On Binge Watching and Original Programming

It’s been a font of riches the last couple of weekends in the Trube household. Last weekend we finally tried Chris O’Dowd’s original series Moone Boy about a middle school age kid growing up in Ireland in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and his imaginary friend (played by O’Dowd). This weekend it was The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt about a girl who was trapped underground for 15 years by a doomsday cult and tries to remake her life in New York City (from Tina Fey and other minds behind 30 Rock). Both of these shows had me screaming at Hulu and Netflix respectively for more seasons.

Both comedies are very bizarre, both in their original premise and in their selection of stories. Moone Boy, with the imaginary friend, is probably the more grounded of the two. I was younger than the main character at the time of the series, but it still brings back a lot of nostalgia for the old technology, hair dos, and goings on (even if I know incredibly little about Ireland from this period). O’Dowd often plays with the premise that everything the imaginary friend says is really coming from the kid so he is often encouraging of the most daft ideas, while maintaining a Hobbes-like skepticism. There’s a lot here that plays like Calvin and Hobbes, including gags showing the kid talking to no-one, lifting his imaginary friend up in a dance move, but we’re not left with the sense that none of that experience is real.

The family dynamic also makes this show. The bit with the fathers admitting how much they can’t stand their kids in the first episode is hilarious particularly the fishing bit. The mother and father relish watching some of the drama of their eldest daughter, until the drama goes a little over the line. And some of the one-liners from the middle daughters forced us to pause the episodes.

Kimmy Schmidt feels like another incarnation of 30 Rock, with some of the crazy energy of those best early seasons. You definitely can see a lot of Liz Lemon attitudes coming out of Kimmy, though Ellie Kemper adds her own ridiculously positive, yet strong energy to the roll. This show does have some of the rough edges that streaming shows tend to have, but mostly in a good way. The auto-tuned beginning alone lets you know this is going to be fun. Casting is spot on, particularly the roll of the crazed preacher who kept the girls underground for all those years. My wife correctly pointed out that the landlady of the building where Kimmy Schmidt lives is Billy Crystal’s wife from The Princess Bride (a reference that would have taken me ages to get despite seeing that movie at least 25 times).

It was a little weird seeing Tina in a role in the show after investing so much in Kimmie in the early episodes. I’m almost wondering if it would have been a better choice to stay out of the way. I love Fey’s ability to create a farce, but when it’s unmoderated it can lose some of its heart. The trial episodes in particular are a mix of the best and worst qualities of 30 Rock, but overall I am demanding another season right now.

And Krakowski is doing some great work in this as well, taking a Jenna Maroney-like character but making her a slightly insecure second wife. At first it plays very much the same note, except maybe tilted 15 degrees to the right, but as we learn more of her back-story and insecurities she’s much more sympathetic and a good friend to Kimmie. I’m leaving out Titus Burgess, but I think he speaks for himself.

If you have either or both of these streaming services, you owe it to yourself to give both these shows a try. I have a feeling many of you will be hooked by the first episode.

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