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TV Series Review

New York City is not the easiest place to make a go of things, even under the best of circumstances. And let's face it: Being literally stuck in a hole in the ground for the last 15 years isn't gonna help the acclimation process.

But, hey, when you're Kimmy Schmidt and you've already survived a doomsday cult, what's the worst the Big Apple can throw at you? Lots of little apple chunks? Maybe a pie? Or even a worm or two? Pish. It'll take more than a random Red Delicious to dampen her spirits.

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a strange, problematic and surprisingly optimistic comedy from the ever fertile minds of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (executive producers of 30 Rock). And while its premise—small-town-hick-goes-to-the-big-city-and-teaches-it-a-thing-or-two—has been explored dozens of times before, from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Crocodile Dundee, the I've-been-trapped-in-a-cult-and-just-got-out setup feels quirky and different.

A Light Dark Comedy

Kimmy was dragged into that doomsday cult when she was in the eighth grade, ensnared by the nefarious Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, aka the worst wedding DJ in Durnsville, Indiana. For the whole of the 21st century, she's been stuck in an underground bunker with him and three other women, believing what the guy says about God destroying the outside world because its people were "dumb and bad."

Well, a quick visit by a SWAT team puts that little rumor to rest. Turns out the world's just fine, if a little frayed around the edges. And Kimmy—a glass-half-full sort anyway, is determined to experience all of America's joys that've been hidden away from her for so long. Before you can even remember what that Heaven's Gate thing was all about, Kimmy finds a roommate (struggling actor/singer Titus), a job (serving as a utility helpmate to pampered Jacqueline and her bratty offspring) and a whole new hometown where she won't be constantly looked at as a victim.

Kimmy brings wit and charm and doses of endearing naiveté to the proceedings, playing a hapless-yet-not-helpless young woman who faces both her past demons and present trials with an unflagging smile. Even the episode titles with their excited exclamation marks ("Kimmy Gets a Job!" "Kimmy Is Bad at Math!") reflect the girl's boundless enthusiasm. As the writers studiously take funny jabs (some of them illuminating, some of them inappropriate) at social issues such as race and self-worth, Kimmy preaches that beauty is inside out, not outside in, and that we should always, always keep trying no matter what.

"I'm more than the one terrible thing that's happened to me!" she tells her long-lost mother in a Season 2 episode. "Exactly!" her mom says. "I'm all the terrible things that have happened to me!"

Breaking Kimmy Schmidt

It's exactly that kind of show, full of optimism, humor and a dark, cogent realism, buoyant and … troubling, both in terms of tone and content. We hear about some discomfiting sexual fetishes as the series repeatedly mines sex for laughs. Titus is flamboyantly gay, and the subject of his sexuality comes up quite a lot, along with sly winks at such things as prostitution and even bestiality. And, of course, the story is set up with the subject of Kimmy's 15 years of sexual slavery.

When Business Insider asked the cast what gags made it into the show on Netflix that surely would've been cut had it stayed on NBC (where it was originally set to air), they had plenty to talk about. Fey and Carlock are known for smart comedy—and these days that means they're also known for crass comedy. Clearly, Kimmy's not averse to bending a few rules as she proves to the world that she's not a breakable girl.

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Episode Reviews

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Apr. 15, 2016 "Kimmy Finds Her Mom!"
Unbreakable-Kimmy-Schmidt: 3-6-2015



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Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt; Tituss Burgess as Titus; Carol Kane as Lillian; Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline; Lauren Adams as Gretchen; Sara Chase as Cyndee; Sol Miranda as Donna Maria; Susanna Guzman as Vera; David Cross as Russ; Jon Hamm as Richard Wayne Gary Wayne






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