TV

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Takes on the World

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If you missed the buzz surrounding the recent release of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, here’s the deal: created by Robert Carlock (of 30 Rock fame) and Tina Fey (of Tina Fey fame), the show centers on 29-year-old Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) who is rescued from the bunker of a doomsday cult where she and three other women have been kept for fifteen years. Rather than continuing her life in Durnsville, Indiana after her rescue, Kimmy decides to start over in New York City.

The blurry text on this post is hiding spoilers for certain guest stars, but please be aware this is a review of the entire series, and will contain spoilers.

Kimmy’s first order of business in New York is finding a place to live, which proves a lot easier than one might expect. Lillian (Carol Kane) is looking for a tenant to share a basement apartment with the very dramatic, very gay aspiring actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and Kimmy stumbles across Lillian’s listing in a newspaper (no Internet in the Indiana doomsday bunker). Reluctant to share his living quarters at first, Titus relents when eviction is threatened and he realizes that Kimmy can actually pay the rent with the “Mole Women Relief Fund” money she was given. The friendship between Kimmy and Titus ends up being one of the cornerstones of the show, as we see Titus encourage Kimmy’s new endeavors and beg for information about her time in the bunker. A particularly touching moment between the two occurs when Titus walks Kimmy to her first GED class and acts the loving mother hen, placing an embarrassing hug on his friend.

The one-of-a-kind Titus, actor, singer extraordinaire.

The one-of-a-kind Titus, actor, singer extraordinaire.

When Kimmy’s backpack full of relief fund money is stolen during a night on the town with Titus, she reconsiders her life in New York. But a nannying job for the Vorhees family, headed by matriarch Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski, ladies and gentlemen), turns things around for Kimmy. Through Spirit Cycle classes and plastic surgery consultations, Kimmy soon moves beyond the help to become Jacqueline’s closest confidante.. Along with a hilarious cast of supporting characters, Kimmy, Lillian, Titus, and Jacqueline take viewers on a wild ride through the eyes of the laughably innocent and out-dated cult survivor.

Needless to say, I quite enjoyed watching the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. But, of course, no show is perfect from start to finish. So here are the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Kimmy.

The Good:

  • The theme song is probably the catchiest thing you will hear…maybe ever. The auto-tuned spoof of a neighbor commenting on the mole women’s release has pretty much been stuck in my head since I watched the first episode 5 days ago.
  • Ellie Kemper is back! We haven’t seen much of her since The Office and Bridesmaids but she’s back and superbly charming as the titular character, bringing the perfect blend of cluelessness and chutzpah that make Kimmy so loveable.
  • The score and comedic timing definitely lend a 30 Rock feel to Kimmy, so if there’s a 30 Rock-shaped hole in your heart, this might help.
  • Guest stars galore! [spoiler] Jon Hamm, Nick Kroll, Kiernan Shipka, Horatio Sanz, and plenty more light up the small screen in their guest roles.[/spoiler]
  • Titus. Andromedon. I could write a top ten list, maybe a top twenty list, of the best Titus moments from this season. He is absolutely pitch-perfect, never-miss-a-beat hilarious.

The Bad:

  • The theme song, while incredibly catchy, is just another instance of us essentially laughing at the way a poor black person talks. I wish I could ignore it, but I started to feel icky after watching it a few times.
  • Some of the storylines that touched on characters’ diversity, or the lack of these storylines, struck me as problematic. The revelation in an early episode that Jacqueline is actually Native American, but disowned her family and background to live as a white woman was pretty uncomfortable.
  • Maria, one of the women rescued from the bunker, is basically just used as a punchline whenever she’s on-screen. “Maria doesn’t speak English! Haha,” seemed to be the extent of her storyline.
  • This might have just been me, but the trial of Reverend Wayne Gary Wayne rubbed me the wrong way as well. The writers probably just wanted to express the incompetency of law enforcement/the justice system, but some of the scenes seemed to be using victim blaming as comedy. I think they should have treaded a little more lightly here.

The Ugly:

[spoiler]Martin Short[/spoiler]’s guest role in “Kimmy Goes to the Doctor!” is very, very ugly. His face, I mean, is ugly. Actually, terrifying might be a better word. Horrifying?

So Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt isn’t perfect. But its refreshing take on the “small-town-girl-takes-the-big-city” trope is hilarious, heartfelt, and definitely worth 6.5 hours of your time.

Finally, for your viewing and listening pleasure, the opening theme as it appears on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt:

YOUR TURN

Have you watched the show yet? What’s your take on the trope? Do you think NBC made a mistake letting it go to Netflix? Sound off in the comments!

2 Comments

  1. politicaljunk92

    March 13, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    I really appreciate this commentary, it raises some of the issues that struck me about the show. I blasted through the episodes in a few days, so it probably goes without say that I enjoyed it.The main character reminds me of Leslie from Parks and Rec. She brings some of the same unapologetic positivity and optimism to the story.

    Like you, I didn’t enjoy the last few episodes as much, probably due to a combination of the victim blaming and jokes that just weren’t as funny. I also found the way the show deals with race fairly problematic. I liked that they had such diverse characters, but I didn’t like that those characters were heavily based on white stereotypes about those types of people (ie Dong and his immigration issues).

    [Minor spoilers for final few episodes]

    It was also pretty ironic (in an icky uncomfortable way) that they made a joke about First Nations people being forced to see themselves played by Mexicans on tv, when as far as I can tell, the actress who plays Jacqueline has no First Nations ancestry at all (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    Still, I really enjoyed the show in general. Highly recommended if you’re looking for something to fill the Parks and Rec shaped hole in your tv time! Here’s hoping they can work on some of those issues if they get a season 2.

    • Whitney

      March 27, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Thanks for the comment! I totally agree with you. The show was very enjoyable, but sometimes I had to suspend the ickiness I felt to enjoy it. Since I’m mourning Parks and Rec, this WAS a nice way to fill that time.

      Also, I just looked up Jane Krakowski, who plays Jacqueline, and she appears to have no First Nations ancestry. Her IMDB page says she is Polish, French-Canadian, Scottish, and more Polish.

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