There are not many series that would cause me to binge watch every show over the course of two days (it would have only been one day, had I started earlier in the evening and didn’t have this job that I have to go to each morning). Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is just such a series. It doesn’t hurt that there are only 13 episodes in the first season.
First, some background. The series was created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Carlock is a former writer from SNL and 30 Rock. Tina Fey also was a key part of SNL as both a writer and performer. As most people know, Fey also starred in (and wrote for) 30 Rock.
The show stars Ellie Kemper, who most notably starred as Erin the secretary on the US version of The Office faux-reality TV show. That same positive, chipper character is a key part of Kemper’s Kimmy Schmidt in this series.
It is available via Netflix. There is no laugh track (thank goodness).
No Spoilers, as you have come to expect from the Monkey.
The series follows Kimmy Schmidt, one of four young girls locked away in a bunker for 15 years by a charismatic cult leader, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. In the bunker, all the pre-teens had was each other and visits by Wayne. They had no contact with the outside world during this time. All they know is whatever they were familliar with when they entered the bunker around the year 2000, including that pop culture and technology (no iPhone?!?).
Of the four characters, Kimmy Schmidt is the most positive and resilient. She’s the rock behind the other three girls, one of whom apparently only speaks Spanish.
At the start of the series, they are rescued, amid media fanfare. Kimmy, who was raised in Indiana, decides to take control of her life, not return to Indiana, and start anew in New York City. She meets a
landlady played by Lillian Kaushtupper (a manic Carole Cane) and agrees to share an apartment with a struggling gay actor named Titus Andromedon (totally over-the-top
Tituss Burgess). She ultimately is offered a job as a nanny by the super-rich Jacqueline Voorhees, played by another 30 Rock alumni, Jane Krakowski.
The 13-episode series takes us from the rescue, to Kimmy moving into an apartment in New York, getting her first job and struggling to understand all the advances in culture, slang and technology, dating, and having to deal with the Reverend again.
Titus is working in a dead-end, low paying job with dreams of being a famous actor but little ambition and no money put away. Lillian interjects odd commentary about what they are all experiencing, and obscure references to disturbing events in her past life.
And Jacqueline Vorhees is the penultimate one-percenter, with little regard for anything but herself, a less-than-faithful husband and snotty step-daughter.
Doesn’t that sound hilarious?
Well it actually is. What makes the show work very well is the fact that Kimmy is truly unbreakable. She wavers and is frustrated often, but usually comes through with a strong and positive attitude. She uses squeaky-clean language, saying “Gosh” instead of “God” and cursing using “Jeepers” instead of “Jesus”. It may sound annoying, but it works. Really works. Ellie Kemper is truly adorable; someone you’d like as a friend.
The episodes are fast-paced. Funny remarks are made without any beat or pause. The show doesn’t say “look at this funny thing I just said”. It just moves on at 100 mph. It assume the audience is smart and knows pop culture references, even from the 2000’s.
Titus is so over the top that he bypasses annoying and leaps right to amusing. His hammy-performance, including filming a video as rapper “Pinot Noir” is really entertaining (and the odd tune kind of gets stuck in your head).
Krakowski is also a rapid-fire delivery comic, who is capable of some fantastic physical humor. The supporting cast is very effective. Tina Fey also guest stars in an episode.
During the series, you’ll see fun poked at divorce lawyers, spin classes, iPhones, themed restaurants, immigrants, the rich, the poor and positive attitude books, catcalling constructions workers and so on.
Even with how well the show is written, there is a bit of unevenness in the scripts. The scripts written (or co-writtern) by Fey are very good, as are the ones written by Carlock. You’d expect that with them being the creators. Toward episode 9 (“Kimmy has a birthday”) and 10 (“Kimmy’s in a Love Triangle”), the show falters a bit. Admittedly, it would have been incredible to sustain the level of humor and manic tempo through an entire season (Arrested Development very nearly did -the original series, not the second series). But it’s a minor observation – the series is hands down one of the funniest and uniquely interesting shows in recent memory.
The key upcoming Season Two will go a long way in foretelling whether the quality of this first series can be sustained.
On a scale of one yellow windbreaker to five gosh and jeepers, The Monkey gives this series a solid 4.5 Pinot Noirs. Hashbrown check it out!