland, Institute College of Art. So that was sort of my first passion. Growing up, I always was drawing and then ended up studying fine art. And so that's always been something that was pretty important to me and I sort of gave those details of my life to my character on the show.

  • 11:08:42

    PAGESo these are...

  • 11:08:43

    JACOBSONAnd so that was sort of, like, my struggles in my early 20s is sort of what she's going through.

  • 11:08:48

    PAGEWell, in fact, maybe we should run a clip we've got prepared from the show that deals with Abbi, your character, and her artwork. Here, let's listen to it.

  • 11:08:59

    UNIDENTIFIED MALEThat's hysterical. $40, huh?

  • 11:09:01

    JACOBSONYeah. Which is a really great deal considering the art will only continue to appreciate.

  • 11:09:07

    MALEOf course, shrimp cocktail is Ron Howard's favorite food. He probably has it three, four times a week, that (bleep)

  • 11:09:14

    JACOBSONIt's a fictional series based on the artist's imagination.

  • 11:09:20

    MALEWait a minute. You mean this is not real? Like Bruce Springsteen's favorite food's not a tomato?

  • 11:09:24

    JACOBSONNo, I mean, he's from Jersey so I put him with a tomato because I was like that's a marriage, you know, that works.

  • 11:09:30

    MALEOh, come on. This is unbelievable.

  • 11:09:33

    PAGESo in that clip, you are pairing food with celebrities. Now, did you sell that guy the painting?

  • 11:09:39

    JACOBSONNo, I did not, but I tried to for a while. Yeah, so that series, actually, I was doing these little series that I would just post online and one of the first ones I did was called "Famous Favorites" that was sort of, you know, can traced back to, like, sort where the beginning of this book came from. And I did it probably in 2012 while we were writing the pilot for the show. And then, I gave it to my character.

  • 11:10:09

    PAGESo the book you've written, "Carry This Book," it has not much text. It has pictures, collections of what you think a famous person just might be carrying. Why is it important or interesting or fun to look at what people carry around with them?

  • 11:10:27

    JACOBSONIt's something that's just always sort of been fascinating to me what people -- I think it's just voyeuristic look into someone's private life, seeing what they might have in their bag or what they carry around or what's in their glove compartment. It's a way to peek into who they are. It's sort of, like, little clues that are examples of where they go, what their favorite things are. There's just this -- it's endless possibilities. It was originally inspired by -- bizarrely, I just had this required reading when I was in eighth grade, which was this book, "The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien.

  • 11:11:07

    JACOBSONAnd what stuck with me up until I pitched this book was this idea in that book, he sort of told the audience about the characters, which were Vietnam vets. He told you about them by showing what they had in their bags. And that was just such an interesting way to tell a story to me and it just stuck out. And so when I pitched this book, I thought, wow. We live in such a, like, celebrity-driven culture. Pop culture is so prominent right now with social media and all this stuff. And I found it would be such a way -- such an interesting way for me to get to explore real stuff about these people, historical and sort of just more famous people and characters by drawing them. And it was my own sort of fan fiction.

  • 11:11:59

    PAGESo you have some people you might expect, like Oprah Winfrey. You also have some people I didn't expect, like Albert Einstein, what Albert Einstein carries around. You have a pair of socks that he's carrying around. Why does Albert Einstein got a pair of socks in his bag?

  • 11:12:13

    JACOBSONYeah, so during the research of this book, you know, I did some pretty basic research, but found a lot of these really interesting facts about people that I didn't know and that most people don't know. So in Albert Einstein's bag, there's a pair of socks. And apparently, he really didn't like wearing socks and so I put it in his bag and I think I have a little call-out that says just in case people give him shit for it. But yeah, it was just so interesting to find out all this stuff and then I got to, obviously, use my imagination to expand upon any of those real things.

  • 11:12:49

    PAGEWell, some of them are pretty sly. Talk about what Hillary -- you have Hillary Clinton carrying around. Like a -- you have her taking a Metro Card.

  • 11:12:57

    JACOBSONRight. Because she had some trouble with -- at the turnstile. I mean, I didn't go too hard with, like, jabbing anyone too hard, but I thought that she would carry a Metro Card and I think I call out for practice. Practice makes perfect. You got to get the hang of that, that swiping, you know. I do it every day. You got to get the hang of it. She has a bottle of hot sauce because she loves hot sauce. She's got a Lady Gaga fan club card because I -- during this research about her, I found out she is a fan of Lady Gaga. What else? Oh, she has her Blackberry because there's that famous photo of her holding a Blackberry.

  • 11:13:38

    JACOBSONAnd I made sort of a ridiculous game on the face of it because I was like, well, what was she doing when -- on the other side of that Blackberry? Who knows?

  • 11:13:48

    PAGEWhat was she doing?

  • 11:13:50

    JACOBSONI don't know.

  • 11:13:52

    PAGEWell, you know, interestingly, she appeared on your show, Hillary Clinton did.

  • 11:13:55

    JACOBSONShe did.

  • 11:13:55

    PAGEHow did that work out? Because I've been trying to get an interview with her and it's been really hard.

  • 11:14:01

    JACOBSONWell, it was pretty hard to get her on the show. We write the episodes way before we shoot them and way before they air, about a year before. And we had this idea that Ilana's character would sort of stumble upon this "job" at Hillary's campaign office and that would just be a way for us to get to comment on what we would expect people would call into the campaign office asking questions about Hillary, sort of ridiculous things. And then, we sort of wrote this other part that was like, well, what if we could get Hillary.

  • 11:14:42

    JACOBSONWe have it written where we don't need her to be in it, but Ilana's working in her campaign and then we have an option where if she were to say yes, which would be completely crazy, we have this scene with her. And so we sat -- we kind of simultaneously planned for either. And we reached out to her campaign office. We had a bunch of different connections through Comedy Central and people we know and it was unbelievable that she said yes.

  • 11:15:08

    PAGEWell, let's listen. We have the clip of Hillary Clinton when she appeared on "Broad City." Let's listen.

  • 11:15:16

    MS. ILANA GLAZEROh, all right. Sorry, we are just so excited.

  • 11:15:18

    MS. HILLARY CLINTONThat's all right. Just take your time.

  • 11:15:20

    GLAZEROne more.

  • 11:15:27

    CLINTONThank -- thank you, Ilana. Thank you for all of your help.

  • 11:15:29

    GLAZERYou know of me?

  • 11:15:30

    CLINTONWell, you're wearing a nametag.

  • 11:15:32

    GLAZEROh, genius.

  • 11:15:32

    JACOBSONYes. Abbi. Hello. Proud Democrat, college, Aquarius.

  • 11:15:41

    UNIDENTIFIED FEMALEI'm Peg. Secretary Clinton.

  • 11:15:44

    GLAZERMadam President. Cheeking. I can't afford to volunteer here full time, but I still want to get the word out so I vow to tweet once a week, "vote for Hillary," yes, yes, yes.

  • 11:15:57

    CLINTONThat would be great. We need to drum up some excitement for the campaign, do everything that we possibly can.

  • 11:16:04

    PAGEThat was Hillary Clinton on "Broad City." And did you think she is actually someone who watches your show?

  • 11:16:12

    JACOBSONI don't think she did before. I hope she does now.

  • 11:16:20

    PAGEWhy do you think she agreed to do your show?

  • 11:16:23

    JACOBSONI mean, I think it was -- we definitely have a really -- I think our audience for the show is such a -- we even -- because we started as a web series and we've always had this, like, quality -- it was never this huge audience as a web series. And it's not even a huge audience as a TV show, but I feel like it's a really quality fan base and I think it was really beneficial to both of our parties, the "Broad City" camp and the Hillary camp, mutually beneficial for her to do the show. It was amazing for us and I think it was really great for her campaign.

  • 11:17:02

    PAGEWe have a question on Facebook. This question is "some friends of mine have accused 'Broad City' of being a girls' show, but honestly, it's just a hilarious show about friendship." Do you think it's a girls' show?

  • 11:17:13

    JACOBSONNo, I don't. It's weird that they have accused it. That's such a harsh way of, like -- right?

  • 11:17:20

    PAGELike, what a terrible thing, to be a girls' show.

  • 11:17:22

    JACOBSONI know. It's like, well, it's fine if people watch it because of that. But I think it's just a show about two best friends, you know, trying to figure out their next step and just, like, enjoying each other's company. And it's so funny. People feel like nowadays you have to just -- you have to label. Everything has to have -- be in a category. So it's fine if people want to call it that. It's fine if they don't.

  • 11:17:52

    PAGEYeah, well, we're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Abbi Jacobson of "Broad City," and talking about her new book. It's called "Carry This Book." Stay with us.

  • 11:20:00

    PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. And we're talking now with Abbi Jacobson of "Broad City," the Comedy Central show. She's got a new book out, it's called "Carry This Book." Before the break, you were talking about your co-star, your good friend Ilana Glazer, who plays Ilana Wexler on the show. You're best friends on the show. Are you best friends off the show?

  • 11:20:24

    JACOBSONYeah, we are. I've known Ilana for -- I've been in New York for a little over 10 years, and I've known Ilana for probably nine. We came up doing improv together, we were on an improv team for a long time. That's where we met. And then we started making "Broad City," the Web series, in 2009, and yeah, we -- we have managed to create a really amazing working partnership while at the same time we're constantly sort of -- it's -- I'm very lucky I have so much fun at my job.

  • 11:21:03

    PAGETalk about how you got a Web series started. How big a production was it to get started with a Web series?

  • 11:21:10

    JACOBSONIt was extremely small. Basically at first Ilana and I couldn't really pay anybody to help us, so we both out of the Upright Citizens Brigade, improv theater in New York. So we were both taking classes there. We never got on these house teams, but we were performing in and around that theater and in other little theaters around New York.

  • 11:21:34

    JACOBSONAnd the comedy community is really wonderful. So we met all these other people, and we sort of started helping each other and being in each other's things. And once Ilana and I hooked up and started this Web series, we couldn't pay anyone in anything other than food for the first season of our Web show, and then we paid all the directors $100. But we have 34 Web episodes that are on YouTube.

  • 11:21:59

    JACOBSONSo it was like, it really just, like, us, any of our friends that we had as other actors, if we had anyone else in the episode, and someone holding the camera. You know, it was pretty basic. All the locations were our actual apartments, were a pizza shop that we paid 50 bucks, and they would let us shoot in there. I wish that we could pay pizza shops $50 now to shoot in, but that is no longer the case. It was really small. It was really run and gun.

  • 11:22:28

    PAGEWell, you know, here's -- we've gotten two questions on Facebook that go kind of to this point. One is how often do they go off-script and improv? Their exchanges are so quick-witted and perfectly timed. And another questioner says, how difficult is it to translate your improv skills and experiences into a scripted television show? Because I assume when it was a Web show, you didn't have, like, elaborate scripts, right? Was it kind of improvised?

  • 11:22:54

    JACOBSONIt's definitely more scripted now, but when it was a Web show, we still wrote scripts because Ilana and I were sort of like working, like that was our first opportunity to write scripts, so we were very into, like, writing actual scripts. And so we did that, but we did improvise, I think, a little bit more because it was way more, like, fly by the seat of our pants for the Web series. And on the television show, it's very, very scripted. So we spend three months writing, and the writing, I think, is the hardest part.

  • 11:23:30

    JACOBSONWe have a small group of other writers who work with us, and we write and rewrite and rewrite. And then when we get to actual production, when we're shooting, we usually do two or three versions of the written scripts, and then we sort of get a little looser and improvise. And Ilana and me especially, our dialogue is based so on how we communicate, so we're pretty good at making it very natural because we're writing it.

  • 11:24:02

    JACOBSONAnd then when we improvise -- it is sort of hard to tell which is which at the end.

  • 11:24:06

    PAGEYou know, it is true that one of the things that I think people like about your show is that it seems improvised, it seems authentic, it seems like you're really talking to your friend. And it's also gotten praised for being more realistic than many shows about women, how women talk to each other. Do you feel this is something different, something that we haven't seen until recently when it comes to TV shows?

  • 11:24:32

    JACOBSONI mean, I think it's definitely something that's becoming more prominent in television and film. It's just, like, people are -- I feel like honesty and this, like, raw exposure of the way people talk to each other in general is sort of, like, more prominent in shows and stuff, I think because we've found, at least for us, when we write about, like, something that's actually happened to us and the way we felt and the way we talked about it when it happened, when we write about that, that's what we find the most fun.

  • 11:25:14

    JACOBSONSo like a lot of the stuff on the show, conversations, are conversations that we actually had and were actually laughing about. So then when we put it on the show, we're fairly confident that it's going to work because it was hilarious when we actually felt that way. But yeah, I just think people are trying to be more honest about kind of the -- the parts of life that are not always so public.

  • 11:25:44

    PAGEOr not always so perfect, too.

  • 11:25:45

    JACOBSONYes, exactly.

  • 11:25:47

    PAGEYou know, here's an email from Patsy. She writes, I enjoy "Broad City" and admire the creativity and humor. Besides yourselves, are the other characters based on people you know?

  • 11:25:58

    JACOBSONSometimes yeah. I think that Lincoln, who's played by Hannibal Buress, who is amazing, Lincoln is not based on one person but is sort of a collection of people. And then Jaime, Ilana's roommate on the show, played by Arturo Castro, is based on one of my best friends from college, Jaime, and one of Ilana's best friends from college, Inte, and it's -- Inte and her best friend Matt, and it's sort of like a mix of those three guys.

  • 11:26:37

    JACOBSONSo, like, everyone is sort of pulled from somebody.

  • 11:26:41

    PAGEHere's an email we've gotten. What's the deal with Bed, Bath and Beyond? Do you guys, like, own stock in it? Because you talk a lot about Bed, Bath and Beyond.

  • 11:26:48

    JACOBSONYou know, I feel like they should've given us some stock at this point. The Bed, Bath and Beyond thing sort of started -- my mom worked at Bed, Bath and Beyond when I was growing up, and I just remember her co-workers were, whenever I went in to visit her, they were so friendly, and they felt like -- you know, there was a real camaraderie there.

  • 11:27:11

    JACOBSONAnd there's a scene in the show, you know, my mom would -- in real life my mom would send me coupons, and I kept them in an envelope because I often couldn't afford to just go. I would go at one time and, like, use a lot of coupons. And my roommate at the time, I guess when I was not home, went through the envelope and looked at all the expiration dates, and he threw them all away.

  • 11:27:35

    JACOBSONAnd I had this happen, there's a scene in the show where this happens, where Bevers, my roommate's boyfriend that quote-unquote lives with me, throws away all these Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons because he sees they're all expired, but they don't expire, which it really happened. My mom told me they never expire, which they may or may not be changing now because people keep tweeting at me that Bed, Bath and Beyond is changing this policy, but that situation actually happened to me.

  • 11:28:06

    JACOBSONI personally don't have, like, this -- as big of a love for Bed, Bath and Beyond as my character, but I don't know, the more we started writing about it, the more we thought that's such a specific place and type of person that loves a store like that. And then they let us shoot in there, which was amazing, and the two actors that play the people who work at Bed, Bath and Beyond were just -- it was so much fun.

  • 11:28:34

    PAGEWho could not love Bed, Bath and Beyond, really? So here's a question. This show, Season 4 of "Broad City," is going to be released in 2017. Could this go on for a while? Could you guys, like, grow up together, get older, decades from now you'll have "Broad City," and you'll be like an episode of "The Golden Girls"? I mean, what do you see? How long could it last?

  • 11:28:55

    JACOBSONYeah, you know, it's been something that Ilana and I have been talking about because I think our main priority is to make -- you know, every episode is very precious to us. They're all very jam-packed with jokes, and we're not very still for very long. And we try to make them all very unique and special. And so we never want to get to the point where we're making episodes that don't feel that way.

  • 11:29:24

    JACOBSONSo that's been a -- it's just been an ongoing conversation about, like, well when, you know, I guess when we feel that way, that's when we would ultimately stop. We're not there yet, obviously, but I think that's the thing. I think the quality control is something that we are very aware of.

  • 11:29:42

    PAGEAbbi Jacobson, you've written this book, "Carry This Book." So let me ask you a last question. If you had -- if somebody unpacked your bag right now, what would they find in it? What do you carry?

  • 11:29:55

    JACOBSONWell, right now I'm doing all this press, so I feel a little bit out of sorts. I always have a book because -- I always have a book and a notebook because in New York you often end up getting -- you're on the train for, like, an hour, or, you know, I always have to have things. I always have a pen. If I forget a pen, I have to go buy one. And I'm a big pen person, as you can see from my book.

  • 11:30:21

    JACOBSONMy phone, headphones obviously. I always have a lip gloss, a lipstick. I guess I would always have a tampon in case. What else? Wallet obviously, Metro card, Purell I usually have with me in case I've got to hold on on the subway. Yeah, I don't have anything really that great for this question. Pretty functional stuff.

  • 11:30:50

    PAGEAbbi Jacobson, thanks so much for joining us on the Diane Rehm Show.

  • 11:30:55

    JACOBSONThank you -- thank you so much for having me.

  • 11:30:57

    PAGEAbbi Jacobson, she's the author of this new book, it's called "Carry This Book." She's also the co-executive producer, co-creator and co-star of "Broad City," a show on Comedy Central. We've been so glad to talk to her.

  • 11:31:09

    PAGEBut now we're joined by a panel of experts and critics about TV who can talk about "Broad City" and some other shows coming up in the fall season. We are joined in -- I'm joined in the studio by Jen Chaney, TV columnist with Vulture. Thanks for joining us.

  • 11:31:24

    MS. JEN CHANEYThank you for having me.

  • 11:31:25

    PAGEJoining us from Oakland, California, is Inkoo Kang, chief TV critic for MTV News. Welcome.

  • 11:31:32

    MS. INKOO KANGHello.

  • 11:31:32

    PAGEAnd from Tampa, Eric Deggans, TV critic for NPR. Eric, thanks for being with us.

  • 11:31:38

    MR. ERIC DEGGANSThank you for having me.

  • 11:31:40

    PAGEJen, let's start with you. What -- what strikes you about "Broad City"? Why has it been a success, what does it -- and what does it reflect in terms of what TV is doing these days?

  • 11:31:51

    CHANEYWell, you had asked Abbi earlier about whether it's a girl's show, and I think it's correct that it's just a great show and a very funny show period. But I do think it's representative, as you were discussing earlier, of a lot of shows that are not only featuring women in starring roles but really where the women are creating the shows, and they're driving the narratives.

  • 11:32:10

    CHANEYYou know, "Broad City" has been a part of that. "Girls" has been a part of that. And then just even looking at this fall TV season, you have shows like "Fleabag," Phoebe Waller-Bridge's show, which was a British show that's now on Amazon, you have "Insecure," which is Issa Rae's show on HBO, which started, like "Broad City," as a Web series and is now an HBO half-hour comedy. You have "Better Things" on FX, which is Pamela Adlon's show. She's the star, but she along with Louis C.K. are really driving what those stories are about every week.

  • 11:32:40

    CHANEYSo I think it's really at the vanguard of seeing more and more female voices as the auteurs of these shows, in addition to being the stars of them.

  • 11:32:46

    PAGEWell Inkoo, it's really amazing that we now have several shows that started out as Web series, where as we heard Abbi Jacobson describe it, it was just her and some friends paying each other with food, and now it's a show on Comedy Central. So there's this path to become a path on a big outlet like Comedy Central or HBO through doing that.

  • 11:33:10

    KANGI mean, one would hope, right? I think that's the thing that they're all sort of aspiring for, all these amazing people on the Web. I think it sort of gives rise to the hope that if you're good enough, if you have an important enough voice, you can make it to the big leagues. I think it's probably still a bit of a -- you know, like playing the lottery, but on the other hand, I'm so glad that we have these voices and that they were able to sort of hone their voices and hone their filmmaking skills eventually through all of the Web series work that they had put into it and into sculpting their persona.

  • 11:33:55

    PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. We're going to take your calls, 800-433-8850. Well Eric, let me go to you. Do you like the show, "Broad City"?

  • 11:34:07

    DEGGANSYeah, I do like the show, and I do think it's emblematic of a trend that we're seeing where we've gone from shows like "Sex and the City" that seem to capture women's voices, but they were created by men or run by men, to shows where women, women of color, people of color, are getting the kind of creative agency to really create authentic expressions of how their world works, how people who look like them and think like them talk and relate to each other.

  • 11:34:40

    DEGGANSYou think about shows like "Insecure" on HBO, you know, shows like "Queen Sugar" on OWN, you're really getting a sense that these are very specific experiences that are created by very talented people who five years ago would never have been given the level of resources they've gotten to make the kind of shows that they're making. And I think TV is all the richer for it.

  • 11:35:04

    PAGEAnd they're different, Jen, aren't they? They're a little rawer. They're -- they take more risks. They -- I think they risk offending some people. Is that a change from what we've seen before in programming?

  • 11:35:18

    CHANEYWell, I think again, to bring it back to women, I think you're seeing women maybe being a little bit more -- and people of color, too, as Eric was saying, up front about their specific perspectives and, as Abbi Jacobson was saying earlier, being more honest. I mean, the entire -- to use "Broad City" as an example, their last season finale, like most of the episode was about Abbi trying to find a tampon on an airplane and being mistaken for being a terrorist because of what, which is just a funny premise, but the subtext of that is really a feminist thing going on there.

  • 11:35:51

    CHANEYSo I think people are being more forthright and speaking their own languages and being given the room and permission to do that.

  • 11:35:58

    PAGEInkoo, what do you see happening when it comes to being able to be maybe a little more outrageous than TV could be before?

  • 11:36:09

    KANGWell, I think a lot of it has to do with a topic that I think Jen was touching on also, which is the issue of female likeability. And I think this sort of image that we've had of women as wives and as daughters and as docile girlfriends, we've had that image for so long on TV, and so that really restricted the breadth of female experience that we were able to see on TV.

  • 11:36:39

    KANGAnd I think that outrageousness is part of what is so exciting about all of these auteurist visions that we have on TV right now. In the same episode that Jen was just talking about, you know, a big part of that airport episode involves something called period pants, which involved a pair of jeans that had a big, red stain on it. And the thing is that you were just supposed to go along with it and laugh, and if you belong to a sort of older generation that goes ew, menstruation, then you're not really a part of this beautiful, goofy vision anymore that "Broad City" lays out.

  • 11:37:16

    PAGEYeah, Inkoo Kang, that's Inkoo Kang, she's chief TV critic with MTV News, and we're also joined by Eric Deggans, TV critic for NPR, and Jen Chaney, TV columnist for Vulture. We're going to take a short break, and when we come back, we're going to talk about some other shows that are coming up, what do they recommend, what is their must see show this fall. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:01

    PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking about the new TV season and some of the interesting and different kind of shows that are available on different kind of platforms. Joining us from Tampa is Eric Deggans, TV critic for NPR, from Oakland, Calif., Inkoo Kang, chief TV critic for MTV News. And with me here in the studio, Jen Chaney, TV columnist for Vulture.

  • 11:40:25

    PAGEYou know, several of you before the break mentioned a show called "Insecure." We have a clip from "Insecure." Let's listen to it.

  • 11:40:36

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORAs you glaze on, I can assure you that whatever it is you need to succeed, we gotcha. So do y'all have any questions? Don't be shy, guys. Fire away.

  • 11:40:46

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORWhy you talk like a white girl?

  • 11:40:49

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORYou caught me. I'm rocking black face. Any other questions?

  • 11:40:54

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORWhat's up with your hair?

  • 11:40:56

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORI don't know what you mean.

  • 11:40:57

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORMy cousin can put some tracks in it, unless you like it like that.

  • 11:41:00

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORYou rude. She African.

  • 11:41:04

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORWe're all from Africa, guys.

  • 11:41:05

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORAbsolutely. Let's stick to questions about the program.

  • 11:41:10

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORIs this what you always wanted to do?

  • 11:41:11

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORUh, no. I -- but I got this job after college and it fit my interests at the time.

  • 11:41:16

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORAre you single?

  • 11:41:17

    UNIDENTIFIED ACTORUh, I don't think that's appropriate.

  • 11:41:19

    PAGEInkoo, this is from the season premiere of "Insecure." Tell us what's going on with this scene.

  • 11:41:27

    KANGSo Issa Rae is a worker at an educational non-profit. And so she was trying to set up a really helpful after-school program for these high school kids in a, just a Spanish neighborhood in Los Angeles. And basically she was trying to get a read of the room, seeing what they need. And all -- of course, all the kids want to do is make fun of her. And so, you know, they make fun of her hair, they make fun of her -- they make fun of the way that she talks, etcetera.

  • 11:42:01

    PAGEAnd so this…

  • 11:42:02


  • 11:42:03

    PAGEI'm sorry, go ahead.

  • 11:42:04

    KANGNo, go ahead.

  • 11:42:04

    PAGEAnd so this is a show on HBO, right?

  • 11:42:07

    KANGIt is a show on HBO. And it's one of the very few black-driven shows on HBO, which is really refreshing.

  • 11:42:16

    PAGEYeah, so you like this show. What do you like about it?

  • 11:42:21

    KANGOh, what don't I love about this show? I think one of the things that things that just really speak to me, as a viewer, is that it's a show about female friendship that I don't really see very much. It's interesting that the first half of this hour was about "Broad City," which is another show about female friendship. Because they are actually quite rare. And the thing that I love about the relationship between the character of Issa and the character of Molly is that so much of their friendship is sort of culturally dependent, in a sense. And that they are both people who grew up in a not-so-great neighborhood in Los Angeles.

  • 11:43:02

    KANGAnd have sort of "made it" into a whiter world, meaning W-H-I-T-E-R. And they're sort of still toddling back and forth between their, I guess like, "blacker" selves and also their professional lives. And the fact that they are able to -- the fact that so much of their friendship is actually about that sort of cultural clash that they feel within the one city, that really spoke to me because it's something I could relate to as a person who also grew up in Los Angeles.

  • 11:43:39

    PAGESo we talked about -- when we were talking to Abbi Jacobson earlier in this hour, we got an email saying her show was often accused of being a show for girls. Here's an email from Dillon who says, "We were big fans of "30 Rock," when it was on. How much of an influence did Tina Fey and company have in ushering in the female voice in the mainstream media?" Was that a kind of breakthrough, Jen, do you think?

  • 11:44:03

    CHANEYI think that it was. And I think it was a breakthrough not only because Tina Fey is female, but also just in terms of that type of comedy. That show and I also think, "Arrested Development," which were very, very super fast, you had to really keep up. A lot of quick pop-culture reference type of jokes. You almost had to watch an episode twice to completely absorb all of the humor in it. And I think a lot of the really great comedies -- although now a lot of them are skewing more toward drama in a lot of ways.

  • 11:44:33

    CHANEYBut a lot of comedies since, and certainly "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," which is another Tina Fey show, they have that rapid fire you really have to pay close attention approach.

  • 11:44:42

    PAGEEric, I know that you mentioned that you like a show called "Atlanta," which is on FX, I think. What do you like about it? And tell us a little about it.

  • 11:44:51

    DEGGANSSure. Well, okay. So this is a show that was developed by Donald Glover who folks may remember from the NBC sitcom, "Community." And it's about these three guys in Atlanta. And they're all African-American. One of them is an up and coming rapper. Donald Glover plays a guy who wants to be his manager. And then they have a third guy who's kind of this dysfunctional friend.

  • 11:45:12

    DEGGANSAnd they're all having these adventures in Atlanta where essentially they're trying to get out of their hum-drum lives and build something for themselves in the music industry. And what it really is though is this comedy about young black men, at this point in time, and they're just being themselves. And that's the great thing also about "Insecure" on HBO. You know, I interviewed Issa Rae in Los Angeles a few months ago.

  • 11:45:38

    DEGGANSAnd she talked about how just creating a show about what she called basic black women is a revolutionary act in television. Because often when we see shows centered around black characters, you know, there's some sort of oppressive and huge thing attached to their race, you know, particularly if we're talking about like the slavery dramas, like "Underground" and things like that. They're great shows, but we don't get to see many shows where black people are just being people.

  • 11:46:08

    DEGGANSAnd living that life where you do sometimes -- sometimes race is a part of your life, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's just about wherever you're living, it's about the socioeconomic circumstances you find yourself in. And "Atlanta" and "Insecure" both sort of articulate that very well for black men and black women in different ways. And also "Atlanta" has this freedom that you also saw in another FX show, "Louie," where Louis CK had this show where, you know, one moment he would cast one actress as his sister and then you'd never see that actress again.

  • 11:46:41

    DEGGANSAnd he might cast somebody else as his brother. Whatever he wanted to do to sort of tell the story at hand he would do it. And Donald is doing a bit of that on "Atlanta" as well. And it's made the show very creative, very interesting, very unpredictable. One more thing I wanted to note to sort of go back to what we talked about earlier. I think one reason why we've seen these comedies be very explicit is because it's a generational thing.

  • 11:47:00

    DEGGANSAnd it's a way to sort of separate these comedies that are aimed at millennials and aimed at younger viewers away from the more traditional comedies that, you know, some of us have grown up with, like maybe "Friends" or "Seinfeld" or something like that. One way that "You Are The Worst" or "Board City" or "Girls" or "Insecure" or "Atlanta" can go places that shows before them haven't gone, is by being more explicit and really talking about life the way young people live it right now, which is a bit more explicit, I think, then maybe previous generations have lived it.

  • 11:47:32

    PAGEWell, we heard a clip from "Broad City" and one from "Insecure." Let's listen to a clip from "Atlanta," the show that you were just talking about.

  • 11:47:41

    DONALD GLOVERAre you gonna invite me?

  • 11:47:43


  • 11:47:43

    GLOVERWhy not?

  • 11:47:44

    ACTORI can't afford it.

  • 11:47:45

    GLOVERCome on, you really think I'm here for money.

  • 11:47:48

    ACTORWe do, yes.

  • 11:47:49

    GLOVERI'm looking for Alfred. Also, could you pick up Lottie (sp?) from Ki's (sp?) ? I'm getting a job and Van's on a date.

  • 11:47:53

    ACTORYou got a job?

  • 11:47:54

    ACTORReally? Good for her.

  • 11:47:56

    GLOVERYes, I got a job. And thanks, Mom. I'm your son, Earn. I used to live in there with you. Remember?

  • 11:48:03

    PAGESo Eric, tell us what's happening in this clip.

  • 11:48:06

    DEGGANSSo the character that Donald Glover plays, Earn Marks, dropped out of, I think, Princeton and is sort of scuffling to try and make his way. He has a daughter with a woman, with his girlfriend. And he's often asking his parents to watch his kid or loan him money. And so when he stops by the house to talk to them, they're on guard. They won't even let him in. And then there's a, you know, so -- and I think, again, you know, that's something that everybody can kind of relate to.

  • 11:48:38

    DEGGANSTrying to find your way, trying to establish yourself, trying to figure out if college is for you or not and then trying to survive if you're trying to find a way that's unconventional and different than maybe, you know, most people expected for you. And that's what Earn is facing as the show kind of kicks off.

  • 11:48:53

    PAGEYeah, let's go to the phones, let some of our listeners join our conversation. Rich is calling us from Cambridge, Md. Rich, hi, you're on the air.

  • 11:49:03

    RICHGood morning. I just want to take issue lightly with the suggestion that when you have a show that's -- has a creativity production team who are all women, that the result is a girl's show or a women's show. I love "Broad City." And I'm a 63-year-old male and I live out in the sticks on the Eastern Shore. You know, when you have women making a show about women, it enhances the honesty. And the honesty enhances humor. And humor is just funny, period.

  • 11:49:32

    PAGERich, that's a great -- great to hear. Thank you so much for your call. Let's go to John, calling us from Tulsa, Okla. John, hi.

  • 11:49:41

    JOHNGood morning. Thank you for taking my call. I wanted to ask -- and I really don't have an answer to this. What is the panel's take on the level of violence, physical violence, as portrayed on "The Walking Dead" season 7, as it's reflective of what's going on in our culture or as it's, you know, what's going on here? We can't even -- we're intimidated just to open the doors this Halloween to -- wondering about killer clowns. And we really have had clown violence here in Oklahoma. So what do you think about this latest rendition of physical violence on TV?

  • 11:50:19

    PAGEJohn, before we ask our panel, let me ask you, what do you think about it?

  • 11:50:23

    JOHNI think it's too much. I can't remember the mob film back in the day. I remember a scene where a guy hit the man in the head with a baseball bat and I just saw the blood going into the floor as an image of years ago. And it haunted me for so long. And I -- that's just -- that looks like a nursery rhyme compared to what we've just been exposed to with this episode. So I think it's destructive. I think it's -- where do we put the limits? I would put the limits back. I would say let's not look at this. I look at it as like a magic mirror that doesn't reflect, but it kind of leads us deeper into the darkness. And I don't really appreciate that about the level of violence that's…

  • 11:51:05

    PAGEJohn, that's so interesting. Thank you so much for your call and for giving us your perspective. Who on the panel would like to talk about that? About the level of violence on "The Walking Dead" and maybe on some other shows? Jen, how about you?

  • 11:51:19

    CHANEYWell, I have to confess that I watched "The Walking Dead" for several seasons and then I gave up on it because -- and it wasn't because of the violence so much. But it was because it just -- it was the relentless of it. There was just no chance they were ever going to, you know, be saved and that the zombie apocalypse would lift. And I just didn't -- I couldn't do it anymore. But, you know, after that episode on Sunday night, which everyone has been talking about, I was having an interesting conversation on Twitter. And I was just noticing that there's a divide.

  • 11:51:46

    CHANEYA lot of TV critics were saying, as I was saying, you know, I feel like I should start watching the show again because it's my job, but as a human being I have no desire to do that. But obviously there's, I mean, 17 million people watched that episode the other night. So I feel like there is a divide between -- there are some people who are still really committed to that show and a lot of people who aren't. And a lot of the people who aren't happen to be TV critics. So I don't know what that says about America, but probably something.

  • 11:52:12

    PAGEEric, what do you think?

  • 11:52:13

    DEGGANSWell, you know what's interesting to me about it. I'm a fan of both the books and the TV show. There's a graphic novel that the show's based on. And the graphic novel has always been much more brutal and much more explicit than the TV show has been. And the point of "The Walking Dead," the graphic novel, is that, you know, typical zombie movies who the zombie apocalypse kind of visiting the Earth. And then someone finds a way to solve it or someone finds a way to have some resolution. And then the story ends.

  • 11:52:46

    DEGGANS"The Walking Dead" starts at that point and says you have these characters that live in this world now. And how do they survive? And how do they keep their humanity alive? And that is a very sort of brutal, bruising prospect. And the show on television, I think, has turned a corner. And it is fully where the book is now, in terms of this is a punishing, unrelenting world. It's very explicitly violent and every viewer has to decide whether they want to experience that or not.

  • 11:53:19

    DEGGANSI'm not sure I want some FCC or some, you know, official, you know, body to come down and say, hey, "Walking Dead," you can't do this or you can't do that. I think the viewers are gonna decide whether or not they want to consume this story, where it's headed now. But for people who enjoy it or are interested in it, I think there's a sense that, you know, the gloves are off and the show is heading into the full implications of what it means to try to depict this world the way it might exist if you try to have an unfettered view of what a zombie apocalypse would be like and what it would be like to try and survive in that world.

  • 11:53:55

    DEGGANSAnd, you know, you can say that that's cool or not, but that's kind of what they're doing. The other thing I would say, I wanted to speak to the earlier caller. I do feel that by creating TV that's very specific to a culture, you also have a lot of commonality. So when you create a show that's very much about black culture, people can look at that and see a lot of common experience there. You know, I loved watching, for example, "The Godfather" or "Good Fellows" or shows that are kind of rooted in Italian culture in a way, even though I don't know a lot about it.

  • 11:54:24

    DEGGANSBecause I could see commonality between my life and theirs, but I also was learning something new about a culture I didn't know that well. And I think that's what's happening with these shows where, you know, women have taken control of them. We're seeing women deal with each other in a way that's very specific and very authenticate, but you also see the commonality about how people relate to each other. And that's what makes the show so interesting.

  • 11:54:45

    PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You know, we've been talking about shows that are Netflix and HBO and Comedy Central. How about good old network television? Are there any new shows this season or returning shows that you think are just really excellent and people ought to tune in on, something that has struck you? Inkoo, let me start with you. Is there anything you've been -- you really like?

  • 11:55:09

    KANG"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

  • 11:55:11


  • 11:55:12

    KANGYay. I think that that's a show that is -- has really had to run on all of its creative cylinders from the get-go and has just been doing that in possibly, wild ways. And I love that that (unintelligible) show that takes this outlandish premise of a grown woman who moves across the country to sort of be with her boyfriend from like her teenage years at camp. And (unintelligible) able to dive into what exactly her mental illness is and how it's been sort of hampering her life in these, like, very sad ways.

  • 11:55:58

    KANGAnd then to try to see why people are actually drawn to her as a colleague and as a friend, because it turns out that a lot of the people that she pulls into her life, into her new life in California are actually also damaged in particular ways, where they can really relate to her in ways that they can't relate to other people.

  • 11:56:19

    PAGEWe're almost out of time. Let me give Jen a chance to name a show that you think people ought to be tuning into.

  • 11:56:24

    CHANEYWell, as far as network shows that are brand new this fall, "The Good Place," on NBC. I think it's a very clever show. The premise is that Kristen Bell plays a character who goes to heaven, but has been -- there's been a mistake. And she's not a very nice person on Earth and she's trying to continue staying in heaven 'cause heaven's pretty great. And it's created by Mike Schur who did "Parks and Recreation" for NBC, Ted Danson is in it as well. But there's just a sense of world building, a cleverness, a smarts about that show that I really like.

  • 11:56:53

    PAGEEric, just quickly, what would you name?

  • 11:56:56

    DEGGANSThere's a show called "Pitch" on Fox. It's really good. About the first woman to compete in major league baseball. There's a show called, "This is Us," that's kind of like a family drama, with a twist. It's very well done, I think. And I'm surprised by "Designated Survivor." This drama that features Kiefer Sutherland as an unassuming guy who becomes president when almost every other person in government is killed.

  • 11:57:21

    PAGEEric, Inkoo, Jen, thank you so much for joining us. I'd add, "This is Us" is a show I've really liked this year. Although, it's not as good as "The Americans," which has got to be my favorite show on television. I want to thank you all for being with us this hour. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.

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