‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ Gets on TV!

If there’s a hole in your heart where “30 Rock” has been, fear no more. NBC-turned-Netflix’s sitcom “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is the new and improved “TGS with Tracy Jordan.”

Created by Liz Lemon — I mean, Lemon’s real-life alter-ego Tina Fey — and co-writer Robert Carlock (“Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock,” “The Dana Carvey Show”), “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is the type of show Lemon wanted to produce during her stint as a TV writer at 30 Rockefeller Plaza: the quirky feminist New Yorker comedy unapproved by the big corporate networks. In reality, the show was released by NBC because the network thought “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (like “30 Rock”) would be too niche.

They were right. But that doesn’t bother Netflix — whose micro-genres include “quirky TV shows,” “irreverent TV sitcoms” and “witty TV comedies with a strong female lead.” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is all these things — and delivered in 23-minute chunks (which makes it even more binge-worthy than “Orange is the New Black” or the latest season of “House of Cards”).

While “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” would have been a pioneer a decade ago, Fey’s “30 Rock” paved the way for dozens of female-centric TV shows from “Parks and Recreation” (with Fey’s SNL co-star Amy Poehler) and “The Mindy Project” to “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23,” “2 Broke Girls” and “New Girl.”

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is like an unofficial “30 Rock” spin-off, who looks and feels like its predeccessor. As the pilot opens, the show’s heroine, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper, “The Office”), is at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the familiar set of NBC’s “Today” show. Sitting across from her is anchor Matt Lauer.

Schmidt and her sister-wives were snatched up by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) 15 years ago and forced to live in a religious underground cult in the fictional small-town of Durnsville, Ind. Its news threads resemble a cross between the “bedroom intruder” story and the Cleveland kidnappings. 

Fey and Carlock satirizes Amanda Berry‘s story among others, even auto-tuning the girls’ release. But the show isn’t about life locked up in a bunker. It’s about life after.

Approaching her 30s, Schmidt’s (like Kemper’s “The Office” co-star, Mindy Kaling of “The Mindy Project”) trying to navigate the Big Apple as a strong woman. That means living despite her past as an “Indiana Mole Women” — the adopted moniker for her and her kidnapped peers. So she lives with her sunny wardrobe and unbelievably bubbly optimism (which rivals Kenneth the Page’s).

Fey models Schmidt after her character in “30 Rock.” Once upon a time, Liz Lemon bought a whole cart of hot dogs because a guy cut her in line. Like Lemon, Kimmy Schmidt is a stickler for rules. Schmidt follows a kid (Tanner Flood) who stole a candy bar, returning him to his incompetant socialite mother, Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock”). When she finds out that Mrs. Voorhees has no plans to punish her son, Schmidt takes it upon herself to punish him.

This leads her to her first job as Buckley (Flood) and Xanthippe (Dylan Gelula)’s nanny as well as Mrs. Voorhees’ assistant/personal slave. Meanwhile, she finds boarding with gay diva Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and his cat-lady landlord Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane).

These characters rival the quirkiness of the cast of “30 Rock.” Like Lemon, Schmidt spends her days like a TV producer — trouble-shooting for her insecure friends (Titus has enough attitude to rival Tracy Jordan and Jacqueline can be as self-centered as her “30 Rock” persona Jenna Maroney). Unlike Lemon though, Schmidt doesn’t have a mentor like “30 Rock’s” Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). Instead, girl power carries the show.

Fey and Carlock’s 13-episode pilot season showcases female empowerment. While Kimmy Schmidt isn’t a doctor like Mindy Lahiri of “The Mindy Project” or a politician like Leslie Knope of “Parks and Recreation” or a TV writer/producer like Liz Lemon of “30 Rock,” she conquers mundane everyday tasks like solving math, getting a GED, or breaking up with a guy. Despite her strange beginnings, Schmidt proves that anyone can conquer anything and that women are truly unbreakable.

It’s as Kimmy Schmidt says: “I learned a long time ago that a person can stand just about anything for 10 seconds… All you gotta do is take it 10 seconds at a time.”

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was created by Robert Carlock and Tina Fey. Season one is available on Netflix. 


‘Neighbors’: a non-stop party

Remember Joel Schumacher’s 1985 Razzle Award-winning coming-of-age film “St. Elmo’s Fire”? The New York Times’ Janet Maslin wrote, “Its characters are old enough to enjoy the first flushes of prosperity, but still sufficiently youthful to keep their self-absorption intact. But soon enough, they will be forced to give up their late-night carousing at a favorite bar and move on to more responsible lives. In the film’s terms, which are distinctly limited, this will mean finding a more sedate hangout and learning to go there for brunch.”

That, too, is the basic premise of Nicholas Stoller’s comedy, “Neighbors.” Written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, “Neighbors” stars new parents, Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly Radner (Rose Bryne). They’re convinced that they’re the “cool” parents — who can take care of their baby and go to all-night ragers.

“Just because we have a house and a baby doesn’t mean we’re old people,” says Kelly.

“We can have fun and a baby,” adds Mac.

But when the Delta Psi Beta boys (with leading men Zac Efron as fraternity president Teddy Sanders and Dave Franco as VP Pete) move next door (they burned down their last frat house), Mac and Kelly learn that they actually prefer brunch at farmer’s markets and making themed baby calendars and going to bed at (gasp!) 10 o’clock.

Like last summer’s comedy hit “This is the End,” half of the appeal of “Neighbors” are the the surprise celebrity cameos. Andy Samberg’s (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Saturday Night Live”) featured as the toga party founder in a Delta Psi Beta flashback. Lisa Kudrow (“Friends”) plays the university’s dean. Adam DeVine (“Pitch Perfect,” “Modern Family”) invents beer pong. Jake Johnson’s (“New Girl”) the creator of the “Boot & Bally” — a maneuver where you drink until you throw up, which you drink again (Sadly, the “True American” isn’t one of the party games mentioned). Even Steve Carrell makes an appearance in the film as “The Office’s” Michael Scott. “Bros before hoes,” he says in front of a Dunder Mifflin sign.

At times, “Neighbors” feels like an audition reel for “Saturday Night Live’s” Lorne Michaels.  Zac Efron and Seth Rogan duel with their opposing Batman impersonations (Efron’s Christian Bale while Rogan’s Michael Keaton). Efron and Franco impersonate Robert De Niro. Ike Barinholtz (“The Mindy Project”) pulls a mean Ray Romano and Barack Obama. And Australian actress Rose Byrne plays a spot-on Anne Hathaway.

The comedy, though, is the spoonful of sugar that helps us swallow some of the film’s tougher storylines. Teddy’s graduating from college life. Pete’s a child of divorce. Everyone has to grow up — which is hard to do.

Like Rob Lowe’s character in “St. Elmo’s Fire,” Efron’s Teddy gets by with his good looks — batting his baby blues and strutting around half naked in front of an Abercrombie & Fitch store. He’s the Peter Pan who will never grow up — who can’t function outside his 4/20 parties and all-night keggers. The kind of alpha male who gets left behind when everyone moves on.

Before “Neighbors” shines that harsh light on reality, though, Stoller’s film extolls the hedonistic lifestyle with a number of highly stylized party anthems (including Theophilus London’s “Girls Girls $,” Icona Pop’s “All Night,” Fergie’s “London Bridge” and Kei$ha’s “Die Young”).

The fun lasts 96 minutes and is infectious: a non-stop party full of your favorite people — who just happen to be super-talented celebrities from TV and film.  And while this party isn’t at James Franco’s house (this time) — at least you can get in with the price of a movie ticket.

TRIGGER WARNING: “Neighbors” contains rape and gun jokes.

“Neighbors” was directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien.

‘Cat’s Cradle’: Catching a whale with a bundle of string

cat's cradle kurt vonnegut“Call me Jonah,” begins Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical novel, “Cat’s Cradle” (1963). Famous first words, almost as memorable as Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.”

And like “Moby Dick’s” Ishmael, the writer Jonah (whose real name is John) embarks on a journey. His is to catalog “The Day the World Ended,” or rather, the day the U.S. bombed Hiroshima. And since bomb creator Dr. Felix Hoenikker’s dead, Jonah tracks down his three living children: the midget Newt, a tall horse-faced blond named Angela (I’m picturing SNL’s Kate McKinnon in this video) and the U.S. fugitive Frank.

This is where the tale turns absurd. The Bible’s Jonah, the son of Amittai (Hebrew for “truth”), was swallowed by a whale, remember?

But while there’s no literal whale’s in this story, the metaphor’s there. Like Captain Ahab, Jonah searches for his “great white whale.” And that truth leads him to the Hoenikker kids, who carry their father’s legacy.

Dr. Manhattan left one inconvenient invention (which also caused his untimely death): the ice-nine, a block of ice which freezes everything its dropped in. That’s what Newt and Angela hold when Jonah meets them on his way to the fictional Caribbean island of San Lorenzo.

Newt and Angela are there to see their brother’s engagement to the island princess Mona. Frank’s now a general serving at the pleasure of San Lorenzo’s dying president, “Papa” Monzano.

But God’s ways are as mysterious as the island’s main religion Bokononism. And religion turns out to be the “great white whale” Jonah’s searching for.

Invented by a prophet with the surname of Johnson, Bokononism served as the island dweller’s “one real instrument of hope.”

“Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and better lies,” says San Lorenzo’s historian.

Those cynical words may seem blasphemous to firm religious believers, but those “lies” spell some truth.

In 300-some pages, Vonnegut shows us the absurdity of life and the meaning in a meaningless world.

‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ both on and off the air

You can’t turn on the T.V., listen to the news or go on the Internet without seeing, hearing or reading about anchorman Ron Burgundy and his latest gimmicks. If you haven’t caught his Dodge Durango endorsements, you’ve probably seen him on Conan, ESPN, CNN or even your local news. Or perhaps he was named dean for the day at your college, answering questions and giving advice to future journalism grads.

All this publicity to who WBC’s Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) calls “the worst anchorman I have ever seen.”

But in case you’ve somehow escaped the Ron Burgundy media blitz promoting his second film, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” you probably know his alter ego, comedian Will Ferrell, who co-created the character and the 2004 cult classic, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” with former SNL writer Adam McKay.

The sequel begins after San Diego co-anchors Ron (Ferrell) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), were promoted to network news in New York. Veronica becomes the Katie Couric of this fictional storyline (she broke ground as the Jessica Savitch in the previous film); and Ron loses his job at the station, starting a depressing career emceeing for dolphins at Seaworld.

His lifeline comes in the form of GNN, a new global news network looking for enough talent to fill 24-hour of news. So Ron and his San Diego news team, including reporter Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and sports anchor Champ Kind (David Koechner), return to the television business, creating the dysfunctional format we see satirized nightly on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

What this means is gimmicky feel good stories about America, play-by-play disaster coverage, rampant speculation from talking heads and endless cute animal videos — which is not so different from the news today. This also means more jazz flute, animal attacks, news team fights and all the pageantry that made the first “Anchorman” film so memorable.

Funny or Die founders Adam McKay and Will Ferrell (whose collaboration has produced half a dozen films including “Step Brothers,” “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby,” and “The Campaign”) perfected a formula for comedy: put Will Ferrell in front of a camera and we’ll die laughing. Yes, his laughter is still infectious, but the jokes have gone a little stale from repetition.

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is directed by Adam McKay and written by McKay and Will Ferrell.

SNL returns with 39th season

“Saturday Night Live’s” 39th season started last tonight with a focus on introducing its six new cast members.

Host Tina Fey returned to the stage, inducting her protégés to the art of embarrassing backup dancing.

“Is your father watching?” Fey asked. “Put more crotch in it.”

That’s not the only advice she gave. Fey preached female empowerment to new Weekend Update co-anchor Cecily Strong, who will succeed Seth Meyers once he replaces Jimmy Fallon on the “Late Night Show.”

Filling in for Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis, fresh faces Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Michael Patrick O’Brien, Noel Wells and Brooks Wheelan joined the cast, inspiring a game show segment called, “New Cast Member Or Arcade Fire?” As guest contestant, Fey would pick out the new cast member from each pairing.

She had some help, of course. Game show host Kenan Thompson welcomed SNL producer and creator Lorne Michaels for some input.

But after some careful consideration, Michaels incorrectly guessed “the black one,” referring to Thompson, who’s been a regular on SNL for the past decade.

When not parading the new talent, the season premiere referenced “Breaking Bad,” whose season finale airs on AMC tonight.

President Obama (Jay Pharoah) introduced Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in the show’s cold open, trying to use him to sell the Affordable Care Act. You know, ‘cuz selling meth for money is what people do when they don’t have health insurance.

The “Breaking Bad” actor was also featured as Drunk Uncle’s (Bobby Moynihan) Meth Nephew, his “Breaking Bad”-watching buddy.

Lastly, Paul approved a short e-meth commercial (because they’re gonna be the next big thing after the e-cig craze). As Jesse Pinkman says, “They’re blue, bitch!”

Without a doubt, the new cast will need more exposure and getting used to. While this isn’t the largest cast turnover in SNL history, it’d be hard to replace Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader — and of course, their recurring alter-egos Nicholas Fehn, the Devil and Stefon. But like Fey, who joked about her own collection of non-existent recurring roles in last night’s opening monologue, they’ll be back, right?

“Saturday Night Live” will return to NBC at 11:30 p.m. EST on Oct. 5 with host and musical guest Miley Cyrus.  

Bullock and McCarthy bring ‘The Heat’

A year after Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) emerged as the undercover cop duo in Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s film “21 Jump Street,” they have two female counterparts: Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Boston Deputy Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy).

And they know it too. “Are you a narc?” one of Mullins’ meathead brothers asks SA Ashburn.

“What?” she answers.

“A narc,” he replies. “You know, like fucking Johnny Depp in ’21 fucking Jump Street.'”

Directed by Paul Feig, known for “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” pairs know-it-all FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn with potty-mouthed undercover Boston cop Shannon Mullins (her undercover uniform consists of a T-shirt, vest and sweatpants, making her look like more of a bum). The problem is… they’re both territorial alpha females.

“Wow, lady, you’re on a real fucking roll,” Mullins says after she finds out that Ashburn has not only taken her parking spot, but also her interrogation. “Get it up, and get it the fuck out of here, cause this is my room.”

But SA Ashburn isn’t intimiated by the cussing or the attitude. Her insults come off nonchalantly — as if she doesn’t realize she’s being insulting, which in turn, makes it all the more insulting.

“Were you about to be, uh, questioned by a detective?” Ashburn asks.

“I am a detective and this is my perp!”

Get ready to watch 117 minutes of this: swearing, bitch slapping and insults. Yes, it’s longer than a “Maury” episode, and the words aren’t bleeped out ‘cuz it’s not on television, but there’s physical humor too!

McCarthy and Bullock get progressively drunk at a dive bar, downing shots with snout-like noses, dancing with old grandpas and spending the morning. No donuts or coffee for these gals!

What else? In once scene, McCarthy pretends to shoot out some guys privates; in another scene, Bullock actually does it!

And who could forget McCarthy’s smouldering smooch with her real-life hubby, Ben Falcone?

Remember him? He was the air marshall she made out with in “Bridesmaids.” This time around, he’s Melissa’s lovesick stalker who can’t take a hint (Who would? McCarthy’s hot and cold — one minute she’s having a one night stand with him, and the next, she’s pretending he doesn’t exist. Not to mention, they’re married in real life!).

And Officer Mullins can be a vicious maneater too.

“Hey, if anyone’s seen the captain’s balls, let me know,” she says about her boss, shouting these words to the entire office. “They’re about this big… But a lot tinier. They’re like a pea, or like a…like a ball bearing, or like, if you’ve ever seen a mouse ball, about half that size. Incredibly tiny, they’re like really, really tiny little girl balls, if little girls had balls.”

Over the top, much? Maybe.

There’s a saying that if a stand-up comedian has to rely on swear words for laughs, he or she must not be that funny.

Funny-girl McCarthy swears every other sentence, using it like a crutch.

But like “Bridesmaids,” there are some serious laugh-out-loud moments,  or at least chuckles — not as many of those deep, belly laughs of “Bridemaids” that left you winded, crying and gasping for breath though.

Feig has a knack for showing people at their most pathetic. After all, who could forget a scene that featured pooping in your wedding dress? Or in this case, slitting a dude’s throat while giving the Heimlich. Not the same? Didn’t think so…

But while “The Heat” doesn’t have as many memorable personalities as “Bridesmaids,” McCarthy and Bullock carry the buddy-buddy cop flick.

They’re Cagney & Lacey, Thema and Louise, Lorelai and Sookie — and “where you lead, I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to…”

A classic friendship that begins with name calling and ends with: “Nerd, you have a sister!”

Don’t worry: they’re not going anyway. “The Heat 2” is in the works (unlike “Gilmore Girls”). Let’s hope their next stand-up routine has a little less swearing, a little more substance and a lot more belly laughs written in.

“The Heat” was directed by Paul Feig and written by Kate Dippold, whose writing credits include “Parks and Recreation” and “MADtv.” 

‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ plays same old tune

The title of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” practically tells the whole story. It’s about boy falling for a girl over an endless indie soundtrack. We’ve heard this one before, right?

Michael Cera plays Nick, another awkward soft-spoken teenager who looks as harmless as Bambi and Kat Dennings is Norah, his spunky, dark-haired love-interest.

But what you might not expect from Peter Sollett’s film are the cameos from prominent “Saturday Night Live” cast members. Seth Meyers makes out with a chick in a Yugo while Andy Samberg plays a homeless dude camped outside St. Patrick Cathedral. The only thing “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” seems to be missing is Bill Hader, or rather, his alter-ego, Stefon.

Stefon will tell you that New York’s hottest club is “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” Director Peter Sollett and screenplay writer Lorene Scafaria have built a world between the puke-ridden streets of New York City’s indie nightlife. Based on Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s book and with lines like, “10 men a-streaking, 1980s dancing, eight trainers training, seven flies and zipping, six extra stitches, five tight gigs, four crunched hens, three French men, two turtle dreams and a darg in my panties,” this place has EVERYTHING: kidnappings, barfing, a yellow Yugo, super-bitches, douche bags, gaylords, uni-boobs, gum-filled kisses, a fistful of assholes, canaries in skinny jeans, an alter boy with no pants and — is that Jesus? No, it’s “Midnight X: Oh Horny Night,” an all-male Christmas drag show in the middle of May.

Although “Weekend Update” host Seth Meyers may have some reservations about this place, Stefon wouldn’t mind Nick’s company: Thom (Aaron Yoo) and Dev (Rafi Gavron), two gay boys who make up the other third of Nick’s band The Jerk Offs, who aid in Nick’s quest to get the girl.

“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” isn’t special. We’ve heard this soundtrack before — quirkier in “Juno” and funnier on “Saturday Night Live.”

“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” was directed by Peter Sollett and written by Lorene Scafaria. It’s based on Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s novel.