Seeing The Light: The Gospel of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Tina Fey’s brand-new sitcom for Netflix stumbles at first, but has great promise to hit its stride.
There’s nothing proprietary about a girl trying to “make it” in the big city. That classic TV model provides ample storylines, wacky scenarios, and the ability to have an ever-changing carousel of characters that help build the heroine up, or cut her down. While Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt looks like another run-of-the-mill sitcom from the outside, the series—much like its protagonist—has enough depth and complexity to propel itself to success.
From the minds of 30 Rock creator Tina Fey and showrunner Robert Carlock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt takes the generic fish-out-of-water script to the next, unusual level by following the story of a young woman who has recently been rescued from a doomsday cult underground bunker. After making a mandatory appearance on the Today show, Kimmy Schmidt (The Office’s Ellie Kemper) decides that she won’t be returning to her small hometown and vows to start anew in New York. This is a lot of plot to unpack, and could have easily filled an entire season, but Kimmy’s entire backstory is only given a few minutes of airtime.
Within the thirty-minute pilot, Schmidt escapes the “mole women” bunker, moves to New York, gets a roommate/best friend, finds a job, goes clubbing, gets robbed, and loses her job. Unbreakable barely leaves enough time for a solid joke to land before it tries to push two more lackluster attempts into the next minute. The result is a viewing experience that is simultaneously jam-packed, a little flat, and certainly not as satisfying Fey’s previous offering. Thankfully, as the show progresses and we find out more about Schmidt’s harrowing time in the bunker (through flashbacks and nightmares), the easier it is to be in awe of such an inspiring person who, above all of the ’90s references and sunshiney wardrobe (Light Up Sketchers!), is a survivor.
Kimmy’s optimism and (literally) time-tested coping mechanisms are infectious—from rekindling her roommate Titus’s (30 Rock’s Tituss Burgess) long-dormant dreams of stardom to trying to help her boss, the impossibly vain Jacqueline Voorhees (30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski), cope with her fear of abandonment. Underneath the weak jokes that didn’t fully evolve within the first few episodes, Kimmy Schmidt’s unwavering hope is not only refreshing, it’s necessary. Through her quirky one-liners and ten-second mantras, Schmidt’s self-confidence is encouraging, and that’s reason enough to stick with her. After all, she’s unbreakable. FL
The first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available to watch on Netflix now.