In Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s new comedy series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the upbeat protagonist, played by Ellie Kemper, shares some of her coping mechanisms with the wealthy woman she nannies for, including jumping up and down, screaming, “I’m not really here! I’m not really here!” Obviously, this girl has been through a lot. The fact that the Netflix comedy, which released its entire first season this Friday, turns her tragic backstory into an upbeat comedy is an impressive feat. If you haven't binge-watched all 13 episodes yet, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt involves a 29-year-old woman being rescued from an underground bunker where she’d been held for 15 years by an insane preacher. Naturally, she then moves to New York City, where she befriends an out-of-work singer (Tituss Burgess), sketchy landlord (Carol Kane) and goes to work for a socialite (30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski). It’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show by way of The Room. It may sound strange, but the show is undeniably pleasant, and you should probably watch it. Here's why:
1. The show does a good job of capturing what it’s like to live in New York from an outsider’s perspective. (There are great gags about Dylan's Candy Bar, Jekyll & Hyde Club, Halloween Adventure and more.) There are other shows that capture specific aspects of living here (Broad City, Girls, Louie), but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt goes one step further and nails what it means to identify as a New Yorker rather than just lampooning a few specific characters who inhabit the city.
2. Almost everyone on the show is, in some way, trying to escape a secret past and pretend to be someone else. In the process, they’re often hiding their true selves. That very real desire that people have to start over gives every episode an extra punch. SPOILER ALERT: Early on, it’s revealed that wealthy socialite Jacqueline Vorhees—rather unbelievably—was raised as a Native American in South Dakota, before dying her hair blonde, becoming a stewardess and marrying a wealthy man. Flamboyantly gay Titus Andromedon is trying to hide a secret marriage from his past life in Mississippi. Carol Kane’s character Lillian is maybe a heroin dealer who has potentially murdered multiple people. But they've now adopted the personalities of classic NYC stereotypes (snooty socialite, sassy gay, friendly landlord.)
3. Sure it's over-the-top, but with her honest enthusiasm, Schmidt continuously provides a stark contrast to the urban facades of those she encounters. “Do you think you can handle this for 10 more seconds?” she asks at one point. “You can handle anything for 10 seconds. Then, you just start a new 10 seconds.”
4. It’s refreshing to see a protagonist who’s just trying to be the best person she can be in an unfamiliar world, shining a light on the uniquely New York poses of those around her. Not that everyone here is necessarily a modern-day Holly Golightly running away from past discretions; but the performative aspect of being “A New Yorker” can get pretty exhausting. As a coping mechanism at least, the show works.
5. It's hilarious! If you were a fan of the rapid-fire one-liners in 30 Rock and that show's crazy character development and situations, you'll love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.