Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Review: Come for Tina Fey's Signature Humor, Stay for Everything Else

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 1

NBC's loss is Netflix's gain when it comes to the energetic new comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Originally developed for the former by 30 Rock masterminds Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the series moved to the latter in November, (and earned an immediate Season 2 renewal in the process). Now it's finally making its much-anticipated debut, and having seen the first six episodes, I feel comfortable in saying that Kimmy's network switcheroo was for the best. The comedy is eccentric, charming, and optimistic... and it probably would have failed on NBC.

Ellie Kemper (The Office) stars as the titular Kimmy, a naive but plucky 29-year-old who was kidnapped by a doomsday cult leader named Richard Wayne Gary Wayne when she was 14. After being rescued from the underground bunker in Indiana where she lived with her three "sisters" for 15 years, Kimmy decides to start over in New York, where she moves in with Titus, a gay wannabe Broadway actor played by Tituss Burgess (a real Broadway actor you'll recognize as 30 Rock's D'Fawn). Even though they don't have much in common, they support one another's dreams and ultimately bring out the best in one another.

The series and its humor will feel instantly familiar to fans of 30 Rock. Not only is Fey's voice fairly recognizeable at this point, but Jane Krakowski co-stars as Kimmy's narcissistic boss, Jacqueline Voorhees, a former stewardess-turned-trophy wife who's doing her best Jenna Maroney impression ("Feet are the new butts!"). It's a testament to Kimmy's writing that Jacqueline is so over-the-top that you have to wonder whether people like her can actually exist, yet she's still likable and relatable. Even when she's lamenting the fact that she's not a perfect "foot slut," seeing that she's unhappy in her marriage to a man who can't be bothered to return home for his son's birthday adds a humanizing layer to her otherwise shallow character. Like Kimmy and so many other New Yorkers, Jacqueline is trying to escape her own surprising past while building a new life. You can hardly fault the woman for that.

However, while it's easy to see that Kimmy contains some of 30 Rock's DNA, the two shows' outlooks are pretty dramatically different. Whereas 30 Rock was a cynical satire, Kimmy has a much sunnier disposition, replacing Liz Lemon's skepticism with Kimmy Schmidt's relentless optimism. Spending 15 years underground prevented Kimmy from becoming jaded, and her newly minted fish-out-of-water (fish-out-of-bunker?) status means she gets excited by sinks with automatic sensors, doesn't know what a selfie is, thinks Sketchers that light up are still incredibly cool, and relishes the freedom of being able to eat gummi sharks for dinner. She's basically a (29-year-old) kid in a candy store, and thanks to Kemper's energetic performance, she's almost guaranteed to grow on you. In less capable hands, Kimmy's inconsistencies would probably annoy me—she's incredibly naive in one moment only to turn around and show great skill in navigating the world in another—but she makes it work.

Which brings me back to why Kimmy probably would've failed on NBC. The network's long-running Thursday-night comedy block—the home of many of its smartest, most memorable sitcoms—was officially dismantled earlier this year after struggling for a while. And based on NBC's hurried and unceremonious scheduling of Parks and Recreation's excellent final season, it's clear that the network doesn't have time for series that can't promise big ratings, no matter how acclaimed they may be. Kimmy's tone is frequently sunny and sharp, but there are some darker moments throughout, and it doesn't strike me as broad enough to appeal to more casual viewers. Every bit as funny and quotable 30 Rock and every bit as cheerful and heartwarming as Parks and Rec, the show is populated with unconventional but sympathetic personalities that would do either show proud.

In fact, there are times when Kimmy actually feels like a spiritual cousin to Leslie Knope. She doesn't have the same level of ambition as Leslie—right now she's focused on getting her GED and figuring out how to be "an adult who is also a grown-up"—but her zest for life and her kind heart are contagious to everyone around her. Kimmy will never forget what happened to her, but instead of allowing her past to get her down, she channels it into sunshine and rainbows. Plus, it's hard to hate a character who takes down Jacqueline's spoiled 15-year-old stepdaughter by showcasing her expert knowledge of a Baby-Sitter's Club plot.



BREAKING IT DOWN

– My favorite joke from the first six episodes? Titus auditions for a role in the new Spider-Man musical, which is titled Spidermen Too: 2 Many Spidermen.

– Kimmy and Titus's landlord is played by legendary actress Carol Kane, and unsurprisingly, she nails every scene she appears in, whether she's talking about doing the walk of shame, getting punched in the face by an old woman, or helping Titus film a music video in an abandoned chandelier factory.

– Traditional Indiana courtship rituals apparently dictate that men should present women with meat and flowers.

– Fake product I wish was real: Buhbreeze!

– Jacqueline's stepdaughter (played by Chasing Life's Dylan Gelula) is named Xanthippe.

– "I've been Googling you!" "You have? I didn't feel it."

– "This isn't the Chinatown bus! You can't just choke someone who's asleep!"

– "Don't use that kind of language in front a unicorn!"

– "Who among us is a perfect foot slut?"

– For a different take on Kimmy, check out the latest episode of our Totally Tubular podcast.


What's your take on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? How many episodes have you watched so far?


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Oct 04, 2015
Just binge watched the show. I love the off beat, fast humour. Reckon I could watch it all again and catch a whole new set of jokes.

Although there were many funny moments, for my money, one of the highlights was the scene with the super creepy plastic surgeon (played by Martin Sharp?). Can we have a spin off, please?

Meanwhile, I'll wait for the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy.
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Apr 12, 2015
Love it! Light and funny but with some dark observations and humour too. Very strong cast, good premise - can't wait for Season 2!
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Mar 20, 2015
I just watched episode nine & it was the most funny episode. The show feels very bright & sunny. It will cheer u up on a rainy day.
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Mar 19, 2015
I like it. Sort of reminds me of a modern, female version of The Jerk.
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Mar 16, 2015
Loved it, watched it over 3 days! I liked that the storytelling felt really tight but unobtrusive, everything clicks together but not in a too obvious way. That's rare for a comedy. I laughed quite a lot and loved the characters!
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Mar 11, 2015
I must say I didn't find it funny and rarely laughed, but it is really entertaining and exceptionally well made. I really like the light sunny undertone of the series. Maybe they will have a few more laughing-out-loud moments in the next season?
Overall, if you feel a bit moody or have nothing else to watch, give it a try :)
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Mar 10, 2015
Just finished the first season, do we have a season two premier date?
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Mar 10, 2015
Half way in and I agree, it's a great show. At least one really funny joke per ep, couple of funny ones but also couple that fall flat.

Overall a funny series.
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Mar 09, 2015
Great review! I think I'm watching the sixth episode and... it's just my type of humor! So nice that the series was released just when parks ended
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Mar 09, 2015
6 !
Titus is crazy funny!
Who noticed the makeshift "remote" for that old TV? A Barbie doll tied to a broom! Hilarious!
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Mar 09, 2015
The show's tv.com guide still doesn't have any episodes. Unacceptable. "Dammit."
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Mar 09, 2015
This is a show that grows on you! Much like Parks, it takes time to develop and get the "jist" of whats going on. I'll give it the first season!
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Mar 09, 2015
While I didn't instantly fall in love with it or anything I hope it's a hit for netflix. I don't remember loving 30 rock instantly but I came around. I'll finish the rest of the episodes soon. Keep up the OC netflix!
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Mar 09, 2015
I loved 30 Rock, so I'll watch at least a few episodes.
If this is the future of TV, good shows that would have been destroyed on broadcast TV start on netflix or another alternative and get at least a few full seasons, then I'm all for it.


"Keep up the OC netflix!
"

Don't call it that.
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Mar 11, 2015
I'm referring to the Original Content. Wtf are you talking about
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Mar 11, 2015

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Mar 13, 2015
Shit.
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Mar 08, 2015
I like this show. NBC definitely would have kicked it to the curb fast. I can't get the opening song out of my head. The only thing I have a problem with is that shouldn't everybody know who she is. It was all over the news. Besides that it's good.
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Mar 09, 2015
Honestly, I only have a vague memory of the whole Ohio captives who were held in that guy's basement for 10 years. I wouldn't recognize them or know their names if I passed them on the street.
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Mar 08, 2015
Fantastic show, and it reinforced my opinion that Jon Hamm needs to do more comedy roles from now on, he's brilliant at it.
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Mar 08, 2015
here is the full video of the opening sequence:

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Mar 08, 2015
The Last Man On Earth, a new sitcom, got good reviews in TV.com, but I found it terrible and actually sick boring. I do generally trust reviews from TV.com, but not so much about sitcoms. From this review I guess this may be something to give it a try. I´ll will (try to) watch Unbreakable because I love
30 Rock, but I´ll watch this during the summer when most good shows have a break or are finished. Look forward to watch something made in Tina Fey´s world, so see you around in July.
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Mar 08, 2015
UNBREAKABLE. They alive DAMN IT. It's a MIRACLE!
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Mar 08, 2015
But FEMALES are strong as hell!
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Mar 09, 2015
That's gonna be uh, you know, a fascinating transition
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Mar 09, 2015
DAMN IT
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Mar 08, 2015
I love this show! I can't waift for season 2 I just finished the first season!
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Mar 08, 2015
This show is great. I watched it all in a couple days and I can't wait for season 2. My only concern is that it has an inherent expiration date. Most of the humor comes from Kimmy's naivety, like when she said "hashbrown" instead of "hashtag". She can't stay that naive for long.
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Mar 09, 2015
I agree it's the same issue with Sleepy Hallow's humor
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Mar 08, 2015
Watched all of it in one sitting, so good! The humour is amazing and I love the characters. The final 3 episodes with Tina Fey and John Hamm are my favourite.
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Mar 08, 2015
Ack. I couldn't even finish the first episode. I laughed once. I found Kemper's acting forced and uncomfortable and none of the characters likable. All of the 90's pop culture references by the main character were cheap and immediately stale. I get that she's essentially a time displaced character from the get go - move on. I was hoping for something smarter than this. I didn't like 30 Rock either though, so I guess I shouldn't be suprised.
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Mar 08, 2015
Ok, you win... it's adorable!
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Mar 08, 2015
i actually watched the first season. thumbs up
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Mar 07, 2015
I have only watch the first episode but I am impressed by Ellie Kemper. She will probably be the reason why I will continue watching.

It is a fairly predictable comedy despite an interesting premise and not that funny.

I will try a few more episodes but comedies are not really suitable for binge watching. I finished House of Cards in 2.5 days last weekend.
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Mar 07, 2015
The stellar/awkward Boys II Men rendition at a Korean funeral is the real winner
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Mar 07, 2015
im glad netflix exist .. what a great serie .. laughing my ass off..
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Mar 07, 2015
I looooove this show! I love Kimmy. I love her light up Sketchers. Tina Fey rocks!!!
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Mar 07, 2015
If this was on NBC I would have given up after the first epusode which was terrible. I love Netflix. I can give something a 2nd chance right away. 2nd episode was much better. I am on epusode 4 now. I never would have lasted this long on (especially with a sitcom) on NBC.
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Mar 07, 2015
It ain't Parks & Recs just yet, but it has potential. I like the dark blades that occasionaly gleam amidst all the cheerfulness.
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Mar 08, 2015
To be fair, Parks and Rec wasn't Parks and Rec until season 2
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Mar 07, 2015
From one who has not seen "30 rock" and is more to english humor, and not a native english speaking person, I would say I was positively surprised after watching 6½ episodes.

I agree about this statement:
"In less capable hands, Kimmy's inconsistencies would probably annoy me—she's incredibly naive in one moment only to turn around and show great skill in navigating the world in another—but she makes it work." That is the one annoyance I have of the first six episodes,- behavour inconsistancy to the new world.

I hope the last seven episodes will have more consistant ignorance of the new world she has to discover, and I hope the show will have more faith and consistancy of showing her ignorance. My favorites so far was the 1'st,4,5 and 6. I haven't laughed as much as I did here, which as I see as unusual for american comedy.
It it boils down to the cast(like the underrated show "The Middle" due to the awesome cast, which is similar to this show), they just do the characters just. I hope the script can keep up the pace and intelligence of the plots and dialogues, for future episodes.

I can't tell, if it should be on the big networks in US or not since I don't have the insight. But as an european I would say this show has a good potential as being a hit over here, since it is not "dumbed down" like most of the shows from US.

I am going to watch the last seven tonight and I have already recommended it to friends and family
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Mar 07, 2015
Can we see her fight Jessica Day to death with kittens?
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Mar 07, 2015
finished.
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Mar 07, 2015
Just watched the first six episodes. While Liz Lemon's and 30 Rock's cynical nature was more fitting to my taste in humour, Kimmy's bubbly outlook and demeanour are by no means grating (as I initially feared they might be).

It's also easy to assume that Kimmy's naivety of modern day New York would be a joke that would tire fast, but it hasn't yet and constantly provides an endless amount of one-liners that keep the series' snappy dialogue/ humour moving along fluently.

Spidermen Too: 2 Many Spidermen was definitely a highlight Kaitlin, and for me personally, from that point in episode four onwards the series seems to have really hit its stride. Titus is a standout character, although I still wish that they'd make Queen of Jordan so I could get by D'Fawn fix (but he's pretty much the same character anyway so I'm not too fussed).

The only really complaint I'd say I have is that Jane Krakowski's Jacqueline is far too similar to 30 Rock's Jenna Maroney, as you mentioned Kaitlin. She was marginally funny in that series, but here she has a more prominent role and the character is too worn and two-dimenional to bring anything to the series. The fact that she wasn't even in the fifth and sixth episodes of the series, in which I think the series is at its best sort of prove this point.

Other than that, not a bad little comedy to binge-watch on the weekend. I'll probably have it finished by Sunday night.
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Mar 07, 2015
It is horrible
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Mar 07, 2015
Can't wait to start watching this!
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Mar 07, 2015
Two episodes in and liking it so far.....
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Mar 07, 2015
I'very watched 4 episodes so far and I'm loving the show. Stands to reason, though, since I love 30 Rock and Tina Fey.
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Mar 07, 2015
I loved this show. The only problem is it is so sweet at times that it felt almost too much to watch shows back to back. It made me sad as this would have fit nicely in the middle of a comedy block but NBC decided to go with gems like Alligiance and the Slap instead. I'm not sure how these guys still have jobs.

This is an edgier 30 Rock. Not every joke lands but being on Netflix allowed them to take a few more chances and I loved it. The only thing I hope they change in the 2nd season is the music they played during the episode (not the theme song which is amazing). The background music during the episode is the exact same as 30 Rock and it caught me off guard every time it played. I like 30 Rock but this is a completely different show and needs a different score.
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Mar 07, 2015
I think Tina Fey's husband did the score for this as well, I thought I saw his name as an executive producer that's probibally why I noticed the same thing.
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Mar 07, 2015
I don't feel like it's totally there yet but I love the humour and I LOVE the theme song and I don't know why. I suddenly have the urge to make it my ringtone.
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Mar 06, 2015
Ellie Kemper is adorable. Tina Fey makes good shows. Whether this succeeds or not is irrelevant. All this has to do is show talent that they are welcome at Netflix where as they will be easily discarded at NBC who increasingly has shown that it doesn't know what they are doing. So this doesn't have to succeed, though it might, all it really has to do is show someone who will succeed that their path is through Netflix rather than attempt to placate the morons at the Networks.
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Mar 07, 2015
NBC gave this show to Netflix because they knew it wouldn't succeed on their network and it wouldn't have. I really enjoy it (even though I don't think it's as fully realized as it could be) but it doesn't have mass appeal. It would have suffered from the same ratings problems Community and Parks and Rec did. NBC saw this and they were right to give it to a network that can give it, its fair chance. NBC needs to focus on developing shows that can give it Blacklist ratings.
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Mar 06, 2015
I love Ellie Kemper. She's just so cute. I was planning on watching this (bc of her mostly) but then I read some reviews and it kind of put me down. And now I see this. I just don't know, I'm lost.
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Mar 06, 2015
I love Tina Fey and 30 Rock, but the promo for this really turned me off. I'm happy to hear that it's good. I'll check it out.
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Mar 06, 2015
Boom, called it. The very first joke Kaitlin mentions in this review is lazy and unpolished: "Richard Wayne Gary Wayne" is a joke that needed to get reworked into something funnier, it's an eyeroll with a kernel of a funny premise. It's why the last few seasons of 30 Rock were so grating.

So you describe this sunny disposition and amazement at the world around her, but how likely is it that she'll stay amazed at automatic sinks when they constantly are more frustrating than amazing? How impressed is she to be when light up shoes are on every kid's feet (especially when they already would have existed when she went underground, they're not that new a premise)? This seems like a great premise for a short film, not a 2-season-minimum show, and it keeps making me wonder why I should invest any time in it after feeling so burned by the second half of 30 Rock.

"Spidermen Too: 2 Many Spidermen", again, just ugh. I see where the humor is in the premise and I see it fail in the execution, like Tina Fey is giving every writer on her staff a gold sticker no matter how little effort is put into writing.

I want to like, I want to be enticed to give this a chance based on several factors, none of which are Tina Fey, but nothing in this review suggests there's enough in this series to warrant my time, and I hate that.
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Mar 09, 2015
I feel the way you do for many series! But it doesn't matter, you just can't force liking something, move on and find another show :)
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Mar 06, 2015
It sounds like you really don't want to like or be enticed. I haven't seen the series myself, but just based on the "how likely" line of questioning I can guess it isn't for you. That makes it sound like you're looking for a more realistic type of comedy and not something that relies on an out there/zany premise. And that's fine, everyone has different comedy tastes, there's no right or wrong way to enjoy it. Just don't force yourself to try and watch/like it if it really isn't your style.
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Mar 07, 2015
You'd be mistaken, actually. I like Ellie Kemper and the premise - while potentially quite limited - has a lot of avenues that could be explored. However, the marketing materials shown, the comments and examples Kaitlin wrote, the Tim/Cory/Jen conversation about the show, they all point me to a place of disinterest. I watched all of 30 Rock hoping for those flashes of brilliance to turn into something more, and they never did, leaving audiences on low notes. It's not that I don't like dadaism or wacky comedy, I do and many are in my rotation, but Tina Fey's production is what I take issue with, that "good enough" feeling to the writing where a better showrunner could have honed the material into something really taut and top-notch. I doubt I'll give this a chance because of that, and it's a shame.
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Mar 06, 2015
I'm four episodes in- and I'm going to make a bold proclamation that this has potential to be my favorite new comedy of 2015 =)
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Mar 06, 2015
"Kimmy and Titus's landlord is played by legendary actress Carol Kane, and unsurprisingly, she nails every scene she appears in"

It'd be a surprise if you saw her in Gotham. Good lord in heaven, she's painful to watch. Ms. Kane may be legendary, but even she can't make lemonade out of that lemon of a role.
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Mar 06, 2015
Ack. I have avoided Gotham. That's a bummer to hear. But she is great as Lilian.
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Mar 06, 2015
I want to trust Kaitlin as she gives usually good reviews but I don't know about this show;
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Mar 06, 2015
Do you like Tina Fey's style of humor? If so, it's worth checking out. At least watch a couple episodes to get a feel for the energy.
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Mar 07, 2015
Watched first 2 eps already and got to say it has a lot of heart; different but in good way. Anyway, thanks:)
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Mar 06, 2015
Meh OK, if I don't like it I can always blame you right;p
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Mar 06, 2015
Wait, Netflix stahhhhhhhhhp. I haven't even begun the third episode of House of Cards season 3! Slow down!!!!
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Mar 06, 2015
Comedies are so not my thing but I am a Netflixslut. Hey I watched the horse show and I don't like animation shows......so I will give it a shot.
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Mar 06, 2015
Spider-Man Too: 2 Many SpiderMan lol! Boy if that ain't the truth! Yet another reboot is on its way and I have to say I'm going to have to pass because if I have to see Uncle Ben get killed AGAIN I'm going to snap....but anyway I may check this out!
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