Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Cast: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski, and Carol Kane
Produced By: Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, David Miner, and Jeff Richmond
Episode Numbers: 13
I’m not going to lie, when I started the first episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I wasn’t feeling it.
Sure, Ellie Kemper is perfectly (if not type-) cast in her role as Kimmy Schmidt, one of the Mole Women, a group of 4 women who were abducted by a mysterious Reverend type and lived underground for nearly 15 years. It features a wonderful leading cast including 30 Rock alum Jane Krakowski, Broadway star Tituss Burgess, and a delightful Carol Kane, but I was scared after the first two episodes that I was in for nothing more than a 30 Rock knockoff.
Boy am I glad I was wrong.
As mentioned before, the series tells the story of Kimmy Schmidt and how she tries to take back her life after having it “tooken” from her when she was a young middle school student. After being rescued by the FBI and, most importantly, a psychic pig, she and the other Mole Women are bounced from interview to interview until Kimmy decides that she’s ready to start new and begin her life in New York City. But life isn’t as easy to start in New York as she would’ve hoped – she needs money, a job, and an apartment. All three quickly fall into her lap when a fellow captive, Cyndee hands over her cash from the Mole Women Fund, a crazy wealthy Upper East side type (Jane Krakowski) hires her as a nanny/maid/overall caretaker, and she finds a begrudging roommate in Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) who only accepts her because he’s two months behind on rent.
Kimmy is a powerhouse of a woman, refusing to let anything bring her down. She refuses to let anyone know who she really is (although I find it hard to believe no one would recognize her especially with how much the media loves their story) and doesn’t let anyone’s criticisms of her hold her down. She’s perpetually stuck in the 90’s though, wearing light up Skechers, using comebacks such as “I’m rubber you are glue,” and overall trying her gosh-darndest to help everyone in her life because that’s what she’s good at.
While Kimmy is out there navigating the real world, she runs into such wild and fun characters that also have as many secrets as they want to. Her roommate Titus starts out as a street performer, which really means he just wears an Iron Man costume and hands out flyers for an arcade. After Kimmy comes into his life, he starts to shape up himself, quitting that job, going out on auditions (even if it forces him to relive his awful low budget Lion King reproduction days), and eventually finding a job as a werewolf at a haunted house themed restaurant where Kimmy gleefully declares, “It’s so funny to see what people who’ve never been kidnapped think is scary.”
Her relationship with Jacqueline Voorhees is also one of the highlights of the show. In what could have easily been a “Jenna Maroney had she not become famous” repeat, Jacqueline is her own character, with her own set of worries about escaping the past and who you once were. As we watch her wallow in her wealth as her worries about her marriage come to a head, you can’t help but feel for her as she tries to decide whether she moves on or stays with a man who tells her she’s insane as he cheats on her with their couple’s therapist.
Throw in a wacky and absolutely wondrous Carol Kane as the landlord who pops in from time to time to watch their tv since Titus overflowed her bathtub and warped her entire floor to the point that the “cats are piling up in the corner” and the main cast is a gem. The supporting stars aren’t bad either, with Xanthippe Voorhees (Dylan Gelula) and Buckley Voorhees, Jacqueline’s step-daughter and son playing little menaces with hearts of gold (well, maybe only Xanthippe, Buckley identifies with super villains after all), the other Mole Women Cyndee (Sara Chase), Donna Maria (Sol Miranda), and crazy Gretchen (Lauren Adams), and Kimmy’s love interest and study buddy Dong (Ki Hong Lee).
While the funniest moments of the show lay in the hands of the absolutely amazing list of guest stars (Dean Norris, Amy Sedaris, Martin Short, Nick Kroll, and a surprise of Jon Hamm just to start), the story remains focused on Kimmy and her life above ground. There are moments when it quickly turns dark, mentions of weird sex things in the bunker, waking up from the middle of nightmares and finding that she’s choking Titus and more, especially in the last three episodes where she decides that she will face her demons and go back to Indiana to face the man who kidnapped her as a child. I’ll just say that even as a fan of the actors who show up for these episodes, I found myself cringing a lot especially at the displays of abuse and control that the Reverend had over these women followed by a quick joke about female condoms by a beloved leading lady.
It’s incredibly easy to watch all thirteen episodes in one sitting, and I wouldn’t even say it felt like a binge as I would with House of Cards or Orange is the New Black. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is something that wouldn’t have worked on network television (it was originally developed for NBC where it would not have fit into their line up at all) or even cable, where it’s almost too bright and light-hearted. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In the end though, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a gift of a show that everyone with a Netflix subscription should watch. Ellie Kemper does a fantastic job in her first lead role and the rest of the cast shines just as bright. With a second season already ordered, I can’t wait to see how they continue on with the show, especially with the loop holes that were thrown into the season finale.
It’s filled with great one liners, chock full of great jokes and throwbacks, and over all is a show that I highly recommend to add to your “To Watch at Some Point” list you obviously have going, even if they aren’t fans of The Office or 30 Rock.
Who could resist such a strong female character as Kimmy?