Netflix isn’t exactly new to the television game anymore. They’ve been pumping out original series for the better part of three years now and have a handful of quality titles. Orange is the New Black is a certified hit and House of Cards is entertaining. I’ve also heard good things about Peaky Blinders, but I haven’t made the time to check it out. As far as comedies, they’ve had success with castoffs. The new Trailer Park Boys was solid and Arrested Development Season 4, while not up to the ludicrously high standards that show set in its original run was still hilarious. Most of those are coming back for more, and the new additions of some Marvel shows to fill it out should be great additions. Just the other day, though, they released the best original show to grace their service to date. I am referring, of course, to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comes from the creators of the instant classic 30 Rock. For most of its seven year run 30 Rock was the best comedy on TV. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock were able to bring that same energy and wit straight over to Kimmy Schmidt without making the new show seem like just a rehash of their previous work. It does share some DNA with the previous show, Jane Krakowski’s Jaqueline Voorhees is not too far removed from Jenna Maroni and Tituss Burgess Titus Andromedon is quite similar to his guest appearances as D’Fwan, Kimmy Schmidt soon finds its own places to work, being something much closer to the average sitcom. The show is about a girl who was kidnapped into a cult and held underground in a bunker for 15 years. After her and her fellow “Mole Women” are released, she flees to New York City to start her life over, not wanting to be thought of as just a victim by the residents of her hometown. There she meets her new roommate Tituss, an aspiring performer, and their eccentric landlady. She gets a job babysitting for Jaqueline and tries to build a new life.
Everything starts up front with Ellie Kemper playing Kimmy. She does a great job of making her sunny, optimistic and occasionally ignorant but never stupid. Kimmy might not know some things after being held out of society for a decade and a half, but she isn’t an idiot. She is just unbreakable, not matter what she faces she is able to look on the bright side. Not only does that help her get by, but it also helps those around here. Flashbacks to the bunker make it clear that Kimmy played a big role in keeping the others sane and her influence on the show gets both Titus and Jacqueline moving forward with their lives. The show’s premise may be the darkest of comedy, but the sunniness of Kimmy tends to overwhelm any possible bleakness.
What sets The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt apart is how it refuses to settle down. It appears to be, and is in many ways, just a sitcom, but unlike most sitcoms, the cast never really sticks in any place. Maybe that will change when there are more than 13 episodes, but for this first season, things are continually in flux. Jacqueline’s marriage falls apart as the season goes on, Titus finds a job that he keeps, though he doesn’t stop his acting pursuits. Outside of Kimmy and Titus, the rest of the cast slides in and out. Sometimes their landlady Lilian plays a big role, sometimes she is absent. Jacqueline’s kids come and go, as do Kimmy’s love interests and fellow mole women. While there are patterns, the show is far from static.
The highlight of the season, which is largely a 10 episode highlight, is the trial of Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, first prophet and CFO of Savior Rick’s Spooky Church of the Scare-pocalypse. Jon Hamm, as good in comedies as he is in Mad Men, plays the kidnapping Preacher and wedding DJ with just the right amount of charisma and ego, especially put against the gullible jury, incompetent prosecutors and disinterested judge. While Kimmy initially refuses to go, wanting to put the whole thing behind her, her fellow mole women aren’t able to overcome him. It takes Kimmy’s indomitable spirit to help bring the Reverend down. It really helps highlight how the 4 mole women each deal with their ordeal. Kimmy puts it behind her and tries to forget all about it. Cyndee, always looking to Kimmy for help in the bunker, revels in the pity the townsfolk feel, feeling after what she’s been through she deserves to be happy. Maybe she does, though it doesn’t seem healthy. Donna uses her notoriety to sell mole sauce, turning a tragedy into an opportunity. And Gretchen never really escaped, being the only one of them who went into the bunker by choice.
How Kimmy Schmidt ended up on Netflix is kind of baffling. NBC ordered the series, but for some reason kicked it over to Netflix rather than air it on their network. I guess they had to make room for The Mysteries of Laura and The Slap. Whatever confused reasoning made NBC take its best new show and dump it on Netflix, I am kind of glad they did. This show might not has caught me so thoroughly if I had watched it one episode at a time. It has already been guaranteed another season and hopefully that is not the end of it. With the end of Parks and Rec, there aren’t a lot of good comedies left on TV. At least I know where to go to get quality TV.