Initiated as a DVD distribution service, Netflix has established a dominant position for itself as a provider of quality on-demand Internet streaming, including smart, zany comedies like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
The brand seems to have the Midas touch: besides its string of successful originals, Netflix has picked up series other networks discarded that quickly skyrocketed to success. One such case is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. While even Tina Fey’s name could not guarantee success for the comedy on NBC, acquisition by Netflix has visibly turned things around.
Created by Fey and Robert Carlock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt centers on the titular Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), a woman who is almost unnervingly optimistic, despite having been trapped inside an underground bunker by a doomsday cult leader for 15 years before attaining freedom.
The Indiana “mole women,” as Kimmy and her three fellow captives are dubbed by the media, were told by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) that the apocalypse has come to pass. “We caused it with our dumbness,” they chant merrily. Hence, having been isolated from reality for over a decade, they know nothing about the pop-culture obsessed, Songified world of today.
Kemper is delightful to watch as Kimmy; she manages to make what could’ve been a nauseatingly positive character an absolute joy to follow. Kimmy displays indomitable spirit and a can-do attitude as she resolves to make a life for herself in New York. This, of course, comes with help from a few friends, including aspiring gay Broadway singer Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and his eccentric and streetwise landlady Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane).
When the “Mole Fund” that was supposed to provide financial assistance is stolen in the pilot episode, Kimmy recalls that she is a survivor after all. She resolves to make it despite the unfortunate circumstances. Jane Krakowski, beloved in Tina Fey’s 30 Rock, comes to Kimmy’s aid in the form of vain, wealthy, yet insecure socialite Jaqueline Voorhees. Jacqueline’s offer of employment in her lavish Manhattan abode as her son’s nanny is picked up by Kimmy and naturally comes with its own challenges.
The series follows Kimmy as she makes enduring efforts regarding all aspects of her new life, whether it is getting Titus to warm up to her, or hiding her identity as a mole woman from Jaqueline and her entitled, nosy stepdaughter Xanthippe (Dylan Gelula). Part of the comedy also centers on Kimmy’s attempts at romance in today’s world as well as flashbacks of her life with her “sisters” in the bunker.
There are multiple reasons why Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt works. The casting is on-point – the actors fit into their roles with effortless ease and absolutely own each scene they are in. The comedy has something for everyone and explores various important topics through scenes and characters.
Women are empowered as the viewer follows Kimmy and Jacqueline on their respective journeys. “Unbreakable! They alive, dammit! Females are strong as hell!” says a man about the Indiana mole women in the show’s title theme. Light is also shed on the LGBT community through Titus. He also deservedly steals the show at times, especially in a highly memorable musical performance by actor Burgess.
Moreover, the series shows impressive ability to take each aspect of the storyline and incorporate it into comedic moments that are unique, funny, and in line with the elements of modern culture.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a refreshing addition to Netflix’s comedy lineup; somewhat reminiscent of 30 Rock (by the same creators), and yet completely in a league of its own. The series has garnered impressive success on ratings forums such as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and was greenlit for a second season this year. The show, much like its titular lead, may just be on the path to being unbreakable.