94° Good Afternoon
94° Good Afternoon

‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ review: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock’s Netflix comedy has punchy, uneven start, but worth watching

Ellie Kemper and Carol Kane in a Season

Ellie Kemper and Carol Kane in a Season 2 episode of Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." Photo Credit: Netflix / Eric Liebowitz

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) — who last season found her way into the wilds of New York after spending 15 years in a doomsday cult’s bunker — manages to find a new job, or jobs, and is still struggling over her feelings for Dong Nguyen (Ki Hong Lee). Roommate Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) is about to find romance, too.

Their landlady Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) is concerned about “hipsters” lurking around. Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski) is now going by her American Indian name (“White”), while her social and maternal anxieties are heightened.

This Netflix comedy was created (and is produced) by the “30 Rock” team of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.

MY SAY Like the first season, “Kimmy’s” second is mostly about the words, and there’s a vast, surging, restless crowd of those. There are possibly more words packed into any half-hour “Kimmy” episode than in four episodes of “NCIS” — and almost all of them funnier. They whiz by, subverting logic and meaning, but also demand attention because the punchline usually arrives before the ear can catch up. It’s the “30 Rock” model, only (if possible) more packed and slightly less dependent on sight gags. Over the six episodes screened, there are references to ducks, Vape, Nazis, silverfish, Mentos, the Galapagos, Chuck Lorre, the “war on Christmas,” sweat lodges, bunnies, kitties, Pop Rocks, the 2nd Avenue Subway, the Mets, Billy Joel, Arcade Fire, Amtrak and also ancient Greek statesman, Alcibiades — who, you’ll note, hasn’t been getting a lot of publicity lately. Each are stitched into perfect quips, flawlessly delivered, that would make even a Pop Rock laugh.

But here’s at least one challenge with a series so dependent on verbal invention: Plot can tend to be a secondary concern, and character development, too. At least in the early episodes, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” feels like a show that doesn’t want to repeat the dazzling first season but isn’t quite yet sure where the second should go either. Kimmy’s still Kimmy (of course), only slightly more worldly, slightly less gullible. She’s also absorbed New York and come to the realization that she’s not the only fish out of water here — everyone else is flopping around.

Each of the first six episodes are bound loosely (or accidentally) by an arc — Kimmy’s ongoing employment challenges — and are otherwise stand-alones that launch priceless comic assaults on gentrification, romance in the big city, overstuffed closets, Connecticut and the challenges of finding a good dentist. They also get better and better.

Meanwhile, what worked especially well last season also gets better in the second. Kane continues to offer a master class in comic timing. Krakowski remains one of the funniest people on this show (and there are many). Burgess, a stand-out in the first, gets almost all the best lines this season, and squanders not a one.

And Kemper . . . well, Kemper has officially and indefatigably become one of the finest comic actors on TV.

Who needs “plot” anyway?

BOTTOM LINE A punchy uneven start to the second, but it does get better, and the cast is still priceless.


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