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‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ thrives on its absurdity and actors

By Devon Schuman, The Miami Student

I have to admit, I was skeptical when I first sat down to watch Netflix's new original series "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." Based on the previews, the comedy starring Ellie Kemper ("The Office," "Bridesmaids") and produced by Tina Fey ("30 Rock," "Saturday Night Live") appeared to just be jumping on the Zooey Deschanel "quirky" train, gathering all of its laughs from the silly escapades of a girl with a big smile and a cute giggle.

However, after watching the first few episodes, it became clear that this show is jumping on no trains; it is forging its own path.

The show is unique from the start, jumping right into its one-of-a-kind storyline. It follows the story of Kimmy Schmidt, a girl from Indiana. At a young age, Kimmy and three other girls are persuaded by a cult reverend that the world is going to end, so he has them live underground in an apocalyptic bunker. Fifteen years later, they are rescued by a SWAT team and brought up to the real world again to find that life had gone on without them. With a fresh start, Kimmy sets out to begin a new life in New York City, determined to not be "broken" by the obstacles in her path.

Kemper is delightful as the naive Kimmy Schmidt. Similar to her role as the innocent Erin on "The Office," the character of Kimmy allows Kemper to showcase her enthusiastic joy and optimism in the face of the cruel world around her. Despite her childish exterior, Kimmy is stubborn and persistent and refuses to be knocked down by the misfortunes that continue to befall her.

Furthermore, it is intriguing to view the world through the fresh eyes of someone who is just now reentering it after being gone for so long. With this unique perspective, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" is able to highlight the absurdity of modern day society. When at a club, Kimmy is asked by two girls if she wants to party with them and if she likes Molly. "I love Molly!" Kimmy replies. "She's like, my favorite American Girl Doll!"

If this show can be compared to any other, it would be "30 Rock." Although she does not actually appear in the show, one can immediately feel Tina Fey's presence on the screen. The humor is abundant and offbeat. It attempts to point out the ridiculousness evident in all aspects of society. When Kimmy's roommate, Titus, exclaims, "This isn't the Chinatown bus. You can't just choke someone while they're sleeping," I felt like I was back at 30 Rockefeller Plaza with Jack, Tracy and Liz Lemon.

Also like "30 Rock," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" doesn't always hit its mark. By packing so many jokes into its 25-minute episodes, it ensures that not every one of them is going to make us laugh.

In addition, some of the storylines are way too over the top. For instance, episode 2's side plot, in which Titus and others are forced to remain in their ridiculous costumed occupations (subway mariachi bands, Times Square robot dancers, etc.) all because of a corrupt costume salesman who won't give them back their security deposits, is so outrageous to the point that it is not that funny and it detracts from the rest of the episode.

Despite the show's focus on Kimmy, the real star of the show is Jane Krakowski ("30 Rock"). Krakowski plays Jacqueline Voorhees, an insanely rich woman from a high class family who hires Kimmy as a babysitter for her bratty son and party-hard daughter. Voorhees is very similar to Krakowski's character of Jenna on "30 Rock" in that she holds an insanely biased and entitled rich-person's view of the world, as evidenced through her decision to pump her dog's stomach so that its "anus is purely ornamental," or her ridiculous sayings such as "I thought I'd take a jog. I only had time to workout four times today."

However, as Tina Fey is an expert at writing great roles for women, it soon becomes clear that Voorhees is not just the trophy wife bimbo she appears to be from the start. She has many issues: she's unloved by her cheating husband, disrespected by her horrid children, and she can't seem to find the happiness she was searching for when she, as a teenager, denounced her Native American heritage, dyed her hair blond, and left her family and South Dakota for the hopeful streets of New York.

"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" is not perfect. While it succeeds at poking fun at society, its absurdity is sometimes too over-the-top. However, once again, Netflix is displaying its dedication to outstanding original content (see "House of Cards," "Orange is the New Black," "BoJack Horseman") through this irresistibly fresh comedy. With Tina Fey at the helm and continued wonderful performances from Kemper and Krakowski, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" has the ability to go a long way.