One-liners make Netflix original show memorable


photo by Danielle Kiefer

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which debuted March 6, is one new show to binge-watch.

By Danielle Kiefer, Senior Writer

Netflix-original shows such as Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Marco Polo have skyrocketed in popularity within the last two years. CHS fans who are eager for a new series to binge-watch should look no further than Netflix’s newest addition: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Created by 30 Rock’s Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stars Ellie Kemper (The Office, 21 Jump Street) as Kimmy Schmidt, a 29-year-old woman adjusting to life in NYC after being rescued from an underground bunker in Indiana where she was part of a doomsday cult.

Although the show was originally set to premiere on NBC, it was instead sold to Netflix and ordered for two seasons. The first was released March 6, and the second season is set to be released in spring 2015. The show’s quirky cast of characters, witty jokes and references to pop culture have made it an instant hit among CHS students and other Netflix users.

“I like the show a lot because it has a bunch of funny one-liners, so it keeps things interesting,” senior Sam Myers said.

A good portion of the humor stems directly from the characters, who can be absurd but at the same time very endearing. In addition to Kimmy Schmidt, who is chipper and naïve while she adapts to New York City, other main characters include Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), Kimmy’s roommate and a flamboyant aspiring Broadway star, Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane, Annie Hall), their landlady, and Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock), an affluent but insecure woman who hires Kimmy as a nanny for her two children.

“I love the show because I think it’s hilarious that the characters have such extreme personalities and are very quotable,” junior Jackie Zidar said.

In addition to the characters’ quirks and off-beat personalities, most viewers find themselves constantly chuckling at their blink-and-you-missed-it jokes and quick comments, many of which center around pop culture.

In one scene, Kimmy reenacts the Friends theme song in front of a fountain. In another, the show parodies the cult-like spinning class SoulCycle with its own version, SpiritCycle, where Kimmy reveals that the class is all a facade. The show’s theme song itself is a play on a viral remix of a news segment.

However, some may take offense in that a majority of the jokes venture to more controversial topics such as race, abduction and PTSD. In a memorable episode, Titus, who is dressed in costume as a werewolf for his new job, declares, “I got treated better as a werewolf than I ever did as a black man. That’s messed up.” Clearly, this is an exaggeration, but it echoes a very relevant reality of racism, especially in light of recent events such as the shootings in Ferguson and Charleston. Although Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt seems to make light of Kimmy’s kidnapping and her recovery, it also shows her character’s ability to overcome a horrible situation and still be optimistic.

“I’d say that some of the jokes that make fun of horrible things could be interpreted as a bit offensive, but I think that the jokes have purpose because the show tries to shine a different light on how people survive and move on with their lives after experiencing something horrible,” Myers said.

Even still, people might find that some of the jokes go too far. Perhaps one of the problems is that some of the humor related to race is too stereotypical and almost not offensive enough, not pushing the envelope enough or saying enough about the situation.

While Titus’s werewolf storyline felt fresh and relevant, and actually made a statement about racism and African-Americans, the portrayal of the Native American and Vietnamese characters fall short in comparison. Both Kimmy’s friend Dong from her G.E.D. class who is “good at math” as well as Mrs. Voorhees’ hidden past regarding her Native American roots fall back on dated, unoriginal stereotypes.

In addition, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has come under scrutiny in the media recently due to the suicide of Dr. Fredric Brandt, a cosmetic dermatologist known for his famous client list including Madonna, Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein. Many are questioning whether the tragedy was related to a minor character on the show, a dermatologist/plastic surgeon named Dr. Grant (which he can only pronounce “Dr. Franff” due to his excessive botox). The character’s profession and distinctive look was a clear reference to the real life doctor.

According to an April 2015 New York Times article, although Brandt made light of the parody to patients, he was offended by it; however, it was not the main cause behind his depression or subsequent suicide.

Despite some borderline-offensive references, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fresh, quirky and undisputably funny show. Its overall themes and undertones about feminism and overcoming adversity or hardship overwhelm any questionable humor, so fans of The Office and 30 Rock will rejoice at finding a new Netflix show to binge-watch.