Netflix may have just found its latest hit, thanks to Tina Fey and Ellie Kemper. The streaming service’s new comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt only just became available on March 6, but it’s already receiving glowing reviews – and for good reason. The sitcom, co-created by Fey and Robert Carlock and starring Kemper, manages to pair 30 Rock’s quirky charm with an eccentric and refreshingly offbeat premise.
In the comedy, Kemper plays Kimmy, a woman who spent her last 15 years with in an underground bunker with three other females, after being lied to cult preacher. After the group — deemed “the mole women” — is rescued, Kimmy decides to stay in New York and try to make a new life for herself. It only takes her a day to find a place to live with her new roommate Titus (hilarious played by Tituss Burgess) and a job as the nanny to a spoiled child of a wealthy New York wife and mother Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski).
It’s a strange concept and the show is as unconventional as you’d expect a comedy about a cult survivor to be. But the oddball premise is also what makes the series so fresh. While Kimmy’s attempts to adapt to her new life come with plenty of funny moments (her first big-city purchase are light-up sneakers and she marvels at having her own “Macintosh” when Jacqueline hands her an iPhone), there’s also a little bit of sadness under her relentless optimism. After all, she’s dealt with some dark stuff in her past, and there are several occasions where she openly worries about how her experiences may affect her abilities to ever live a normal life. It’s how the show manages to be incredible funny while also tackling themes of loss and trauma that gives it its edge.
It also helps that the show is well cast. It’s hard to imagine someone better suited to play Kimmy than Kemper, who does zany characters like no one else. In her hands, Kimmy is sunny but also surprisingly tough and spunky. As The Daily Beast puts it, ”Kemper imbues Kimmy with a sense of wonder that recalls Will Ferrell in Elf, Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30, and Tom Hanks in Big, but is a comedic tour de force in her own right.”
On the supporting character side, Krankowski is just as powerful a player here as she was on 30 Rock. Burgess (who also appeared on 30 Rock as D’Fwan) is also already garnering critical attention. Burgess serves “ably as comedic anchor and compassionate friend to Kimmy,” Indiewire writes of his character. “Romance on TV can be easy — friendship is hard. And yet, the friendship between Kimmy and Titus is immediately believable and true.”
Given its slightly off-center humor and the plethora of 30 Rock alumni, it’s no surprise that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is drawing comparison to Fey’s former adored NBC comedy. There’s no denying that there are definite similarities between the two – from the outward look of the shows to the rapid-fire, ridiculously quotable dialogue. But thanks to Fey’s stellar writing and especially Kemper’s on-point performance, Kimmy Schmidt is also pretty special in its own right.
Netflix currently has the first 13 episodes of the season available to watch. The show has also already been picked up for a second season.