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The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Review
Two years ago, 30 Rock ended a pretty fruitful run on NBC. The show was overall good, and it ended just as the show was beginning to wear out its welcome. With a popular show now over, the time to create something new is appropriate.
The premise of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is certainly unique. Kimmy Schmidt has been kept in a bunker for several years by a zealot who convinced her and several women that the world had ended. Kimmy and the other women have been freed, and Kimmy now has to re-enter the real world of New York City. Having spent several years in a bunker, Kimmy has no social skills and little education. She moves into an apartment with Titus Andromedon, a flamboyantly gay actor with Broadway aspirations. Her landlady is Lillian Klaushtupper, a world-wary foreigner. Kimmy is shortly able to find a job as a servant for Jacqueline Voorhees, a wealthy socialite. With no social skills from living in a bunker for fifteen years, Kimmy has to adapt to the world around her which also includes earning her high school diploma. It is very much a fish-out-of water tale, but with a very clever spin
If a first-time viewer were not told The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt were from the same creative team as 30 Rock, anyone familiar with that show would likely still figure it out. The humor is definitely in the same vein with irreverent humor, pop culture gags, and bizarre character gags. Sadly, Tina Fey and company never quite shook some of the bad habits from their 30 Rock days. There are some awkward jokes, payoffs that are a little too obvious, jokes that are practically spelled out for the audience, and not all the pop culture references work. (Get it? Back in high school, Titus has hair like Kid from Kid N Play because that was a thing.)
Even if there are a few jokes that fall flat, most of the jokes do hit. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud gems of comedy gold that are too good to give away. Like a lot of modern sitcoms, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt does rely on cutaway gags. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt features one of the better uses of this trope. The cutaway gags are more than just jokes throwaway jokes, they actually help flesh out Kimmy's backstory - especially her life in the bunker. Some of the jokes about internet memes and viral seem like they were written by people who do not understand how that sort of thing works. The jokes about going viral are actually incorporated into the theme song - an obvious spoof of The Bed Intruder Song. However, this works as the theme is one of the most catchy ear worms any show has had as a theme in a while. (Then again, it's one of the only themes on ANY show in a long while!)
Much like on 30 Rock, characters are a big draw on this show. One can not help but watch this show and think "By George, these are the roles these actors were born to play." As the eponymous Kimmy Schmidt, Ellie Kempler has a lovable, almost childlike likability combined with a naivete. Her lack of intelligence and world experience is justifiable since the character has been held in a bunker for years and simply does not know better. Her life essentially stopped in middle school so one can understand why she still looks to the Babysitters Club for moral guidance. Also, Kempler plays the character with such youthful innocence, that it is hard not to like her bubbly, optimistic attitude.
Tituss Burgess plays Titus Andromedon, a flamboyantly gay actor who not only wants to be on Broadway, but incorporates Broadway flair into his everyday life. Although Titus does come off like a stereotype, but the character is just so goofy, lovable and funny that he does endear himself as one of the most fun characters on the show. Burgess himself is clearly having the time of his life, playing a character who randomly breaks out into song and has to take lessons on how to be straight.
Jane Krakowski plays Jacqueline Voorhees, a Manhattan millionaire who does not stray too far from Jenna Marone. After all, it is easy to imagine Jenna having plastic surgery done because she believes looking good will lead to good health. However it is hard to imagine anyone else playing this part. After all, who else could be snooty enough that she could still be likable and funny in just how stuck up she is. Carol Kane rounds out the main cast as Lillian Kaushtupper, Kimmy's landlord. She may not be as memorable as the other lead characters, but she does have a funny line and a golden moment here and there, making her a welcome addition to the cast.
The main cast is rounded out by a plethora of supporting characters including Jacqueline's family of stuck-up eccentrics. Kimmy has two love interests in the first season (one of the main story arcs) including Dong - an Asian American Kimmy meets in her GED class - and Logan - a socialite Kimmy meets on the job. Jon Hamm pops up in a few episodes as the diabolically charismatic reverend who held Kimmy and the other girls captive for fifteen years. Even creator Tina Fey drops in as one of the comically inept legal team fighting said reverend. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt takes place in a world where everyone is a little crazy, they are all just a different shade of odd.
The first season contains 13 episodes. This proves to be an ideal number for the series. It is enough enough episodes to satisfy our appetites, but not too many that the series finds itself going to the same wells over and over. With 13 episodes, Unbreakable falls into the quality over quantity practice. Okay, not every episode is a slam dunk. There was a so-so episode or two, but every episode was at least watchable. Surprisingly, one of the weaker episodes is the pilot. The point of any pilot is to set up the characters and introduce the story of the show. The pilot for The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt just comes off as a little mechanical in this goal, and the humor is not quite as on point as the rest of the season.The pilot was good enough to spark my interest, but it is one of the weaker episodes in the lineup. Even with the few episodes that were only okay, none of the episodes felt like filler.
There is a surprising amount of story in the first season as Kimmy enrolls in school, finds herself in a love triangle and even goes to trial for the reverend who held her captive. Some of the story arcs - especially Kimmy's battle with the reverend come off as though they could have been fleshed out a little more, but maybe there will be more developments in season 2. Also, some of the story arcs felt like ideas that maybe should have been saved for later such as Jacqueline divorcing her husband, but again, we can see how that will play out in later seasons.
Speaking of season 2, this first season definitely left me optimistic for a second season. One of the great things about the show being on Netflix is that anyone with Netflix can just start the show and watch every episode at their own leisure. With how good the show is, viewers should not be surprised if they go through the episodes rather quickly. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is not only recommended to fans of 30 Rock but to anyone who wants a few good laughs.
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