Determination can be an addictive quality. A lot of people are leaders not because they had a good idea, but because they were determined and that rallies other people to follow them or replicate their spirit. Determined people usually have a certain trait to them, such as always facing forward, that makes it easier to notice them. However, sometimes people can surprise you. For example, when thinking about determined people, you might think of businessmen, politicians, maybe even entertainers. However, you probably won’t think of cult members or kidnapees. Kimmy Schmidt might just change that as who else other than a determined person would come out of a bunker after 15 years of captivity smiling?
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stars Ellie Kemper as Kimmy, a recent survivor of a cult who was led to believe the world had been destroyed and she, along with three other women and the cult leader, were the only ones left alive. However, instead of going back home to Indiana, she decides to restart her life in New York City, finding a place to live and a job as a nanny. Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock of 30 Rock fame, this show shares 30 Rock’s tone and pace, as well as its grounded yet ridiculous humor, with jokes come densely and quickly.
Kimmy herself is the ray of light of the show and Ellie Kemper is a perfect fit as the overly positive yet damaged cult survivor as she pulls off switching from being all smiles to uncomfortably unhinged with ease. There’s a lot of fish-out-of-water humor as Kimmy has not interacted with the world since the 1990s. So there’s a lot of outdated phrases and references from her as well as others being baffled by her not knowing about certain recent events. Kimmy herself however is never really shaken by being out of touch though because she always is just determined to live, though her naiveté makes for some hilarious but not cringe worthy moments.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is definitely a comedy, through and through. However, you would think at first from the premise alone that this is a drama. Kimmy was gone from the world for 15 years and you would think that there would be repercussions from that. The show does address it and Kimmy does have paranoid tendencies and nightmares from her time in the bunker. Despite this, the focus of the show never loses itself in the seriousness of its premise and it helps to solidify Kimmy’s determination and strength of character. The show does joyfully dance with the post-tramatic stress disorder Kimmy probably has.
Speaking of joyful, the supporting cast all share Kimmy’s mix of dark past with happy aspirations that becomes magnetized by Kimmy’s influence. Kimmy’s roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess) is an aging homosexual who aspires to be an actor but is nearly broke and works various dead-end jobs to make ends meet. His flamboyant nature clashes with his poor living as he’s not the fabulous individual he wishes he was. He often has to stave off their landlord Lillian (Carol King), who is fairly easygoing yet has clearly done some illegal stuff.
Kimmy’s boss Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) is a self absorbed socialite who barely has any time for her two kids but is also unhappy as she suspects her often away husband is having an affair. Jane Krakowski does a wonderful job and although her performance resembles Jenna from 30 Rock, that character fits Jacqueline well. Other characters include Jacqueline’s step-daughter Xanthippe or Xan (Dylan Gelula) who dislikes Kimmy and tries to uncover her past, Dong (Ki Hong Lee) who is Kimmy’s GED study buddy, Logan (Adam Campbell) who is Kimmy’s love interest, and the women and reverend from the bunker.
It’s a great cast, with each having something to offer Kimmy as a character but one complaint I could make is that a lot of the other characters only work due to Kimmy interacting with them. Titus works well alone and Lillian works well also with Titus but the rest of the characters typically need Kimmy in order to be more than one note. It’s mostly present with the characters Dong, Logan and Donna, one of the women who was in the bunker. These characters are either underutilized, uninteresting or ciphers.
Aside from that, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is arguably the first great sitcom Netflix has. It’s witty, charming, and is full of spirit. From its joke on auto tuned news interviews as the theme music to its commentary on society’s attraction to tragedy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is beaming with unwavering determination while also not being afraid to look its tragic side in the face. Give it a watch and witness this, uh, fascinating transition.