In 2013, news broke out of a new NBC comedy, then titled Tooken, that was to star Ellie Kemper as upbeat former cult victim, Kimmy Schmidt. Created, produced, and written by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the series would revolve around Kimmy Schmidt as she navigates her way through life in New York City after being held captive by a doomsday cult in Indiana for over half of her life. Originally slated to premiere on NBC, Netflix bought the series, which would then follow in the footsteps of other successful Netflix original series such as House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black.
The series begins with the rescue of four women who were being held captive in an underground bunker by a doomsday cult. Upon their rescue, the four women, now dubbed “The Mole Women,” appear on a handful of daytime talk shows, as do many of today’s rescued victims. After an appearance on a talk show in New York City, one of the victims, Kimmy, opts to remain in New York City instead of returning to her home state of Indiana with the rest of her group. Having been trapped underground for fifteen years with the impression that the world had ended, Kimmy has a lot of catching up to do with today’s popular culture, as well as having to relearn the norms of society. During her first few hours as a liberated woman, Kimmy manages to inadvertently get a job as a nanny to Manhattan socialite Jacqueline Voorhees (played by Jane Krakowski), and finds an apartment (ironically a remodeled basement) with boisterous and flamboyant entertainer Titus Andromedon (played by Tituss Burgess).
Ellie Kemper, whose notable works include The Office and Bridesmaids, delivers a heartfelt, charming, and, most of all, hysterical performance as titular character, Kimmy Schmidt. The role calls for a certain amount of innocence and naivety, and Kemper’s rendering of the character perfectly captures all of those traits and more with such grace and seemingly little effort. Although at first watch, the character seems to have similar traits to many of her previous roles, Ellie Kemper brings about something new and fresh to the character of Kimmy Schmidt, as she has done with past characters. What could have been a dangerous circumstance of being typecast became an opportunity for Ellie Kemper to show her range as an actress, and she beautifully does so with this character.
The single camera comedy does an excellent job delivering an entertaining show, giving just the perfect mix of comedy and drama. This faultless blend gives the show a lot of heart, and displays a certain amount of essence that viewers can relate with. Having to catch up on fifteen years’ worth of cultural standards, as well as having to figure out what it means to be a thirty year old woman in today’s society, Kimmy undergoes many of the experiences adults today have to go through, including having to deal with a tyrannical boss, living under an overbearing landlady, as well as the wearisome task of trying to find love. Another one of the show’s great attributes is that although the title of the show has one character’s name in it, the entire program does not overwhelmingly revolve around that central character. Kimmy Schmidt’s circumstances simply serve as a backdrop to the entire series, allowing for the audience to focus on other characters and their stories, and in turn having those characters grow alongside the title character. Kimmy Schmidt alone does not push the show forward, but her interactions with the rest of the characters and their respective qualities help drive the plot ahead.
With the likes of other successful Netflix original series such as House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black, it is clear that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt will travel in company with those shows in terms of success, and will bring about a fresh feel to future original series, as well as the network as a whole. This show is smart, funny, and has a lot of heart that will leave audiences wanting more.
The entire first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available now for streaming on Netflix.