In the fall of 2013, NBC announced plans to produce Tooken, a new series from 30 Rock masterminds Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. This news was music to the ears of 30 Rock fans, who were no doubt craving the show’s absurdist humor like Liz Lemon craves night cheese. But after a series speed bumps at NBC, the network sold the show to Netflix. Now known as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Fey and Carlock’s newest project, an undeniable hit for the streaming service, strikes the perfect balance between endearing sweetness and out-of-left-field wit.
At the show’s core is Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), an Indiana native rescued after 15 years in a deranged reverend’s doomsday bunker. With a new lease on life, Kimmy travels to New York City, moves into an apartment with aspiring actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), and begins work as a nanny for billionaire housewife Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). The show never sugarcoats Kimmy’s ordeal, but instead uses Kimmy’s past to give greater depth to the character’s stead-fast optimism. She’s been through hell, but she is an unshakable survivor.
Kemper is the show’s shining jewel and giant heart. Considering the role of Kimmy was written with her in mind, it’s no surprise that Kemper nails the oddball part, charging every word and expression with a self-assured positivity that manages never to feel false. Having spent seven seasons starring on 30 Rock, Krakowski, too, seems instantly comfortable with the speed and style of Kimmy Schmidt. While her new character shares several qualities with 30 Rock’s Jenna, Krakowski finds new ways to make Jacqueline more worthy of a viewer’s compassion. As Titus, Burgess delivers some of the show’s funniest lines, but it takes a few episodes for him and his character to find their place. The same might be said for Carol Kane as Lilian, Kimmy’s landlord, who often feels forced into story lines.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt asks viewers to pay close attention, as nearly every detail of the series has a joke stitched into it. Looking closely shouldn’t be a difficult undertaking, since it’s such a joy to watch. And if you miss anything during your binge through the 13-episode first season, Netflix doesn’t have a rule against second, third, or even fourth viewings.