By Julia Woolever
It is perhaps fate that “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” made its premiered on Netflix less than a month after the finale of the beloved “Parks and Recreation,” because Kimmy Schmidt is here to fill the Leslie Knope-sized hole in your heart.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” follows the adventures of the titular heroine, a young woman who was held captive in an underground bunker for 15 years by the megalomaniac leader of a post-apocalyptic cult. Upon being rescued and discovering that the world has most certainly not ended, Kimmy, played by Ellie Kemper of “The Office,” decides to make a new life for herself in New York City.
The grim setup is an unlikely premise for a comedy, but it works because the show does not avoid this grimness. Kimmy constantly struggles with leaving behind her traumatic past and forging a new identity outside of the cult.
In fact, it is in these moments of personal crisis that Kimmy shines the brightest. Spurred on by the belief that the worst event of her life has already happened, Kimmy takes on the challenges of living in New York City with an optimism that gives Knope a run for her money.
Seen through the eyes of Kimmy, the city is an explosion of color and an arena of unlimited opportunity. The first season sees Kimmy get a job, go on a date and enroll in GED classes, all of which naturally go awry at one point or another. Through it all, Kimmy’s spirit truly proves unbreakable — and infectious, at that.
Come to the show for Kimmy, but stay for the equally wonderful cast of supporting characters. Jacqueline Voorhees, played by Jane Krakowski of “30 Rock,” is a Manhattan socialite, Kimmy’s boss and caricature of all the worst things about the ultra-rich: she has a refrigerator devoted to bottled water and runs a charity where she donates her old monogrammed towels to poor people with the same initials as her.
But it turns out that Jacqueline is not so different from Kimmy after all. With a mysterious past and a struggle to define herself apart from her cheating husband, Jacqueline’s journey is parallel to Kimmy’s, which creates a far more complex character than expected. The bond formed by the two is an awesome testament to the importance of friendship and identity for women in the 21st century.
The star attraction, at least in his own eyes, is Titus Andromedon, Kimmy’s roommate and the requisite sassy gay black friend. Stereotypical as that may be, Titus is one of the funniest sitcom characters in recent history. Played by Tituss Burgess, he is a struggling stage actor whose single goal in life is to become wildly famous. In pursuit of this goal, he embarks on endeavors such as creating a one-man revival of “The Lion King,” taking a job as a werewolf in a theme restaurant, and attempting to create a viral video. In regards to the latter, you will never be able to think about pinot noir again without singing about Roseanne Barr and caviar.
As with Kimmy and Jacqueline, Titus has a surprising complexity as he comments on social issues. The show attempts to use humor to highlight darker issues. Titus pines that he is treated with less suspicion when fully dressed as a werewolf than he is as a typical black man walking down a New York street. He only half-jokes that he wouldn’t know whether to check off “black” or “gay” on a hate-crime form.
Of course, none of this would work if “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” wasn’t as hilarious as it is. Head writers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock flood the script with jokes and asides, many of which revolve around Kimmy’s lack of knowledge of 2015, which she can’t stop calling “the future.” She proudly shows off her first selfie saying “hash brown, no filter.” Topping off the show is several cameos that are too great to spoil, but they continue to add to the fun.
With a vibrant heroine, a humor all its own and an insanely catchy theme song, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a total delight. The best part? All 13 episodes are available to binge-watch right now. So clear your schedule and get ready to meet your new best friend.