Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the Netflix bought series follows Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) as she reclaims her life following a 15-year imprisonment in an underground bunker. Forming a doomsday cult, Kimmy and her three fellow captives were told by the cult’s leader, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm), that there was a nuclear apocalypse and the earth was scorched. When they are finally rescued Kimmy, determined to escape her past, rejects the media coined ‘Mole Women’ name and leaves Durnsville, Indiana, behind for the big Apple.
Blissfully unaware that the world has become a horrible place in the past decade, Kimmy has an optimism that is few and far between in today’s society. Sweets for breakfast, light up Sketchers and a moral integrity that makes you question if she is actually cut out for New York, are all signs that she is still a 14-year-old girl. Her childlike ignorance is a running theme throughout the series and it proves to be not only surprisingly endearing but a successful way of navigating the world’s biggest playground.
On her first day she managed to find what most women spend their entire life searching for – a gay best friend. Did I mention he was black? Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) is a combination of the stereotypical ‘came to city for fame but failed’ character that every New York based show needs and the desire of the creators to address the stigma faced by black homosexuals. Not so subtly done, every character in this show seems to serve the purpose of personifying an issue we can relate with. Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski) is the small city girl turned Manhattanite trying to escape her Native American past while dealing with her husband’s infidelity. Xanthippe Voorhees (Dylan Gelula) is a typical teenage girl, hiding her true capabilities in the all too familiar desperate attempt to be liked. Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) is just the eccentric but loyal friend we all want. And, of course, Kimmy signifies new beginnings, positivity in times of hardship and our attempts to move on from something that is so deeply ingrained in us.
Such focus on societal issues would explain why the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is not funny. Or at least, that is what I am trying to convince myself. With out-dated humour and distasteful digs, each episode left me disappointed. Occasionally there would be a good joke but the following joke would be so terrible, it completely cancelled out the first one. By the end of some episodes, I was in minus numbers – notably episode four. Although we live in a world censored by political correctness, comedians are not subjected to the same PG rating we are. That being said, there is a difference between comedy and cruelty and the show’s portrayal of Dr. Fredric Brandt was cruel. And if that didn’t leave a bitter enough taste in my mouth, a one-liner about Friends - the royalty of the sitcom world - was thrown in for good measure.
With a bad taste and a straight face, I found myself continuing to watch the series solely for the inspiring tone and quirky coping mechanisms. If not for Kimmy and her wise “you can stand anything for 10 seconds” idea, I would not have made it through a lot of the jokes and above all, Tina Fey’s appearance in the last three episodes. I want to assume that the writers included that concept specifically in anticipation for her character, but I know I am being overly optimistic. That is what Kimmy does to you. So, if you are in need of a fresh batch of hope and cannot afford a motivational seminar, this is the show for you. However, if you want to laugh, then I recommend you watch ‘the six complainers’.