7 Underrated Treats of ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’

03.09.15 3 years ago

We spent the weekend enjoying the hell out of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” the new Netflix series from “30 Rock” royalty Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Starring “Office” and “Bridesmaids” vet Ellie Kemper, it chronicles the life of a woman who escapes from an apocalyptic cult and builds a new life in New York City. It is a scream. Here are seven major things to appreciate about it.  

1. Veteran TV actresses get tons to do. 

“30 Rock” provided a wonderful showcase for veteran comic actors, and we can thank the Fey/Carlock mothership for giving Elaine Stritch, Jan Hooks, Anita Gillette, Tim Conway, Alan Alda, and many, many more such fun and weird roles. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is off to a great start in this area: Regular cast members Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski rack up some of the biggest laughs every episode as they notch another hit in their incredible TV careers, but equal attention must be paid to guest stars like Christine Ebersole, a riot as Xanthippe's harried mother, and Amy Sedaris, a crazed divorcee who wants a wedded domestic life so bad that she weeps while pressing kitchen marble against her skin. 

2. Tina Fey's cameo is priceless.

Naturally Tina Fey made an appearance on the show, and I'm thrilled to report she did it in the most eye-poppingly outdated fashion imaginable. In episode nine, Tina plays an incompetent lawyer who looks, to me, like Mary Steenburgen's role in “Philadelphia” with the same professional frizziness. (Marcia Clark is also a very, very strong influence. Props to Abe Hassan for that find.) In one priceless exchange she queries the defendant, Kimmy's cult leader (Jon Hamm), “If you were me, what would you ask you?” Liz Lemon may have been zany and exasperated, but she was never a dope. This turn felt like a surprising and novel turn for Fey.

3. The show's two straight white male characters are as weird (weirder?) than their costars. 

It is blue rare that we get a TV show without at least one “down to Earth” white guy. Normally we're given a Jim Halpert or Jay Pritchett to reel in skeptical viewers who need someone caucasian and rational and eye-rolly to comfort them around bigger personalities. In “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” we only get Charles (Andy Ridings), Buckley's wild-eyed tutor who attempts a lame romance with Kimmy, and Logan Beekman (Adam Campbell), a Connecticut-born Jude Law caricature who travels by blimp and speaks in a fabricated accent. 

4. Martin Short finally gets to be horrifying.

Did you watch “Behind the Candelabra,” note Rob Lowe's terrifying performance as a plastic surgery-addicted plastic surgeon, and think, “I hope Martin Short gets a role like this so my dreams can be haunted for years?” You're in luck: Martin Short plays Dr. Franff, Jacqueline's surgeon, whose balloon-tight cheeks and indescribable hair color are just ghastly. He actually says at one point, “That's like asking me which of my children's placentas was the most delicious.” I honestly thought he had achieved peak creepiness as Leonard Winstone on “Damages.” I was honestly wrong. 

5. It crucifies millennials. 

You'd think “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” would indulge teenagers a bit since it's a Netflix series and people under 21 basically refuse to watch broadcast television now. But no. Xanthippe, the 15-year-old stepdaughter of Jane Krakowski's character, is endlessly juvenile. She's self-absorbed, mean, friends with the lamest people, and constantly scowling. She is strident in her antagonism. While it's funny to watch her razz Kimmy for misusing slang or throwing down dated pop culture references, the point is clear: There is something the matter with selfiephiles. 

6. The theme song will live inside you.

The theme of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a newsclip remix in the vein of Antoine Dodson's famous YouTube moment. It is also shockingly catchy. I just blurted out “These FE-MALES are STRONG as HELL” as I wrote this. Nothing is more unbreakable than a chronic, restless earworm. 

7. It's basically a spinoff of a “30 Rock” cameo.

We've brought it up before, but “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is essentially a 13-episode tribute to this “30 Rock” guest star. Priceless. And I didn't notice the “Central Park Jogger Memorial Highway” joke until just now. 

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