The Occasional TV Review
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is comedy, but it’s a brand of comedy that I’m not sure could play on network television, which is why it ended up on Netflix–it was shopped to NBC who ordered 13 episodes and then passed on it. But while it might not play well on network TV, it’s exactly the kind of different, out-of-the-box show that network television needs.
That out-of-the-box aspect hits you from the very start and is the premise to the entire show: Kimmy was kidnapped as a teenager and has spent 15 years living near a small town in Indiana in the underground bunker of a doomsday cult. On her rescue, she ends up moving to New York City where she not only has to learn about how the world has changed in 15 years, but also how to live in NYC. She ends up sharing an apartment with a black gay struggling actor in a building owned by a strange conspiracy theorist (Carol Kane) and takes a job as a nanny for a very shallow and wealthy woman. Meanwhile, she tries to keep people from knowing she was one of the cult members just so she isn’t labeled, but still optimistically tries to live her life taking each day as the gift of freedom that it is.
That’s really all there is to it. It’s a concept that is silly and uncomfortable all at once. Which makes the writing–a kind of off-the-wall, slapstick style–fit perfectly. The characters are all stereotypes, but they’re also delightfully and perfectly off center, which is particularly fun when they find something another character does weird. Oddly enough, they also seem totally plausible.
All that being said, the first season takes a while to go from simply being silly to getting traction in being silly and really well thought out. In fact, it seemed like it didn’t really get a solid all-encompassing storyline until the last four or five episodes. Which is why you need to stick with it. The first half of the season just seemed weird and silly for the sake of being silly. But the payoff doesn’t come until the last few episodes when that same weird and silly tone really seems to find its purpose.
Besides, it’s only 13 half-hour (or so) episodes. Take the 6-7 hours and check it out.