TV Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2019)

TitleUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Release Dates: 2019
Season: 4, part 2
Number of Episodes: 6

The final six episodes of the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are technically part of the 4th season, but tonaly are different from the six episodes released last summer.  I was disappointed by the mediocrity of the first half of season 4, but the final 6 are something of a return to form.  Perhaps it’s not as strong as the series was in its first three season, but they’ve avoided the unfunny mean-spiritedness that marred last summer’s episodes. A highlight of the season is an episode that parodies the movie Sliding Doors and shows all the characters’ alternate lives in a way that’s funny and actual develops the characters too.  All in all, this is a satisfactory farewell to a great tv show that may have overstayed its welcome.

Previously Reviewed:

TV Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2018)

TitleUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Release Dates: 2018
Season: 4, part 1
Number of Episodes: 6

Netflix recently released 6 episodes of what it says will be the 4th and final season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (another 7 episodes will be released in January 2019).  While not quite Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, the half-season definitely has the feel of a contractual obligation rather than hilarious and insightful comedy of the first three seasons. Very little in these episodes made me laugh and the social commentary is smug rather than observant.

A key theme of the season thus far is women’s rights and sexual harassment, which is very topical, but the humor is done poorly.  For example, in the first episode, Kimmy in her new HR job tries to fire a male employee in a “friendly way” that comes off in classic sexual harassment tropes.  The joke completely misses the mark and is doubly unfunny since it doesn’t recognize Kimmy’s own history of sexual abuse by the Reverend.  Speaking of the Reverend, he returns in the third episode, a laugh-free parody of a cheap documentary by a famed DJ who looks to the Reverend as a hero, and eventually turns the documentary into a mens’ rights crusade.  As much as people (rightly) like John Hamm, the biggest mistake of this series is having the Reverend character return after the first season.

In other plotlines, there is a continuing mean spirited line of jokes about nerds (because punching down makes good satire?) which culminates in the punchline of Titus saying that nerds are actually real people with real feelings.  Titus, Jacqueline, and Lillian seem to be treading water through these episodes which is disappointing since they’re all portrayed by wonderful actors who have brought so much growth to these characters over three seasons.  It’s unfair to reduce them to caricatures of themselves at this point.

Tina Fey’s previous serious 30 Rock hit a low point before recovering and finishing strong in it’s final season.  One hopes that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt can accomplish the same feat in a more compressed time period.

Rating: *1/2

Previously Reviewed:

TV Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2017)

Title:  Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Release Dates: 2017
Season: 3
Number of Episodes: 13
Summary/Review: The third season of the Netflix comedy series continues to be laugh out loud funny and thought-provoking.  Despite having her name in the title, at this point the show is about more than Kimmy Schmidt, but equally the stories of four major characters.  Kimmy continues to seek her place in the world attending college at Columbia University, but really wants to become a crossing guard after a test says it’s her most suitable job.  She finds a new romantic interest in Perry (Daveed Diggs) but her past with the Reverend (John Hamm) continues to haunt her.  Titus (Titus Burgess) returns from performing on a cruise ship unwilling to talk about what happened there and breaks up with Mikey (Mike Carlsen) in a ploy to win him over that backfires.  Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) continues to use her privilege for good and attempt to get the Washington Redskins to change their racist name, but hits a snag when an accident makes her fiance Russ (David Cross) more handsome causing him to become more shallow.  Lillian (Carol Kane) becomes a city councilor fighting gentrification, but ends up falling for Artie (Peter Riegert), the owner of the new high-end grocery store in the neighborhood.

There are a lot of funny plots and gags, but not everything goes well.  One of the most publicized gags of the season is Titus “Lemonading” but there seems to be no joke here other than a large, black man reenacting Beyonce’s music video.  There have been times in the past when I’ve wondered if Tina Fey is secretly Republican and that continues here.  The depiction of Columbia University students as social justice warriors who suppress free speech comes straight from Fox News and Breitbart.  Artie is presented as a compassionate millionaire bringing groceries to the poor and Lillian a loony leftist (although I do appreciate Reigert’s performance with his charm and dry humor).  On the other hand, the attempt to depict the NFL team owners as rightwing loons also misses the mark, so maybe Fey just can’t do political humor without being ridiculous and over the top.

All the same, I love these characters and their stories.  Excluding the “Lemonade” gag, Titus Burgess remains one of the funnies people on tv.  I look forward to seeing where the show goes in its next season.

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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: ****