Tina Fey is, of course, a major force in the Comedy world. From “Saturday Night Live” to “30 Rock” her name adds a level of credibility to just about any project she is working on. She even (along with her partner in crime Amy Poehler) lent her talents to the Golden Globes and made an Award Show, that is in many ways already a joke, more entertaining and fun to watch then the actual Academy Awards. After the finale of Tina Fey’s very successful sitcom series “30 Rock”, Fey was left to come up with her next comedy series. That follow up was conceived as the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. Originally enlisting NBC’s pedigree, Netflix quickly scooped up the series after purchasing it from NBC. The result is Tina Fey’s next hit, Netflix acquires another great show, and NBC should have known better. Although it’s not perfect and the world that is created in the show is a bit wonky at times there is never a stale moment or lack of laughs throughout this quick 13 episode first season.
This is a show with a very unique premise. Kimmy Schmidt was just a young girl in the 8th grade when she was tricked into a doomsday cult. Led to believe the world was ending, Kimmy goes underground with three other women. Year later Kimmy and the rest of the “mole women” are found by Police and now Kimmy is about to be integrated back into a world she believed to be destroyed. In her young 20s. Kimmy heads to New York City to restart her life and ends up moving in with an eccentric and down on his luck aspiring gay actor and makes friends the bizarre landlord.
With sitcoms we often get odd pairings, strange concepts and bizarre characters. This dates back far into the Jackie Gleason era of sitcoms with his many various characters and situations, like Rudy the Repair Man, Ralph Kramden , and Reginald Van Gleason III. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” follows in that grand tradition with Tina Fey deciding to crank up all those tropes to a 100 giving this positive looking fun comedy show, a rather dark back-story that is played for laughs and a nature that could only be described as beyond bizarre.
This show makes it clearer and clearer as the episodes progress that reality has no basis here in the world of Kimmy Schmidt. While no this isn’t technically a fantasy but you might as well call this a live action cartoon. Character actions and situations that would just not simply happen in our real everyday lives. For some this may be off putting. For others that are willing to give into the mayhem you’ll more than enjoy your time here. “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is loaded with laugh out loud moments.
This show does find time to develop its main characters here and there but the primary goal of this show is to make you laugh as many times as humanly possible. Whichever scene this show is playing out it will always try to throw a sharp zinger at you or a carefully selected word play of comedy. Plenty of slapstick, cutaway gags, and an abundance of eccentric characters Fey, and the rest of the writers, bring plenty of diverse and fun situations to the show. Rarely does a joke fall flat or miss it’s mark. This is a sitcom that reaps of fun creative ideas.
The biggest downside to this show is in a world of eccentric characters there really is no straight-man in the show. The straight man is of course that classic comedic role that if often undervalued. Someone (who can be funny) but also is someone down to earth and am anchor for the crazy to bounce around. In the comedy duo of Bud Abbot and Lou Costello, most prefer Costello ‘s crazy and over top comedy to Bud’s more straight laced every man approached. However the comedy wouldn’t work very well without Abbot for Costello to bounce off of. I know I preached about the same thing in another review recently (My “Minions” review to be exact). Except the big difference here is while “Kimmy Schmidt” could have benefited with a straight man it’s still funny and endearing without one. “Minions” on the other hand was in desperate need of one (although I suppose this is a bit of an unfair comparison).
The comedic talents of Erie Kempler is on full display throughout the series 13 episode run as Kimmy. Always a welcomed talent on “The Office” as a late addition into the show’s cast of collective characters during Season 5. I consistently found her to be an undervalued comedic talent and character on the show from fans and critics. It’s nice to see Tina Fey give her the chance to really shine in her own show where she does extremely well carrying this series on her shoulders.
In the plethora of supporting cast members is Tituss Burgess who plays the over the top thirsty actor Tituss. He always is able to make you laugh and may remind you of the Daniel Franzese character, Daimon, from another Tina Fey work “Mean Girls”. Carol Kane of “Annie Hall”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Taxi” and “Princess Bride” fame is a standout here playing Lillian, the crazy building owner that’s never left New York. Jane Krakowski is also a solid cast member as Jaqueline Voorhees ( with no relation to masked killer). Jon Hamm makes a special guest starring appearance in the last few episodes and is a laugh riot. It’s almost hard to believe this is the same actor from “Mad Men” and “The Town”. I hope there is more with his character in the next season (although I have my doubts).
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” isn’t a perfect show and does have a few bugs to iron out but it never fails in its ultimate goal to make you laugh. A great first season that shows a lot of promise for the future. Suffice it to say NBC missed out big with this comedy series as Tina Fey has just cued her next success.