Making the Case for ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’

Note: Wrapping up this week, the Awards Daily TV Crew will be making the case for each nominee in the Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series categories in random order. We’ll be dropping one each day leading into and through the Emmy voting period, which ends this Friday. Share/retweet your favorites to build the buzz! 

Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 

Metacritic: 78%
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Number of nominations: 7
Major nominations: Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress Comedy Series (Jane Krakowski), Outstanding Supporting Actor Comedy Series (Tituss Burgess)

“Unbreakable! They alive, damnit! It’s a miracle!” The instantly clever, quirky title sequence of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a viral video mash-up video of a neighbor being interviewed following the discovery of the mole women in an underground bunker, held there for fifteen years by a cult leader “reverend.” A familiar-sounding, disturbing premise, bravely given a comedy makeover – and I would like to say handled gracefully. A show essentially about acclimatizing to the reality of the modern world had you been completely sheltered from it. It also pokes fun and makes acute observations about today’s society (race perceptions, cosmetic surgery, the American law system – want me to go on?). And primarily the plight of women – “but females are strong as hell.”

On deciding upon a stay in New York City, a misunderstanding in communication lands Kimmy (wonderful Ellie Kemper) a job with rich, privileged, but completely unable to take care of herself Jacqueline (hilarious Jane Krakowski). In fact her friendship with the clueless, neglected housewife also prospers after a rocky start. Though on their second meeting, Jacqueline forgets Kimmy’s name, “Cornmill, is it?” she asks, one of many absurdly amusing quips. Jacqueline’s step-daughter Xanthippe appears as a pain in the ass teenage girl who thinks she knows it all (“I will chew you up and spit you out like my food.”), as we endearingly later discover though she knows very little and is actually a rather vulnerable.

Kimmy is also greatly appreciative of the box room with a window in the apartment share with Titus (flamboyantly good Tituss Burgess) – one of the biggest queens in New York, and wannabe Broadway superstar (ooh that rhymes with “Pinot Noir”). His highly-strung nature and Kimmy’s naivety make them somehow a likely partnership. Titus is plain and simply uproarious, we’ve seen this kind of over-the-top camp characters portrayal before, sure, but this is convincingly unique. These principle relations form a strong part of the way these oddball, but realistic characters all get along as well as contributing to the show’s chop-chop narrative.

In just ten tiny, super-paced episodic outings (binge-watch on Netflix immediately), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt flies through the season, offering plenty of intelligent and refreshing laughs. Of course with Tina Fey on typewriter duties (Outstanding Guest Actress Emmy nominee for her cameo here) the comedic aura of 30 Rock is certainly a blessing. Similar in clever, witty quips and character interactions, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stands on its own two left feet, dearly and enticingly amusing all the same – and consistently so.

The jokes and the plots are unquestionably captivating, and although often seem far-fetched or outlandish (that the bunker girls would sing, to the tune of O Christmas Tree “Apocalypse, apocalypse, we caused it with our dumbness.”), the execution of the whole affair mean you are not needed to even be reminded this is a sit-com, let alone that the more bizarre bits of humor and story-lines are portrayed in a straight-forward way that make them easy to swallow. Even when somehow dating (if you can really call it that) an elderly man clearly on a different planet mentally, the writers go to town on the slapstick routine, but also temporarily giving Kimmy an outlet for the troubles of her recent past.

One of the central  themes that shines through is that is it not just Kimmy that is adapting, these new people in her life have enough problems and insecurities for their own show. And the comedy phrases and one-liners follow suit by being spread across the vast array of these socialites or misfits (“Hey you respect your step-mother, she step-gave birth to you.”). There is too some background music that might belong somewhere in a melodrama or the more classy New York comedy film, but you hardly notice it here (a bit like elevator music?), but it works a treat against the comedy landscape.

The performances are top-notch, and not to be faulted, providing superb comic timing and bringing to life some of the best characters on TV at the moment. And characters that have heart and that you want to have better lives – we care about them and want to be around them. At the core is Kimmy, a warm, care-free soul, inspired to learn about the world in the most delightful and calamitous way. “I’ve been Googling you.” the suspicious Xanthippe threatens at one point, to which Kimmy alarmingly responds “Have you, I didn’t feel it.”.

There is of course no Kimmy quite like this without Ellie Kemper.  At times she is so charming, cute and cool in this I would struggle to find someone else I would rather spend some quality time with. It is great that Emmy showed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt some love (well-deserved), but to not find a spot for Kemper is pretty hard to believe regardless of the level of fan you are of the show. Obvious to say that Kemper is Kimmy, but she embarks on the journey and inhabits the character so convincingly, a terrific performance, proving to us all about any potential she had after The Office to carry her own show. The lack of the Best Actress nod may sway voters towards voting for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as Best Comedy (stranger, and more predictable, things have happened). A kind of guilt trip right to the big prize, perhaps. The comedy category is cram-packed with diverse, quality shows (even with the absence of Orange is the New Black) so the competition is fierce, but given the creators, the broad appeal, and extremely positive response this might well be too hot to completely ignore. That and fifty other reasons why Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt might well be the freshest, best comedy show out there right now.

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