What the End of ‘Broad City’ Says About the Trend of Quitting While Ahead

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Last April, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the creators, writers and stars of Comedy Central’s Broad City announced that the fifth season, slated to air on January 24th of this year, would be the show’s last in spite of its successful stats — the show averages 1.2 million viewers per episode and has consistently won awards season after season since its launch in 2014.

In an interview with the New York Times that ran last Thursday, Glazer and Jacobson explained their ending. “Before, part of the joke was, ha ha, these white girls don’t have to grow. Because in your early 20s, you’re the same idiot, over and over and over again. And then Season 4, we couldn’t help but grow because we were so angry and disgusted with ourselves,” Glazer said, adding, “We needed to set these personal and creative boundaries, to keep the show as high-quality as it remains. That takes a limb. It takes an entire arm. I’ve got no limbs left. My head’s cut off on the fifth [season]. I’ve got nothing left to give. There’s just a torso on the floor.”

The interview goes on to share some information on the creative pursuits that will follow, peppering in more elaborate details on precisely why Broad City couldn’t make sense past a season 5, but more interesting than the isolated anecdote of their show’s end is the seeming power play — and trend — of an elective shutdown.

In November of last year, Tavi Gevinson announced that she would be closing Rookie because it was no longer “financially sustainable,” but then again — she wrote, “it is my decision—to not do the things that might make it financially sustainable, like selling it to new owners, taking money from investors, or asking readers for donations or subscriptions.”

In July 2017, Business of Fashion announced that Paris’ Colette, largely lauded for having carved the way for the concept shop, would be closing the following December in spite of reported earnings to the tune of $20 million. In an Instagram caption, Colette’s creative director and the daughter of founder, Colette Roussaux wrote, “Colette Roussaux has reached the time when she would like to take her time; and Colette cannot exist without Colette.”

There are a handful of at-will cessations that are couched between these three and no doubt many more will follow as the dust continues to swirl. Maybe I’m surprised because I have always believed that if it ain’t broke and you don’t have to fix it, certainly you shouldn’t end it either. But this admittedly uneven sample size (comprised of a website which is different from a television show, which is even more distinctly different from a boutique) is brought together by the common pursuit of creative purity, and perhaps this purity requires the preservation of agency and ego — that is, the ability to end it before it ends them — in order to move on.

Do I expect too much when I assume that if a creative entity is prized, successful, capable of persisting by any account, it should go on? It is inevitable, of course, that a television show will end (Law & Order is the exception, not the rule), but when a store or a digital media property voluntarily closes, is that a sign of surrender or power? Maybe it’s neither — just a sign of the times. An inkling of change that suggests what English author Geoffery Chaucer has been saying all along: All good things must come to an end.

I’m not sure! But we plan to stick around to find out.

Photo by ©Comedy Central / Courtesy via Everett Collection.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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