TV Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2016)

TitleUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Release Dates: 2016
Season: 2
Number of Episodes: 13

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is  the type of tv comedy that if you explain the premise it sounds like it would be absolutely awful, but somehow it works. In the first season Ellie Kemper’s titular character is rescued from an underground bunker where she’s been held for 15 years after being abducted as a child by a doomsday cult leader.  With the naivete of a child from the 90s in a woman’s body, she decides to move to New York where she successfully finds a place to live, a job, studies for a GED, and even finds love (although most of this falls apart by the end of the season).

In season 2, Kimmy’s characteristic cheerfulness and optimism begin to break as she’s unable to suppress the trauma of her childhood and the stress of trying to hold her new life together.  And yes, as I said above this is a comedy, but one that deals with deep and dark issues hilariously, in a manner that is just dense with jokes. Part of the success of the show is the ensemble cast of Kimmy’s friends and colleagues.

There are three standout characters.  Jane Krakowski plays the Manhattan socialite Jacqueline Voorhees having divorced on Kimmy’s advice is now trying to work her way back into wealth and power but with a nagging sense of conscience thanks to Kimmy.  Krakowski has always played funny characters in the past but she brings a lot of depth to Jacqueline who could otherwise easily be a vapid caricature.  Kimmy’s landlady Lillian Kaushtupper is played by Carol Kane who has a much bigger role in this season and just may be favorite character.  Throughout the season Lillian tries to stop gentrification in her neighborhood but only ends up making matters worse as incoming hipsters consider her charming local color.  Finally, a new character Andrea portrayed by show creator and writer Tina Fey is a straightlaced therapist by day and an obnoxious drunk.  Again, it’s a premise that sounds ridiculous, but Fey provides a realistic portrayal of addiction while keeping it funny, and provides a foil to Kimmy dealing with her own inner demons.

Not everything works. The episode “Kimmy Goes to a Play!” is a mean-spirited response to critics of the show who objected to casting a white actor as a Native American in the first season.  Kimmy finally consummates her relationship with on-again/off-again boyfriend Dong in episode 8, and then his character is deported and never mentioned again.  But overall this a sharp and unique comedy that will have you laughing but also keep you thinking.

Rating: ****

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