It’s a good thing NBC sold Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to Netflix. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s latest collaboration wouldn’t have lasted long on a network so desperate to catch CBS in the ratings that it’s decided that generic, watered down comedy is the way to go. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is anything but that. It’s amazing that NBC would even consider picking it up based on the premise alone.
That premise? Welllll, our protagonist, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) has spent the last 15 years in a bunker with three other women under the belief that the world has ended. When the charismatic shyster Reverend that has been keeping them down there is arrested, the “Indiana Mole Women” are released back into a whole new world. Kimmy decides to leave Indiana and start fresh in New York City.
Unbreakable has the same exact tone as Fey and Carlock’s terrific 30 Rock. It’s zany, sharp, and super weird. I mean that all in the best possible way. Instead of exploring the world of show business, Unbreakable deals largely with issues of independence, change, fanaticism, and social class. It’s amazing that a show with such a specifically odd premise can address so many themes.
Kimmy finds a home in a delightful little dump with Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) run by Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane). It’s almost like Fey and Carlock decided to set an entire series in Carrie Fisher’s character’s neighborhood from the “Rosemary’s Baby” episode of 30 Rock. Titus and Lillian guide Kimmy into the bizarre world of lower class New York. Lillian spouts peculiar chunks of street wisdom from her stoop in a way that only Carol Kane could deliver. Titus walks us through the life of a struggling actor, from the sad costumed denizens of Times Square to the world of competitive dinner theater.
The other side of New York doesn’t sit quite as well. Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski) is basically the rich, WASPy wife version of Jenna Maroney. It works for the most part, but when it doesn’t, yeesh. Voorhees isn’t bad, but she isn’t quite as well conceived as the rest of Kimmy’s world.
Even with its weak points, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a wonderful comedy that fills the void left by 30 Rock. Ellie Kemper radiates infectious positive energy in a role she was born to play. The supporting cast is solid. The cameos are stellar. Between the doomsday cults, bunker mole women, low income housing, and GED classes, this show never would have worked on NBC. Thankfully it’s here on Netflix and proudly strutting its weird stuff for everyone to see.
Hey, you’ve also seen the show in its entirety and feel comfortable reading observations about the season as a whole!
- When I mention issues with Jacqueline Voorhees, of course I mean with her unusual Native American backstory. I get what they were going for (I think), but it doesn’t work as well as intended.
- Being a werewolf in New York seems pretty great.
- I can’t decide whose cameo I loved more: Jon Hamm as Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne or Dean Norris as Titus’ straight coach.
- I’m also a big fan of Mad Men’s Sally Draper, Kiernan Shipka, showing up as Kimmy’s sister.
- Martin Short’s appearance freaked me out.
- Tina Fey’s Marcia Clark wig might be the show MVP.
- This is a good piece by Todd VanDerWerff over at Vox on the use of color.
- Not sure how I felt about Tim Blake Nelson as Kimmy’s stepfather. He was almost a little too dumb.
- The foreign Friends theme song lyrics had me in stitches, as did Titus’ Spider-Man musical audition song. “I will crush that Spider-Man! And then that other Spider-Man! And all the Spider-Men! Til I’m the Spider-Maaaan!”