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Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 1

Titus (Tituss Burgess) and Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) take on New York City. ©Netflix

Ellie Kemper leads a talented, diverse cast in the latest original comedy series to arrive on Netflix UK. The result? A quirky and hilarious show that will brighten even the dullest of spring days.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

The series follows Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), a small-town girl from Indiana, as she chases her dreams in the Big Apple. Sound familiar? Well, Kimmy’s story has a twist: she’s spent the past fifteen years in an underground bunker as part of a bizarre doomsday cult, made to believe that the apocalypse has already happened. This might sound like a dark premise, but under the leadership of executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (30 Rock), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt somehow manages to keep the tone light and the laughs coming.

As Kimmy throws herself into her new life above ground with infectious enthusiasm, she soon finds herself sharing an apartment with wannabe Broadway star Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and working as an assistant for filthy rich socialite Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). What happens next is a combination of kooky capers as Kimmy grows accustomed to the twenty-first century- her endearingly sincere delivery of lines such as “Hash brown: no filter” provoke many a chuckle- and a refreshingly positive portrayal of life after abuse.

It’s here that Unbreakable makes its mark as something special. While the series cleverly riffs on the public’s morbid obsession with crimes against humanity, Kimmy never allows people to label her as a victim. In fact, she shakes it off with a verve and determination that makes her inherently likeable from the start.

 “Life beats you up. You can either curl up in a ball and die, or you can stand up and say we’re different. We’re the strong ones, and you can’t break us!”  – Kimmy Schmidt

As a fledgling series, there are obviously some kinks to iron out. For instance, a subplot in which Jacqueline- the walking embodiment of #whitepeopleproblems- turns out to be a Native American woman passing for white is somewhat difficult to swallow. Perhaps this is intended to be an ironic, ultra-progressive subversion of racial politics, but with a white actress playing the role it just doesn’t quite land.

Where Unbreakable does hit closer to the mark is in its gleeful send-up of American popular culture. From selfies to surgery, we see through Kimmy’s eyes all that is ludicrous about today’s world and find ourselves loving every second. It’s the little touches to look out for here: teens communicating solely by emojis, the opening titles’ homage to viral autotuned news videos and Kimmy’s triumphant proclamation that ‘Dancing is about butts now!’ are just a few moments in which the series exhibits the trademark self-awareness that made 30 Rock a cult success. The parodies aren’t exactly subtle, and they don’t land every time, but they’re certainly bold and irresistibly funny.

Unbreakable’s real lasting legacy lies in its core ensemble of loveable characters. Burgess steals the show with his flamboyant portrayal of Titus, providing most of the series’ laugh out loud moments- the DIY video for his original song ‘Pinot Noir’ is genius- and Kemper shines as the irrepressible Kimmy, imbuing her performance with an energy that endears without becoming irritating. Krakowski effortlessly nails the role of a deluded society wife, while Carol Kane provides stellar support as brash and big-hearted landlady Lillian.

Overall, if you’re in need of a shot of positivity to get you through the final months of deadlines- or you just want to watch something new- Unbreakable is a definite must. The balance between zany sitcom and tongue-in-cheek social commentary is just right: hidden inside its sugary shell, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt holds a sharp and effective satire that still tastes sweet.

PS: You’ll have the theme tune in your head for weeks. But it’s so good that you really won’t mind. ‘Cause females are strong as hell…

Watch if you love:

30 Rock

Parks and Recreation


Bingeability: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★