Spring 2015 Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

25 Mar

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a new sitcom from 30 Rock creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. 30 Rock is one of the best comedies of the 21st century, and while second efforts from well-respected creators don’t always turn out so well, in this case, if you like or love 30 Rock, you’ll like or love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. That’s not to say the shows are exactly the same, but they are tonally similar enough that I would just about guarantee any fan of the former would like the latter.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt shares 30 Rock’s rapid fire delivery method, its love of wordplay jokes, its over-the-top silliness, and for kicks, one of the four main characters in portrayed by Jane Krakowski, whose Jacqueline Voorhees is pretty much the same as her Jenna Maroney on 30 Rock – rich, entitled, vain, and egocentric.

The show begins with a high concept premise that could be misleading but is worth knowing. Kimmy Schmidt was kidnapped as a teen and spent 15 years underground in a bunker, held captive by a wannabe cult leader/preacher (the amazingly-named Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne) who told her and three other women that the apocalypse had occurred and all life on earth was destroyed beyond the bunker. She and the other captives were eventually found and released, and while the others move back to their small midwestern town, Kimmy decides she wants to use her newfound freedom to take on big New York City. She’s a classic fish-out-of-water, both having never been to a big city, and also being unaware of 15 years of culture and technology, which results in many hilarious miscues.

She moves in with a wannabe theater actor named Titus Andremedon who warms up with to her after displaying initial hostility and gets a job as an assistant for wealthy housewife Voorhees. The three of them, along with Kimmy and Titus’s landlord Lillian, make up the main cast.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is not just good; it’s laugh-out-loud funny, a quality that even many of the sitcoms I watch and enjoy don’t feature on an episode-to-episode basis. Kimmy Schmidt does not shoot for perfect, squeaky-clean writing and plotting. Rather, Kimmy takes a Pete Rose approach – it goes up for 650 at-bats, swinging away over and over again, never passing up an opportunity to insert a joke, and yet its joke-joke-joke approach works because it connects an inordinate number of times. We forgive the inevitable misses because the hits are frequent enough and funny enough to make the trade clearly worthwhile. This scattershot approach leads to plenty of jokes which some people will find funnier than others, but more than enough for everyone to find some they like.

The show was written with Ellie Kemper in mind as Schmidt, and it shows. She’s a perfect choice for the part, and the part is a perfect showcase for her talents. Kimmy Schmidt showcases her sense of comic timing, her physical humor, her ability to be charmingly confused without looking dumb (something The Office unfortunately pushed too far to simply making her stupid), her ability to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, endlessly enthusiastic in the face of countless obstacles, yet not drive a constant cynic like myself off the wall with her good cheer.

Will I watch it again? Yes. Actually, I’ll be honest. It’s a Netflix show with ten half hour episodes. I already finished it, and you probably should too.

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