The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is Tina Fey’s latest offering. Released on March 6 as a Netflix Original, this delightful comedy starts with a dark premise: a girl, kidnapped at 14 and kept in an underground bunker for 15 years as part of an apocalyptic cult is then rescued along with three other women who then go on to become the “Indiana Mole Women”, a term coined by the media. Kimmy, in order to escape the name of ‘mole woman’ and her small town, heads for New York City. Being an adult itself is hard, but surviving in a city as ruthless as New York after spending half your life in a bunker seems impossible.
One of Fey’s strengths in her writing is her effortless ability to perfectly summarise the cliques of society, as she did so successfully in Mean Girls. Fay’s ability to identify these archetypes and expose their meaninglessness is the thing that makes her such a quick and astute comic writer. In the same way, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt perfectly identifies the typical people we find in New York City, the media, and the world at large. There’s Kimmy (Ellie Kemper), the plucky and resourceful optimist who very much mimics the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’. Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) at first seems like the stereotypical ‘Gay Best Friend’, loving musical theater, cardigans paired with statement jewelry, and fame. Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski) is a self-and-surgery obsessed ‘Rich Lady’. Other tropes include Xanthippe Voorhees (Dylan Gelula), a moody teenager who expresses her angst through carefully selected clothes from Urban Outfitters and side-eying.
In terms of comedy, the jokes are relentless. In this way, there are many similarities to 30 Rock in the complexity of the humour. Sometimes the jokes veer to the point of absurdity such as Titus Andromedon’s homemade song and video called ‘Pinot Noir’, a song created entirely using a ring tone and rhyming dictionary, featuring lines such as: “Cavier. Myanmar. Mid-sized Car”. Other jokes are more subtle; the byline of the rescue of the ‘mole women’ reads: “WHITE WOMEN FOUND”, and following underneath: “Hispanic woman also found”. The sharpness and wit of Fey is evident throughout the series, and is easily something you would be able to watch repeatedly, not being reliant on the story to move the series on, but the humour.
The personalities are stock characters that we will all be familiar with, yet Fey gives them a humanity that mimics real life. Beyond this there’s a real humanity that undermines the first impressions we have of these individuals.
Kimmy, although constantly optimistic and sweet, is just taking everything ten seconds at a time; Titus finds life to be much easier as a werewolf in costume than as an African-American; Jacqueline is in the midst of marriage troubles and her past as the less glamorous ‘Jackie-Lin’. Xanthippe is struggling to find her place and personality during painful teenage years, in comparison to Titus and Kimmy’s landlady, Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane), who is dealing with the encroaching gentrification of the only neighbourhood she has every known.
Unbreakable employs many of the methods that Fey has used in past works, such as flash-backs, and newsreels. It successfully moves the story along without the viewer feeling rushed, whilst also continuing running jokes. In many ways the whole series is a satire on society today. It is refreshing to see such a varied cast, as ThinkProgress’s Jessica Goldstein points out, the white male characters are few, often the butt of the joke, and stripped of emphathy. For example, the ridiculously named Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, Kimmy’s kidnapper and the founder of Saviour Rick’s Spooky Church of the Scary-apocalypse. In many ways, Unbreakable can be seen as a female-centric comedy following the likes of The Mindy Project, it is unapologetic in that. Unbreakable manages to make a joke out of all the characters, whilst retaining a humanity to which you can relate.