'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Season 2: TV Review

Eric Liebowitz/Netflix
Still a joy.
4/15/2016

The goofily wonderful Netflix series about the "Indiana mole woman" who becomes a New York City resident remains as ridiculous and fun as ever.

There's something perfect about having Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt launch its second season on Netflix on Friday, halfway through one of the busiest months of the television year and at a time when plenty of heavy shows are in their last few emotionally exhausting episodes.

For starters, if you can't get to Kimmy right away it will always be there. That's pretty much the Netflix deal.

Then, once you've watched a couple of episodes of The Last Panthers on Sundance, and you're trying to figure out what the big picture is there, you can stream Kimmy and feel like whatever darkness there is in Serbia and Marseille will all work out in the end.

Think about it. As Kimmy, Ellie Kemper is the Energizer Bunny of positivity, with her bright clothes and unbreakable optimism and totally off-center sense of humor. That might be the tonic you need once you discover that zombies can actually live in the water and eat you on Fear the Walking Dead.

Also, remember how confusing Orphan Black got last season? There were so many different strands of the mythology that it was becoming really difficult to follow. Well, even though Kimmy tells a story, you don't really have to follow along too closely. It's basically a format wherein the skeleton of a story exists to hang hundreds of super funny jokes on it. Drop in any time!

Co-created and written by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt became yet another sensation for Netflix after NBC inexplicably passed on the project (it didn't think it could launch the new show and, at that point, it probably couldn't have); it was like Netflix was given a gift or, if you prefer, played savior to a show we're now all grateful for (I ranked it 29th out of my 46 favorite series in 2015).

The show proved that Fey and Carlock could move beyond 30 Rock, one of television's greatest comedies, and continue to inject a sense of random weirdness and hilarity into a sitcom like they'd never left. (Because they hadn't.) Kimmy was a dose of original vision when even in our Platinum Age of television there are few people practicing silly and offbeat for silly and offbeat's sake. It was hard to dislike Kimmy when the whole point was to watch what one insanely happy person could do in a cynical world (well, expressly New York City). "What's your deal?" someone asks of Kimmy this season. "You're like a cartoon person."

Confronting our everyday grumpiness about just surviving in the jungle with Kimmy's hysterically outlandish happiness (about even the smallest thing) was both funny and, if you twisted Fey's arm to admit it, probably a point that she wanted to make about the world.

In season two, much of the same goofiness that killed you in season one is back. Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline White (born to Native American parents) is, at least for a very short time in the first episode, back annoying her birth parents by trying to speak her native (Native) language and only being able to come up with "white idiot" and "coffee" — used, of course, in the wrong context.

Titus (Tituss Burgess) is back and willing to do anything, including close out the first episode dancing to Paula Abdul (no, I'm not going to put it in context for you) and, in the second episode, possibly going out on a date (with someone familiar). Everybody's back, basically, doing all the goofy stuff that sets up Fey's particular brand of humor that the writing staff has learned to mimic like it came from an ancient scroll (you can hear her beats and idiosyncrasies). All the visual puns are back again — I burst out laughing at three early on; one so great I wanted to congratulate whoever thought of it.

The second season also features tons of cameos, from Fred Armisen (as, um, some weird guy that, um, you might have seen on a really great HBO documentary recently), Zosia Mamet, David Cross, Jeff Goldblum, Dean Norris, Anna Camp, Richard Kind, Kiernan Shipka and many more.

But here's the thing about Kimmy that I've felt since it arrived in its first season — it's not a series I like to binge (yes, I'm aware, most people do). I'm going to take the same approach this season. The show is so over-the-top that I like to use it as a kind of verbal and visual splash to the senses or an amuse-bouche that can cleanse the palate before the emotional intensity of something like Outlander or the distanced coldness of The Girlfriend Experience.

Everywhere you look on television there's something complicatedly excellent and possibly draining that's pulling you in and wearing you out — from The Americans to Better Call Saul or The Path or Happy Valley.

That's when it's nice to put on a little Kimmy as tonic. It's a joy. It's always there. And it always does the trick.

Cast: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski, Carol Kane
Co-created by: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock
Available for streaming: Today (Netflix)


Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

 

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