Friday, 15 April 2016

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

In recent times, our screens have shown us dark stories of captivity. The BBC’s recent series Thirteen told a harrowing tale of a young woman escaping a cellar after 13 years, while the Oscar-winning Room was an extremely moving tale of survival and adjusting to life outside after being released from a room after 7 years. These stories are upsetting and difficult to watch, made all the more harrowing by the fact this stuff actually happens. It is horrible what happens in this world. But as the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt opening theme says, ‘females are strong as hell’! And there’s enough darkness in this world without having to see it on screen too. So, Netflix launched a sitcom(!) about one of these women.


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt tells the story of, well, Kimmy Schmidt. After being rescued from a doomsday cult where she and three other women were held captive for 15 years in a bunker with no technology, Kimmy finds herself alone in New York City. Armed only with her positive attitude, she quickly befriends a strange set of people and slowly adapts to an unfamiliar world. This is the complete first season of the show, launched on Netflix back at the start of 2015 and out now on DVD.


Ellie Kemper is an actress I’ve always loved. Known mainly for her role as Erin in The Office, Kemper is an inherently sweet woman who brings a wonderful childlike innocence and joy to all of her roles – something that is absolutely perfect for Kimmy Schmidt. The show begins as a somewhat fish-out-of-water story, with the endearingly positive Kimmy not letting anything get her down as she tries to adjust to big city life. After finding a roommate in the flamboyant Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and a friend in their streetwise landlady Lillian (Carol Kaye), all Kimmy needs is a job. She quickly gains a job as a nanny for the out-of-touch socialite Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski), who becomes the final main character in this ensemble. For 13 episodes, we watch as these quirky characters interact with each other and the world around them – and you know what? I really liked it.

For some reason, there seems to be some sexuality stigma attached to this show. When reading reviews online, I’ve frequently seen things like “I’m a straight male and I loved it” thrown around. For me, this is something that is completely irrelevant and so telling of our times. Why does that matter? Because the protagonist is a female? Or because the main male character is gay? If you loved it, great! You’d be a fool to not like it. It’s difficult to resist it. Watching it, I was frequently reminded of the great Arrested Development. The style, music, quirky characters and hidden running jokes made it endlessly entertaining as well as rewatchable. But if you’re unfamiliar with this kind of style, it might take a few episodes to get into Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s extremely quick, with jokes being fired at you as if out of a Gatling gun. The cast are all superb and have fantastic chemistry together, especially Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess.

Narratively, there are a few subplots that don’t work as well as others. Being an ensemble sitcom, each of the characters are given multiple stories throughout. Some are hilarious, and some aren’t. And unfortunately, the show takes a pretty big quality dip toward the end. The closing episodes, based around the trial of Kimmy’s captor (played by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm), don’t have the same charm as the rest - although special mention should be made to a spot-on spoof of O.J. Simpson prosecutors Marcia Clark and Chris Darden, portrayed by Tina Fey and Jerry Minor. If you’ve ever had an interest in the Simpson case, or are watching the incredible American Crime Story series – this stuff will make you laugh. Other cameos include Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris as an acting coach who must train the openly gay Titus to play ‘straight roles’. Without giving anything away, this episode ends with a restaurant full of people gleefully cheering that there won’t be a sequel to the dreadful Entourage movie. Brilliant.


It’s rather difficult to review a 13-episode comedy series in such few words, but I can honestly say Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt vastly exceeded my expectations. Not expecting a huge deal from it and watching it purely for Kemper, I laughed a lot more than I anticipated and binged through the lot in a few days. With the second season launching on Netflix in April with a third season confirmed for the future, now is the perfect time to catch up with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is an endlessly charming and sweet little show that could just grow to be the next big thing. 4/5.

★★★★☆


Sam Love


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