Available on: Netflix
Last Friday April 15th saw the debut of series 2 of one of the flagship shows of the Netflix brand, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so for many the weekend was no doubt filled with binge watching of series 1 as a refresher before diving into the new episodes. Created by the comedic pairing of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the series follows the trials and tribulations of the titular Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) as she adjusts to life in a whole new world after spending 15 years trapped in an underground bunker by doomsday cult leader, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm). Series 1 debuted in March 2015 and was a rating hit, as well as receiving critical acclaim for its witty writing and strong cast, with Kemper in particular praised for her performance as the ever positive Kimmy.
The show has not escaped criticism however. Its first series caused controversy when one of its episodes featured an eccentric, unusual looking plastic surgeon by the name of Dr. Grant (Martin Short). Dr. Grant was so heavily Botoxed that it affected his ability to speak properly and resulted in him pronouncing his name as “Dr.Franff”. Taking it on face value, you might be wondering what is so controversial about that? But, Dr. Franff was thought to be based on famous dermatologist Fredric Brandt who was widely know for his unusual appearance. Brandt was found dead in his apartment from an apparent suicide , just 2 weeks after the show premiered. While it is now known that Brandt suffered with depression prior to the debut of the show, the old saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” has probably been proved wrong in this case. But controversy aside, anyone who is a fan of Tina Feys previous work will know that she is a fiercely outspoken critic of the new “PC culture”, and unafraid to find the comedy in any situation. It is this that makes shows such as Kimmy a hit. The bravery of the writers in pushing the boundaries makes us feel brave enough to laugh along with it.
It has been over a year since we last saw Kimmy and her colorful bunch of supporting characters. Kemper is once again brilliant (if a little over powering at times) as Kimmy, portraying her once again with her trademark spunky determination in the face of a world she doesn’t truly understand having missed out on so much of it while trapped in the bunker. For the first half of the season she appears largely as a support character among the principal characters in her own show, (the stories of Jacqueline (Jane Krawoski) and Titus (Tituss Burgess) take lots of the spotlight), with her will-they-wont-they flirtation with the now married Dong (Ki Hong Lee) and a brief flirtation with an ex soldier named Keith (Sam Page) taking up much of her time. But the second half of the series really develops her character. Through binge drinking therapist Andrea (played by Fey herself), we delve deeper into the mind of Kimmy, finding that her sunny personality and constant need to put others first stems from her own feelings of resentment and anger towards her mother Lori-Ann (Lisa Kudrow), who she feels abandoned her. Kudrow was an inspired chose for the roller coaster addicted Lori-Ann, and though we only see her briefly, Friends fans will no doubt feel nostalgic for Phoebe Buffay.
The breakout star of the first seeris was undoubtedly Tituss Burgess, bringing humor and drama in equal measure to the self obsessed, Titus Andromedon. The series sees him divorce ex wife Vonda, and find love with burly construction worker Mikey, who has recently realized he is gay and is not fully out of the closet to his family and work colleagues. This results in some of the funniest moments in the series, with Titus trying to butch up around Mikeys friends, as well as an awkward but hilarious meeting-the-family-for-the-first-time scene. Titus and Mikey are like chalk and cheese, but the show succeeds in showing that when it comes to being gay, there is more than one way. Also look out for Titus’ hilarious one man show “Kimono you didn’t”, based on one of his past lives as a geisha called Murasaki. It is both hilarious and pokes fun at the shows critics in the form of a group of Asian protesters who don’t know quite why they are protesting.
The first episode deals with Jacquelines mission from last season to get more in touch with her Native American roots. This mission is short lived as she quickly returns to Manhattan and resumes her self absorbed ways, only this time, she is divorced and “penniless”(having only received $12 million in the divorce settlement), and she spends the majority of the series trying to claw back some respect in a world that sees her as washed up. Jane Krakowski once again shines, getting many of the best one liners and her grappling with fellow socialite Denise Robbespierre (a wickedly funny Anna Camp) for the position of head bitch is hilarious. The writers have also attempted to soften her character this time around, as Kimmy quits her job as nanny to Buckley, forcing Jacqueline to learn to be a parent to her child for the first time. Also, as a result of the divorce, Jacquelines bratty step daughter Xan (Dylan Gerula) has been shipped back to live with her real mother. Thankfully, she only appears once in series two, as despite being in a show with some zany and over the top performances, Gerulas over acting grates, to the point that I feel nothing but annoyed by her character. Sadly, in her place we get a new sidekick for Jacqueline in the form of Mimi Kanasis (Amy Sedaris). Shes shrill and unfunny and when she is shoved into a closet mid season, I was praying shed never come out again.
Lillian, played by the exceptionally talented Carol Kane, is once again brilliant, but also short changed in terms of story line. Her main mission of the series is to fight gentrification in her neighborhood, bashing stereo-typical hipster invaders and handcuffing herself to construction machinery in protest. While she has many memorable one liners, boosted by Kanes spirited, cooky performance, there is something missing that doesn’t give the character the level of presence she had in the first series.
Overall, the series is strong, but there is no denying that some of the shine and novelty that came with the first series has been wiped away slightly. The first season was planned for a network release and as such adhered to the standard 22/23 minute episode length. This time around, the episodes are longer, with some running over 30 minutes, which works for some episodes, but drags for others. This, mixed with the fact that some annoying characters are introduced and one or two of the core characters are under used, is really the only negative. The majority of the performances are strong, and many of the jokes and one liners are hilarious, poking fun at everybody from Kim and Kanye to Donald Trump. And the closing scene of the series (featuring a cameo from Jon Hamm) is delivered to whet the appetite for Season 3, which was confirmed in January of this year. It would appear that Kimmy Schmidt, for the time being at least, will remain unbreakable!
Stand out episode: Episode 11, Kimmy meets a celebrity– Episode 11 features an appearance by Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Dave, a clear send up of Dr. Phil. He has a a day time show featuring a host of wacky characters, such as the lady who spent there days trapped in a well and now runs a charity travelling the country dropping beef sandwiches down wells, twins who were joined at the crotch before separation where one resents the other for getting the genitals, and a woman who was eaten and s**t out by a dolphin.
Some Memorable Quotes:
“Nothing I ever do is good enough for this family. I feel like Rob Kardashian”- Jacqueline
“After all these years, I still can’t throw out my late husbands clothes. And not just because I wear them to collect his disability cheques”- Lillian
“I went to a play date once where the kids got to run the Greek economy”- Jacqueline
“We miss you Biggie, your name represented your spirit, as well as your morbid obesity”- Lillian
“Now that is what I call a MILF…My Interesting Lady Friend”- Kimmy
“Hey Princess, are you a high chair? Cause I wanna put a baby in you”- Mikey
“Sonya could be anywhere, but first lets check the last two places she was asked to leave. You check the zoo, and I’ll check Maggie Gyllenhaals porch”- Dong
“Would you look at the size of this place, a Wall Street fella could really kill a lady in here”- Lillian
“If we gave time off to everyone with a sick penis, there would be nobody here. Least of all me”- Titus
“No,anger is bad and ugly, it’s the opposite of who I want to be. So I don’t get pissed off…I get pissed on!”- Kimmy