Sunday, 17 April 2016

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Review (Netflix)

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the newest project by comedy frontrunner Tina Fey (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, Mean Girls) and Robert Carlock (Friends, 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live) . Originally ordered straight-to-series by NBC in 2013, the series was sold to Netflix and picked up for an additional second season.

Description: Kidnapped as a teenager, Kimmy spent 15 years in a cult, surrounded by four other girls of her age, thinking she was one of the few survivors of the Apocalypse. The day she is finally released, it’s a whole new world that opens up to her, filled with infinite possibilities and many first times. Before her dazzled and innocent eyes, New York is gigantic and it’s the place where she is determined to rebuild her life, even if she has no idea what she wants to do next…

Firstly, I am a huge fan of sitcoms (obviously) and I absolutely love zany, unusual and quirky characters and premises. At first glance, the premise for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is entirely original and like nothing we have ever seen in what was originally intended as a half-hour primetime sitcom. The premise of a young female being kidnapped and kept hostage for years only to be rescued by an unlikely Black male hero mirrors the Ariel Castro kidnappings case, the old school underground bunker and extremely religious Richard Wayne Gary Wayne may be likened to the Amish trend. Even the show’s theme songs is a copy of all those viral news clips featuring black people giving hilarious recounts of events, only to be auto-tuned and re-edited into a somewhat annoying yet catchy tune.

While all these factors would appear to create a completely original show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is not original. At all. The show literally is a re-telling of Will Ferrell’s Christmas comedy Elf. An optimistic, positive and childish individual leaves the life they have been accustomed to start anew in New York. Think about it, how many TV shows and films follow the same fish-out-of-water premise we have seen before? How many times have these individuals landed in the mean streets of New York? If you’ve seen ABC’s short lived sitcom Don’t Trust The B---- In Apartment 23, you’ve basically seen Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. An optimistic woman (June/Kimmy) moves to (you guessed it) New York to have a fresh start! But wait, there’s more! Both Kimmy and June move into apartments with shady roommates who have ulterior motives against our protagonists. In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus, an extremely camp gay black man (aka Luther) is struggling to become a broadway star who tells Kimmy to leave New York and to go back to Indiana because of how tough New York is (just like Chloe told June to leave New York in DTTBIA23).

Kimmy doesn’t give up! (if she did, there wouldn’t be a show) and manages to get a job as a babysitter for a rich manhattanite – Jacqueline Vorhees (Jane Krakowski). In my opinion, Krakowski is gravely miscast in the role. Mrs Voorhees is one of the only characters to have funny one-liners which are often lost in Krakowski’s dull delivery and lack of emotive facial expression. If Krakowski was going for the ice queen approach, she totally failed at that too. Maybe Vanessa Williams would have been better in the role

It may appear as though I hate Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I don’t. I have made comparisons to one of my favourite movies and TV shows of all time. My main issue with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the way which every fish-out-of-water joke, every time Kimmy is bemused by selfies, societies obsession with large butts, Katy Perry lyrics, outdated pop culture references is not exclusive to the show itself. The same jokes could be copied and pasted into so many variations of this sitcom. For instance:

  • “A woman named Kimmy Schmidt is transported back in time from the year 3000 to 2015 and must start life over in New York”,
  • “Kimmy Schmidt is transported forward in time from the year 1900 to 2015 and must start life over while trying to come to terms to modern society.
  • “Kimmy Schmidt comes from an obscure village in an Eastern European country and starts life over in New York”.

For the first four episodes, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt depends on jokes which are so insignificant and predictable, the show struggles to live up to its potential. However, all is not lost! From episode five, in which Kimmy is visited by Cyndee, one of her fellow former mole-women, the flashbacks to Kimmy’s time in the bunker, her interactions with Cyndee who is dating her middle-school crush Brandon and clearly hasn’t made any attempts to move on with her life, breathes fresh air into the show. We then begin to realise how different Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt can be. How unbreakable her spirit truly is, how innocent her train of thought is, such as her relationship with illegal immigrant/mathematician Dong. Plus, Kimmy has a boldness which she doesn’t even know she posess and inspiring she is not only to others, but also herself! The season finale is also noteworthy due to Tina Fey's guest starring role in what can only be described as an low-key spoof of the O.J. Simpson trial. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt shines when it deviates from predictable sitcom jokes and tropes and instead delves head first into its unique premise. Unfortunately, the first four episodes are dire but it does get better! I promise! Luckily for us, we now have the power of streaming so I recommend you skip those episodes to save yourself from the second hand embarrassment.

It is only when the show focuses more on life in the bunker and how Kimmy has moved on while also placing focus on the other mole-women, Kimmy’s step-father and half-sister and the criminal trial of Richard Wayne Gary Wayne does the show truly become unbreakable!

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