Created by long-time collaborators Robert Carlock and Tina Fey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt follows the adventures of the eponymous protagonist (Ellie Kemper) as she navigates adulthood in New York City. Having spent the previous 15 years of her life held captive in an underground apocalypse cult, Kimmy has the naivety (and middle-school education) of a child. Over four seasons, we watch as she develops her own identity and processes her trauma, a journey interwoven with hilarity and brilliant weirdness at every step.
Although the pilot aired in 2015, the show is now more relevant than ever. From the (surprisingly) relatable premise to the skilful juggling of farcical storylines and real-life issues, here’s why Kimmy Schmidt should be your next self-isolation binge-watch.
Although Kimmy Schmidt was created at a time when Corona was just your boyfriend’s go-to drink, the issues it presents are relatable to our experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. The storyline is different (and more dramatic), but watching Kimmy adjust to post-bunker life feels familiar to our collective adaptation to the pandemic lifestyle. While Kimmy must learn about technological advances and new trends, we must remember the new rules of mask-wearing and social distancing. Similarly, Kimmy’s over-excitement about everyday things, like hand-dryers and sweet shops, mirrors the newfound appreciation we have for things we previously took for granted, like hugging relatives and eating out with friends again.
In this way, Kimmy Schmidt parallels the ups and downs of pandemic life, without any mention of the dreaded C-word. It’s incredibly refreshing to watch a show that is both an escape from and relatable to our current reality.
On top of its relatability, Kimmy Schmidt is the perfect show to watch if you are in need of some comic relief. Much like many other series, it is packed full of one-liners and pop culture references which provide easy laughs. However, it is elevated from your run-of-the-mill sitcom due to its sheer bizarreness. In the space of one short scene, for example, we go from an exaggerated kissing scene (pretty standard for a sitcom) to Kimmy’s roommate Titus (Titus Burgess) admitting that he has done the worst thing “a human can possibly do”—he ate Dionne Warwick. While this, thankfully, turns out to have been a mere hallucination, these off-the-wall storylines are a hallmark of the show, sandwiched between the everyday sitcom content. This mix of standard and incredibly bizarre creates an element of unpredictability and surrealism, making Kimmy Schmidt a brilliantly funny and creative show.
It Deals With Sensitive Issues
Although it is undeniably hilarious, Kimmy Schmidt is equally unafraid to conquer real-life issues. It is, after all, a show about abuse. The main plot follows Kimmy adjusting to life after her imprisonment in a bunker where “yes, there was weird sex stuff.” Importantly, the show is actually interested in exploring the impact of Kimmy’s abuse, rather than using it solely to create the fish-out-of-water story, and throughout the entire series we watch Kimmy process her trauma with the help of psychiatrist Andrea (Tina Fey herself). The way that Kimmy’s abuse affects her romantic relationships is also explored in detail. Kimmy has several different love interests but they fizzle out as she cannot be intimate without it triggering a panic response (which in one instance takes the form of her repeatedly hitting her partner with a telephone.) Although the show is a comedy, it is careful not to make light of Kimmy’s past. The script is carefully constructed to ensure we laugh at the surreal storylines and witty dialogue, not the issues surrounding them.
Alongside Kimmy’s trauma, the show includes a further discussion of sexual harassment through Titus experiencing it first-hand at an audition and Kimmy inadvertently sexually harassing her colleagues. Racism is also explored; one comical yet poignant example is a scene in which Titus realises he receives better treatment from society in costume as a werewolf than as the gay, Black man that he is. Again, the comedy does not undermine the severity of these issues; satire is used to make a deliberate comment on the flaws of society.
Despite the serious topics, Kimmy Schmidt is an incredibly uplifting show. Yes, it is about abuse, but it is more about surviving. Kimmy’s painful past is not dwelled upon; the show dedicates far more time to showing her moving forward and developing an identity beyond her trauma. There is an emphasis on optimism and holding onto hope throughout the entire series. In the pilot episode, both Kimmy and Titus nearly give up on their dreams, but they pull through, with Kimmy reminding the both of them: “We’re the strong ones and you can’t break us.”
It’s rare for a show as strange as Kimmy Schmidt to achieve the level of warmth and optimism that it does. One great example of this is a storyline involving the show’s resident snob, Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski), trying to get an urgent dental appointment as she has broken her tooth. Nurse Linda doesn’t have space to book Jacqueline in, despite her characteristically vain argument that a tooth replacement is more time-sensitive than a kidney transplant; everyone can see your teeth – “they’re the boobs of the face!” That evening, while sporting a set of “sexy Joe Biden costume teeth”, Jacqueline sees Linda on the bus, miserably trying (and failing) to fix her broken shoe. In a rare moment of selflessness, Jacqueline gives Linda the Louboutin’s from her own feet. It’s a heartwarming moment of female solidarity (and Linda also manages to squeeze Jacqueline in for a dental appointment.) It is this merging of comedy and optimism that sets Kimmy Schmidt apart from other sitcoms and makes it the perfect comfort watch.
This mix of uplifting reminders, real-life issues and constant laughs makes Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt the perfect show to binge-watch right now. Even better, Netflix has recently released Kimmy vs the Reverend, an interactive film special continuing where the show left off – it even features Daniel Radcliffe as Kimmy’s fiancé! Taking all this into account, if you’ve not been convinced to watch Kimmy Schmidt by now, “fudge it to heck!”.
Words by Verity Alice Cartwright
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