As Netflix’s latest play in the War on Broadcast Television, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey’s long-awaited pet project, hit their servers two weeks ago. The show’s premise is delightfully bizarre—Kimmy Schmidt and her fellow “mole women” are released from their bunker after 15 years of imprisonment and into the harsh white light of 2015. Cue the “is this a Macintosh?” jokes, sure, but Tina Fey knows better than to rely solely on that. Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt is an unstoppable ball of rapping, smiling, and energy and she’s up to the task of carrying the show. Jane Krakowski is back and playing an older version of Jenna Maroney, and her caricature of American wealth and egotism is predictably hilarious. Then there’s Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon, Kimmy’s ridiculous roommate with dreams of any kind of stardom, (see below). And of course, there are some truly hilarious cameos from Jon Hamm and Tina Fey herself.
The writing showcases Fey at her absolute zaniest, which could have spelled doom for the series had it aired on network television. But is comedy meant to be consumed in binges? Netflix seems to think so, as they have already purchased the second season. A lot of network comedies are binge-watched, but they weren’t created for that purpose. And technically, neither was Kimmy Schmidt; it was originally developed by NBC and later sold to Netflix in 2014. (There’s an interesting article on Hypable that discusses what the show would look if it had stayed on NBC). There are some definite benefits to airing on Netflix; no commercials, a rabidly devoted potential fan pool, and seemingly, more creative license. But there are plenty of drawbacks as well, obviously.
As with Fey’s previous show, 30 Rock, the jokes are so rapid-fire that if you turn away to wipe the Cheetos dust off of your sweatpants you’ll miss one. Her type of comedy lives in the details—Kimmy’s actual banana phone (Kimmy Goes to a Party!) or Frank Rossitano’s hats on 30 Rock, for example. Consumed too quickly, the jokes begin to dissolve. And as engaging as Kimmy is, it just doesn’t have that same crazy-addictive draw as other Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black or House of Cards. Both of them are serialized dramas which rely heavily on the narrative arch and insane cliffhangers to keep viewers addicted, whereas that’s not part of Kimmy’s formula.
That’s probably because Kimmy is more of a procedural show—same group, different scenario each episode. I already know that nothing major will change too much—Kimmy will still be a young woman trying to make it in the big city, so it’s not like House of Cards where main characters are murdered or disappeared in the blink of an eye and roll credits. I tune in to see what hijinks the gang is up to, but it’s not a compulsion (again, like OITNB—I might have a problem here). And that is what makes Kimmy less binge-worthy. I zoomed through the episodes because I could, because that’s my right as a Netflix subscriber (thanks Mom!), but not necessarily with the same zeal as I have previously with the “Netflix dramas.” Of course, you don’t have to binge a show just because it’s on Netflix…but you probably will anyway.
So I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Kimmy and her namesake show. There are issues, yes, but I’ll be watching the second season when it airs. And if nothing else, that intro song is catchy as hell #femalesarestrongashell.