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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt… Netflix’s next cult hit?

Posted on March 13th, 2015
Posted on March 13th, 2015

by Coop Cooper

Netflix once again challenges network and cable TV with a potential new cult classic, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and all thirteen episodes have been released at once through the Netflix Instant online service.

After being saved from a doomsday cult which has been living in an underground bunker for fifteen years, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) attempts to adjust to her new life on the outside. After a humiliating Today Show interview, she has an epiphany that she should start over, live in New York City and learn the ways of the modern world. She uses her settlement money to find an apartment tended by a sleazy, yet goodhearted landlord (Carol Kane) and moves in with a black, gay, desperate Broadway wannabe (Tituss Burgess). Through happenstance she gets a job as a nanny for the spoiled rotten kids of a clueless and vapid Manhattan socialite (Jane Krakowski), all while trying to keep her past as a ‘Mole Woman’ cultist a secret.

Believe it or not, this is a zany, sometimes surreal comedy. Even more strange is that Netflix acquired this property after NBC rejected it as a mid-season replacement. It is also created and written by Tina Fey which was probably the impetus for Netflix snapping up the property. Each episode is a brisk 20-25 minutes long and the jokes, references and gags fly at a rapid pace.

Here are a few things the show has going for it… Endless 90’s references (Kimmy has no knowledge of the world after 1998), current pop-culture references like on-the-scene news interviews auto-tuned into music videos, the hilariously shameful secrets each character keeps and how they try to cover them up, the lack of political correctness, Kimmy’s cult flashbacks, the hyperactive pace… It’s an experimental comedy. Obviously too experimental for NBC.

Kemper is as cute as a button and proves she’s got the star qualities of a leading lady. Her chemistry with her co-stars is so perfect, it feels like they’ve been working together for years. Tituss Burgess is a real find here. Although he had a small part on “30 Rock”, he works so well as Kemper’s co-lead, this could be a big stepping stone for his career in TV and film. It also includes some fun cameos from recognizable actors/personalities such as Dean Norris, Tim Blake Nelson, Matt Lauer, Nick Kroll, Martin Short, Amy Sedaris, Horatio Sanz, Richard Kind, Christine Ebersole, Jon Hamm as cult leader Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (not a typo!) and Tina Fey herself of famed O.J. Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark.

If you liked “30 Rock”, you’ll probably feel right at home with “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. It’s also got a touch of “Mean Girls” and that Tina Fey wit honed razor sharp since her SNL days. I agree with NBC that the show wasn’t exactly right for them. It’s too clever, wacky and fast-paced for network TV. I think it fits more at home with a Netflix binge-watching session that will give it a cult following similar to how “Orange is the New Black” found its success. The comedy happens so fast you almost don’t have a chance to laugh at one joke/reference before the next one drops. There are a couple of uneven, not-so-great episodes and sometimes it’s too wacky for its own good, especially in the last few episodes. It’s not for everyone, but fans of Tina Fey will enjoy seeing how silly an unrestrained she can go.

Once again Netflix is pushing the limits of their entertainment jurisdiction, but I feel the most exciting shows are yet to come. Netflix has partnered with Marvel Comics to produce episodic shows based on fringe superhero characters. Their first show will be a (hopefully) dark and edgy adaptation of “Daredevil” which was already adapted into a widely hated movie starring Ben Affleck back in 2003. “Daredevil” will premiere mid-April, but the one I’m most looking forward to is “A.K.A. Jessica Jones” starring Krysten Ritter which releases in December. Ritter will play a former superhero with post-traumatic stress disorder who becomes a private-eye to take on crime cases involving superheroes. Knowing the source material, the storyline could go from light-hearted to very dark and will also co-star one of the most influential African American superheroes of all time, Luke “Power Man” Cage (played by Mike Colter).

If you’ve been debating on whether to subscribe to Netflix, this might be a good year to sign up.

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” = 3 and ½ out of 5 stars.

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