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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a Netflix comedy series from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who previously collaborated on 30 Rock. As the story goes, the main character and three other women are rescued from an underground bunker after 15 years as captives of a cult leader who told them that the world had ended. It's a serious issue (and unapologetically reminiscent of some real-life kidnapping stories) but also serves as a lead-in for many jokes about Kimmy's naïveté and relative unworldliness as she bravely negotiates current-day New York City with nothing but a purple JanSport backpack to her name. There's some language ("bitch" and "damn"; and "f--k" is edited) and sexual content (mostly conversational, referring to fetishes, orgies, and slang such as "MILF") to watch for if your teens want to tune in, but there's also a very strong cast of women who show depth of character, self-reliance, and a lot of heart.
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What's the story?
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT stars Ellie Kemper as the titular character, one of four women liberated from an underground bunker after 15 years under the thumb of doomsday cult leader Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. After making the rounds of morning news shows with her fellow survivors, Kimmy sets out to start a new life in New York City, unimpeded by her notoriety as one of the "Indiana Mole Women" and total lack of resources. In record time, she lands a job as a nanny for the entitled son and stepdaughter of narcissistic socialite Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) and finds an apartment, complete with an eccentric landlady named Lillian (Carol Kane) and a larger-than-life gay roommate named Titus (Tituss Burgess), who's unemployed but has Broadway-size dreams. A lot has changed about the world in the 15 years Kimmy's missed, but she's not about to let that or her middle school education stand in the way of fulfilling her dreams.
Is it any good?
Created by the 30 Rock team of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, this is an absolutely quirky -- and positively delightful -- comedy series. Kemper nails the delivery of the youthfully naïve but inherently philosophical Kimmy, who always winds up helping those around her when she's just trying to figure things out for herself. And speaking of figuring things out, the abundance of conundrums waiting to trip up a Midwest girl who is in many ways still stuck in her middle school self yields almost as many laugh-out-loud moments in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as does the riotous relationship between Kimmy and her upper-crust boss, played skillfully by Krakowski. Kane and Burgess' antagonistic but loving friendship also is a joy to watch.
What's really striking about this fish-out-of-water series is its unpredictability, particularly in the case of the substantial characters. They don't fit neatly into packages, as there's always some factor lying just below the surface ready to spring up and alter your impression of them. They have rich personalities and mutually rewarding relationships, and in his or her own way each illustrates the show's recurring theme of resilience and determination. As Kimmy doggedly keeps looking on the bright side of life, her cheery outlook will make you a fan.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coping with adversity. Is Kimmy's response to her predicament believable in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? To what does she owe her unfailingly sunny disposition? What challenges have your teens had to overcome? Are they stronger for the experience?
Are the female characters in this show remarkable for positive reasons? Could any be considered relatable role models? If so, why? In general, how are women cast in comedy series and movies?
Teens: Have you ever felt out of place in a social setting? Is it difficult to step out of your comfort zone? What can you do to relate to people who are very different from you? How do our life experiences shape us?
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