Colourful, cheerful and cheeky, Netflix exclusive Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt brings brilliant comedy into the streaming service’s growing canon of TV shows. Oh, yeah, and four women are being held in a bunker at the start of episode one. It’s actually comedy gold, promise.
Originally scheduled to be broadcast on NBC, Unbreakable introduces us to Kimmy Schmidt, one of the four ‘mole women’ rescued from an underground cult where they had been trapped for fifteen years. The cult had brainwashed them into believing the apocalypse had wiped out the human race and that they were the only survivors.
As soon as they are free, it is clear Kimmy is more adventurous (though just as naïve) as her fellow sisters and so uses her new lease of life to start a life in the Big City: New York. However, times have changed since Kimmy knew the world as a teenager, of course leading to misunderstandings, epiphanies, and low alcohol tolerance.
Ellie Kemper plays Kimmy brilliantly, managing to encompass the struggle of growing up without letting the show become too heavy and morose. In the style of a tween adventure book, Kimmy can solve just about any practical problem with some duct tape and a dazzling smile, but still can’t quite cope with the emotional baggage of adulthood. Luckily for her, neither can the majority of the characters in this wonderful, dysfunctional city.
The host of characters are diverse, eccentric and, oddly, many are at first unlikeable. However, the show tricks us into caring for these characters despite, and perhaps because of, their flaws. This diversity gives the writers a vehicle for contrasting low and high society in NYC and showing how they aren’t actually that different. While her roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess) and morally questionable landlady Lillian (Carol Kane) may not have the money that Kimmy’s employers, the Vorhees, have, this doesn’t stop them having a similar lack of sense, although they do have more street smarts.
The varied backgrounds of the characters also give creators Robert Carlock and Tina Fey, notable for their successful sitcom 30 Rock, an opportunity to be satirical about modern America without being offensive, a difficult line to tread. Their assembled writing team fanatically blends both the overt comedy, such as Kimmy’s fear of velcro, with the more subtle humour and turn of phrase, making the show rewatchable as there will be things missed the first time round.
The catchy opening song, “Unbreakable” by The Gregory Brothers and Mike Britt, is in the style of a viral video from a news excerpt, and carries a clear message: females are strong as hell. The show carries this message throughout and, unusually for modern media, allows its females to be flawed with contrasting and individual personalities. Kimmy has her own style and, although admittedly it is stuck in the ’90s, she won’t give it up just because people tell her to. Jacqueline Vorhees never forgets her roots despite her vanity. Xanthippe Vorhees, the stroppy, petulant step-daughter of Kimmy’s employer, is not as reckless as we are led to believe and isn’t as unlikable as first impressions suggest.
Ellie Kemper plays Kimmy brilliantly, managing to encompass the struggle of growing up without letting the show become too heavy and morose.
Despite its dark premise, the tone of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is hopeful and bright, taking the underlying trope that anyone can make it in the city if they try hard enough, and turning it on its head. It’s funny, original and given the high praise it’s already received from critics, this show is not one to miss.