Doomsday cults come to Netflix
Tina Fey’s ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ begins March 6
It’s been over two years since Tina Fey’s last television masterpiece, “30 Rock,” left our screens. Those two years were filled with plenty of yearnings for more trademark “blerghs,” “night cheese” selections and “werewolf bar mitzvahs.” Now, we may not be getting “30 Rock” back (we can only dream), but Fey and fellow co-creator Robert Carlock have gifted us with what looks like a promising new series, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which premieres March 6 on Netflix. Hope you didn’t have any big spring break plans.
The show centers around the lovably naive Kimmy Schmidt (played by “The Office”’s Ellie Kemper, who has also come to speak at Washington University recently) as she moves to New York City and learns how to be a real adult person. Why is she still not a real adult person by the time she’s in her 30s, you ask? The answer is obvious: until moving to New York, Schmidt was part of an underground apocalypse cult known as the Indiana Mole Women. She has only recently discovered that the apocalypse never actually happened, that the world still exists, and she’s out to see what it has to offer. Even the name of Kimmy’s cult is classic Fey and Carlock humor—the perfect mix of absurdity, delightfulness and witty human observation that made “30 Rock” work so well—one can only help this humor translates over to the entire series.
In New York, Schmidt finds a roommate and best friend in Titus (Titus Burgess), who works as a costumed Iron Man-type robot in Times Square. The eagle-eyed fan may remember Burgess from his role as D’Fwan, Angie Jordan’s stylist and best friend from “30 Rock”’s “Queen of Jordan” episodes. Street performers are nothing new for Fey and Carlock either: Danny, one of the later cast members on the show within the actual show, The Girlie Show, was found playing a robot mime on a street corner.
Fey and Carlock have said that, at least for the moment, the universes of their two shows will not be colliding. One of the main buttresses against that collision is the inclusion of Jane Krakowski, who played the overly dramatic Jenna on “30 Rock” (Fey and Carlock may be asking how two Jane Krakowski’s could exist in the same universe, but I maintain that such a universe would be a glorious place). Krakowski will be playing Jacqueline Voorhees, a wealthy and detached socialite who hires Schmidt as a nanny. The trailer alone features her throwing out Fiji water bottles when Kimmy declines her offer of one plucked from a fridge stacked high with them, and discussing being stuck with“ off-brand Kennedys” in true Krakowski form. It’s unclear at the moment whether her last name “Voorhees” is a reference to the “Friday the 13th” character Jason Voorhees, but knowing Fey’s penchant for oddball pop culture references, I wouldn’t be surprised.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” started, surprisingly, as a failed NBC pilot, but was later picked up by Netflix for a two-season order. It’s unclear why NBC would shut down a show by two comedy masterminds who have a long history of critical acclaim (or whether NBC has any intentions to air quality comedy shows at all), but “Kimmy Schmidt” is just one of several recent “SNL” alumni-helmed shows that have found homes outside the network that brought them to prominence in the first place. Other notable “SNL”-born shows include “Mulaney,” “Brooklyn 99” and the newly premiered “Last Man on Earth,” all three of which went to FOX. This seems to signal an end to NBC’s comedy dominance, but with Netflix and FOX picking up the slack and ensuring that new and original comedy shows get the airtime they need, it’s hard to complain.
Despite all the smiles and bright splashes of color in promotional posters and trailers, expect plenty of darkness to surround “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” In one of the final scenes of the trailer, Schmidt is catcalled by a construction worker who tells her “you’re making me wish I was those jeans.” Schmidt, unalarmed by the rude and sexist gesture, happily responds, “I wish I was your yellow hat!” It’s a perfect example of Fey’s ability to mix levity and biting satire with a tone that will no doubt characterize the series and separate from generic always-happen big network comedies.
When it comes down to it, if “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is even half as funny as “30 Rock,” it will be more than enough to please the swarms of Tina Fey faithful. Even the casual Fey fan should log in to Netflix on March 6 and get started.