HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1
HTS Overall Score:75
Sitcoms are getting harder and harder to make. It used to be that serialized television was something that was in the minority and the majority of the population enjoyed sitcoms out the ying yang. “The Cosby Show”, “Leave it to Beaver”, “Cheers”, “Friends” etc were a HUGE money maker for the studios, but lately serialized television has become the new thing, or if they’re going none serialized the studios churn out reality show after reality show until your mind can’t take it anymore. Originally meant to air on NBC, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” had to be sidelined after it became clear that no matter how good the show was, an end for the regular sitcom on broadcast television was at an end when “30 Rock” had to go the way of the buffalo. With NBC making it clear that there was nothing to pair the half hour show with, Tina Fey (who produces the show) decided to court Netflix as the growing demand for more shows in more nontraditional distribution formats has become quite popular. What used to be a market for old dilapidated shows and movies that no longer made money any more now has been putting out more original content than you could believe. We have Marvel putting all of their super hero shows on their, John Goodman starring on Amazon’s “Alpha House”, and a myriad of Netflix/Hulu/Amazon original shows and movies to contend with.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is taken from the mind of producer Tina Fey and seems to fall very much in line with “30 Rock” and starts out with some of the most ludicrous situations possible. Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper, “Bridesmaids”) is one of 4 women rescued in Indiana from a cult master who made his 4 women believe that they were the only people left on Earth due to the apocalypse of man. 15 years later they are set free and brought into the real world. Kimmy decides that she wants to stay in New York City and make something of herself, despite the fact that she didn’t even finish 8th grade and is walking into a world that she know KNOTHING about, besides the fact that she really likes shark gummy candies.
Everything that happens in the show and the people she meets are about as ridiculous as one might imagine coming from a “30 Rock” alumni. Kimmy rents a room from a crazy old lady named Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane, most famous for “The Princess Bride” as Miracle Max’s wife, or “Gotham” where she plays Penguin’s mommy dearest), rooms with a flamboyantly gay (and unemployed) wannabe theater star named Titus (Titus Burgess), and goes to work for a rich, snobby, New York socialite named Jacqueline Vorhees (played by Jane Krakowski, and yes, the name Vorhees is VERY obvious to her personality). Things that would make people cynical seem to just fall off Kimmy’s back as she has no basis to compare to except her 15 year old self before she went into the ground or the horrible treatment at the hands of her cult leader. In a sense she takes everything at face value and with childlike innocence (although there are quite a few lines that reveal a darker and more disturbing side to her veneer). She takes Titus’s flamboyance at face value, Jane’s cynical psychopathic nature in stride, as well as the rest of New York’s brutal cynicism like she’s a fresh and unbreakable flower.
The humor is just spot on from beginning to end, and while it may seem simply kooky for the first half of the first episode, it becomes very obvious that every bit of whacky humor has a darker effervescent side to it. Double meanings and darkly disturbing subtext flow under the hysterically funny lines, such as when Kimmy mentions the treatment they got underground, or how they were told they were complete idiots, or that Mrs. Vorhees birthday party for her son is nothing but a calculated and desperate attempt to win back a husband she thinks is cheating on her. Much like “30 Rock” there is a lot of good social commentary going on under the stupidity, but the stupid moments and the darker moments are blended so seamlessly that you’re dying with laughter while your brain processes all of the underlying themes.
What really makes or breaks ANY sitcom is the cast, and the 4 or 5 main characters REALLY work together well. The first episode had a few hiccups as the actors tried to find their groove, but once it gets going they all play and improv off of each other really well. Ellie Kemper is wonderfully complex as she matures in the real world, blending her trademark Amelia Bedilia personality with a sense of humanity and insight that belies her troubled past. Titus Burgess is PERFECT as her partner, being here one moment and gone the next in terms of his sanity, but always a hoot and a half to watch as the token funny man in the relationship. Jane Krakowski is perfect as the overly uptight and completely CLUELESS New York socialite and the funniest character in the show has to be Carol Kane, who doesn’t show up too often but when she does makes one of the best quips of the show and just vanishes.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=67690[/img]The 2 disc DVD set comes with a weird icon based menu that Universal seems to be adopting for all their newer TV shows and the picture quality of the 1.78:1 Mpeg2 encoded discs look quite good (although a bit inconsistent at times). Many times the show is incredibly sharp and clear, with great detail and wonderful colors, while other times it will be way oversaturated in the color department with blinding pinks, blues and, most commonly, reds. The oversaturated moments look a bit overly soft and that detracts from an otherwise incredible looking show. Some of it was probably intentional as Kimmy is referred to as looking like a Wendy’s old fashioned burger packaging (tons of yellows, blues and pinks), but the softness seems a bit odd at times. Blacks are serviceable during those conditions, but suffer from crush, however when the image isn’t so wildly color saturated the blacks clean up quite well and look amazing.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=67698[/img]Blessed with a 5.1 Dolby Digital track (sadly so many sitcoms come with 2.0 tracks), “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” sounds just like how one would expect for a sitcom. Definitely front loaded, but well done with the limited sounds thrown their way. Dialog is the main focus of the show and said dialog is spot on perfect with solid vocals and a good balance amongst the rest of the front sound stage effects. There is some bass and surround activity added in with certain New York City craziness, or when Kimmy goes to a club at the beginning of the movie, but otherwise the surround and low end capabilities are fairly minimal.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was one of those shows that completely side lined me because I was horribly backlogged on my Netflix queue and a complete breath of fresh air in a stale sitcom world. The characters are hilariously irreverent, and the darker subtext of the show is just touched on enough to make you chuckle nervously under your breath while you’re belly laughing at the stupidity of the rest of the gags. I’m glad more and more Netflix original content is getting physical releases, as TV shows are getting the short end of the stick in that regards even on broadcast and cable stations. The only downside to the release is that there is NO special features whatsoever. Still, that shouldn’t deter your from picking up or adding to your Netflix queue one of the funniest new sitcoms of the year.
Starring: Ellie Kemper, Janen Krakowski, Tituss Burgess
Created by: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 324 minutes
DVD Release Date: March 15th, 2016
Buy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1 DVD on Amazon
Recommendation: Check It Out
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