Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season One - Online Review

'An Asian character mispronouncing everything in a way that creates innuendo? Kimmy's hand gestures translating to Dong as rude? Is this really the best this series could do?'

The first season of Netflix's self-produced Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is marked by a welcome lightness of touch from the platform, coupled with an odd descent at the mid-way point into cultural stereotypes that border on racism, which I found difficult to ignore.

Co-creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock create a muddled, ill-fitting section that attempts to poke fun at Vietnamese character Dong (Ki Hong Lee) and spectacularly fails. Even if you don't buy that Kimmy Is Bad at Math! (S1E8) portrays Dong in a racist way, it's the least funny episode by some distance and relies on laughing at broadly drawn cultural traits to generate its humour. An Asian character mispronouncing everything in a way that creates innuendo? Kimmy's hand gestures translating to Dong as rude? Is this really the best this series could do? There's an 'I don't make the rules' shrug from the character as he reveals that he's good at maths because he is Asian, but drawing attention to the stereotypes on show isn't the same as pillorying them and Kimmy Schmidt fails to do the latter in that episode or later in the series. At best it's just not funny, at worst something far more insulting. Towards the end of that episode, the series goes back into geek culture with a solid Ghostbusters pastiche. It's still not great, but the creators would have been well advised to stay in that ballpark, rather than heading to where they end up.

It seems a shame to spend that long dwelling on a negative part of a show which is, at times, very funny, sweet and with a hipster tinge that never gets annoying, but that is the creative risk when you play with something as incendiary as race in a Comedic sense and it doesn't come off. It's all the more frustrating for how good Fey and Carlock's writing can be, firing off jokes with a rapidity that sometimes leaves you missing one for laughing at another. The earworm title song is a judiciously-pitched annoyance, a late cameo is perfect and the 'one more episode' factor almost creepily high.

At its best moments, Ellie Kemper spars off Jane Krakowski, playing the brilliantly named Jacqueline Voorhees, whilst Tituss Burgess and Carol Kane bring the more ridiculous comedy as an odd couple pairing of cranky landlady and gay wannabe actor. There's subversion of the genre on occasion, such as the falsely moralistic Kimmy Goes to School! (S1E6), which sees a guest-starring Richard Kind brilliantly taken to task as the teacher-with-a-grudge who may not secretly have a heart of gold after all.

After the miss-steps of E8 and E9, the series hits its stride again and starts to wrap up its main tack - Kimmy and three other women are rescued at the start of the show from an apocalypse cult led by the enigmatic Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne - and though they do get bogged down slightly in plot, they remain entertaining. It's a fun, typically Netflix-addictive show, but the let down feeling of those episodes is high. Here's hoping for a more consistent offering, in the already-confirmed second outing.




Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season One is playing now on Netflix.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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