The color palette of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a counterstatement to the world in which chronic optimist Kimmy Schmidt inhabits. While the candy-coated world of yellow (Kimmy’s favorite color) and bold colors make it feel like it’s a Technicolor dream, Kimmy’s New York is an odd bizarro world of auto-tuned theme songs, entitled aging socialites, and downtrodden gay actors looking to make it in the Big Apple… So it’s basically New York with a nice paint job.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt starts off in a strange place: in an apocalypse bunker in Durnsville, Indiana, where a group of naïve young women have been captured and kept locked up for 15 years by a charismatic “reverend” who believed the world would end in 2006. Once released, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) and her other “mole women” do the news circuit until they make it to New York City and NBC’s The Today Show. It’s there where Kimmy decides to start anew, effectively putting an end to the girl she once was, the girl that spent years eating dirt and passing it in a kiddie pool. New York represents an opportunity to start anew, but it comes with weirdness, even for someone that hasn’t spent more than a decade underground.
It’s not long before she finds herself in a basement apartment with a gay black actor named Titus and a job as a nanny for a sheltered trophy wife played by Jane Krakowski. With this set-up, Kimmy is out to prove that her past can’t define her and that even though she lived through unimaginable trauma, her unbreakable spirit got her through it and anything else that the world may have in store for her. While there’s plenty of that inspiring message to be had, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is most importantly an offbeat sitcom that, while not for everyone, can deliver some laughs.
The heart of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is Kimmy herself, played by Ellie Kemper. If she’s not a household name, you may remember her as Erin, the naïve receptionist that replaced Pam behind the desk on The Office or the Disney-obsessed bridesmaid from Bridesmaids. Here, she plays the plucky title character that’s equal parts That Girl, Mary Tyler Moore, and New Girl all rolled into one. It’s an endearing performance, which works as the anchor in an otherwise skewed version of the world.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is produced by Tina Fey, which should come as no surprise once Jane Krakowski makes her first appearance. She’s essentially playing Jenna Maroney, her role in 30 Rock, and her scenes to give a sense of that familiar 30 Rock sense of humor. The most dynamic character is Titus, Kimmy’s roommate, played by Titus Burgess. Titus is a flamboyant tour de force, acting as Kimmy’s guide into the Oz that is the strange new world of hers, while chasing a dream of stardom that sends him on auditions for terrible Broadway plays and trying to go viral with his musical ode to black penis called “Pinot Noir”.
If you liked the warped, sometimes-esoteric humor of 30 Rock, there’s a good chance you may enjoy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It combines an upbeat outlook on a twisted world with smart humor and a likable lead. I would admit, however, that it takes a few episodes to get going, but if you stick it out through the pilot, it starts to get traction.