While many college students dream of living in New York City after graduation, the transition may be more difficult for some than for others. However, it likely won’t be as challenging as it is for Kimmy Schmidt, a 29-year-old woman who must adjust to New York City after living in a cult.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is an original Netflix series that follows the story of Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), who is rescued from a doomsday cult after living in an underground bunker for 15 years. The comedy follows Schmidt as she transitions to a new life in New York City, working as a nanny for a wealthy socialite.
Created by Tina Fey (“30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live”) and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock”),the 13-episode series premiered on Netflix on March 6, 2015.
Despite the comedic prowess of the two writers, the first fifteen minutes of the first episode left me unsure (though certainly amused). The show seemed so ridiculous that it was unclear whether it could succeed as more than a show merely with absurd characters and a great deal of funny jokes. However, as the series progressed, I realized that there was more to the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” — in both characters and plot.
While the show does include some characters that seem to fit stereotypes, from the gay best friend who aspires to Broadway fame, Titus Andromenon (Tituss Burgess), to the elderly, eccentric landlady, Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) and the ditzy Manhattan socialite, Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowksi), the series manages to bring complexity to each character and elicit empathy from their dynamism.
The audience gets the chance to watch Titus try to survive as an artist in New York City, Lillian fight to save her neighborhood and Jacqueline struggle with her relationship with her husband. While all of their difficulties are portrayed in humorous manners, the underlying realities of their troubles are impossible to ignore.
However, it is Kimmy who is especially compelling — rightfully so, as the titular character. Her naivety, though off-putting at times, is also what drives her motivation to change the world.
Of course, this is due not only to the writing of Fey and Carlock, but also to Kemper’s excellent performance. As Kimmy, she brings a quirkiness beyond that of her days in “The Office” as Erin Hannon (a naive receptionist). She plays the perfect balance of innocence and wisdom; through many moments of cluelessness, at times, we get the sense that she has a wisdom beyond her years.
In addition to the the complexity of each character, the comedic expertise of Fey and Carlock shines through in the writing.
The theme song is reminiscent of the viral video “Bedroom Intruder.” It’s a remixed song of the news interview of a neighbor who witnesses Kimmy’s rescue from the underground bunker.“They alive, dammit!” the song proclaims. “It’s a miracle!”
From the theme song to the ridiculousness of the characters and situation (only these two would introduce an underground doomsday cult in a comedy), the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” will easily bring its audience laughter.
However, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” does not merely function as a comedy. While, at first glance, the show’s cast of characters seems so bizarre that it would be impossible for the series to address any serious topics, part of the genius of the show is in its ability to create characters and situations that are both funny and relevant in today’s world. One such instance is when Titus walks around New York City dressed as a werewolf.
“I got treated better as a werewolf than I ever did as a black man,” he says, in a simple off-hand remark. “That’s messed up.”
While his statement is clearly funny, it also gives the audience the chance to recognize the truth in his words — the reality of the potential dangers of being a black male in today’s society, particularly considering the recent cases of police brutality toward black males.
Another instance is an exchange between Kimmy and a construction worker, who catcalls her in the city. While her obvious lack of understanding creates a humorous situation, later in the series, we learn that her naivety forced the worker to confront his own catcalling tendencies, affecting real change in his habits.
While this is not to say that we should dress as werewolves in New York City or confront construction workers in an attempt to solve all of the world’s problems, perhaps it is in the ridiculous and comedic that we can best tackle the realities and truths of the world — the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” in all its hilarity and quirkiness, certainly succeeds in doing just that.
-Julia Munslow, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor