When Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt arrived on Netflix last year, I tore through the episodes at a pace that approached binge watching. The oddball tone, rapid-fire jokes and “Room… but for morons” storyline all hit me in the right spots, and the show served as a totally pleasant throw-away program to put on during dinner. Because why pay attention to each other while sharing a meal when you can pay attention to the ol’ boob tube, am I right?
Now, a year has passed and a new season of Schmidt has arrived. And I’m forced to wonder if last year I had perhaps just taken part in a shared cultural delusion.
In the interest of full-disclosure, I’m only three episodes into the new season, but I’m not 100% sure that I’ll go any further. Something has changed. Maybe it’s me? Probably not, though. Because I still love beer and hardcore bands.
The show’s endearingly dum-dum approach has been cranked up to aggressively stupid levels. “Smart-stupid” comedy works when a character delivers a line that seems entirely moronic at first blush, then reveals itself to secretly be some kind of multi-layered piece of genius wordplay or commentary. It doesn’t work when a character says something incredibly moronic and we’re supposed to find it funny because haha so dumb, right? It seems like Schmidt’s second season is just going full-bore on the “derp! *wink wink*” train, and it gets tired fast.
A huge part of the problem that I’ve been having with this season is that the show has lost whatever mooring it had in the first season’s overarching storyline. Watching the new episodes, one could be forgiven for entirely forgetting that Kimmy was imprisoned underground for like 15 years and knew nothing of the modern world, a super dark shadow that hung over the first season and made the unrelentingly sunny tone of the show seem brilliantly subversive.
Now, we’re forced to focus (seemingly exclusively) on subplots following the ancillary characters, and I’m confronted by the fact that I can’t seem to give a shit about any of them. Titus is insufferable and we’re supposed to arrive at the conclusion that he actually has a heart of gold. Lillian is pointless. Jacqueline manages to achieve something approaching an amusing send-up of shitty rich people, but it’s not enough to carry a TV show. Kimmy seems to have been relegated to supporting these plot lines with her incredibly expressive face.
And yeah, it’s quite a face.
Anyway, it’s all very harmless and I don’t look down on people who want to get their stupid on and watch this mess. There are occasional moments of brilliance, usually in the form of one-liners. When Titus sees his completely over-stuffed closet fall apart from the strain of his wardrobe, his exclamation of “Much like Icarus… a friend of mine who once put too much stuff in his closet, I put too much stuff in my closet” made me laugh my fool head off.
But jokes of this quality are few and far between. Unless I’m completely misremembering things (a distinct possibility), the hits-per-joke rate of the first season was very high, and it kept me watching. At only a couple of laughs and a few chuckles per episode, season two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt simply isn’t worth the (admittedly modest) investment of time.
ENDNOTE – Hey, is the third episode of this season a not-so-subtle passive-aggressive dig at the people who called this show out for its kind of baffling use of First Nations for some pretty throw-away jokes? It’s full of jokes mocking the PC-police and basically saying “lol! Lighten up, h8rs!” and absolving themselves of responsibility. Isn’t that basically what we’re all mad at stupid-band-that-used-to-be-called-Viet-Cong for? Why does UKS get away with it? Because Tina Fey is involved and we’re all “Oh, this must actually be smart and progressive”? Dumb.