35. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1 (2015)

It’s Got: White Women Found, Hispanic Woman Also Found, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne on trial.

What a nice surprise this series was. Having been a huge fan of 30 Rock for its entire run, I probably figured Tina Fey had something in the works, but had no idea what it was or when it was coming out. One morning in March, I check Netflix, and there’s a… what it is? A movie? No, it can’t be a previously aired Tiny Fey sitcom that I’d completely missed? It’s a Netflix original? Just the first episode, surely? ALL THIRTEEN?! Kif, clear my schedule and fetch me the pyjama pants I’m already wearing. I’ve got some content to watch.

Strange as it is to think about, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt came out in a time when binge watching was a fairly new concept. Only a few years later, Netflix Bloat is real. Comedy series that go to streaming from the outset no longer have to put out episodes that conform to Network TV timeslots. And you know what, there are very few sitcom episodes that don’t benefit from cutting out all the least good jokes in order to fit into 22 minutes of airtime. Future Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt seasons are absolutely worth watching, but they’re longer and airier. The first season had been developed for NBC before getting shunted over to Netflix, and it alone has a pace and joke density comparable to 30 Rock at its best.

How vividly does Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt evoke the very narrow window in which it was released? It feels like a show that’s emblematic of this extremely recent era in which there’s a desire for more female led content. But in the first episode, the mole women are interviewed by Matt Lauer. Yeah. Fucking forgot that, didn’t you? Kimmy Schmidt, and the first season especially, is the rarest of things; a show about female empowerment in the modern era that’s pre-#Woke, pre-MeToo, pre-Trump, all of it. A show that’s unabashedly feminine that doesn’t make a Thing about its femininity. It’s a show by ladies, featuring ladies, for… everyone who might be interested, really.

Though the empowerment is just here to give the show that extra bit of something. A premise about a group of women readjusting to the world after being held captive by a man is splashy and attention getting, but you could have done this same basic show if Kimmy had been in a coma or living at a base in Antarctica. At its core, this is a series about a sunny, quietly steely young woman who doesn’t know anything about the world around her but can’t wait to find out.

There’s a bit of an edge, it doesn’t shy away from the sexual politics or racial and class tensions of our era, but like its main character the series has got a sunny, chipper outlook. The premise could be ripe for a serious drama that explores PTSD and the difficulty of readjusting to the real world (Room came out this same year in fact), but there’s room for Kimmy as well. A survivor who saw the darkest of what humanity could offer and wasn’t fundamentally changed by the experience. A series focused on such a character is a genuine pleasure to watch.

If I Had to Nitpick…: There aren’t any straight white men in the main cast? Then how the hell do I relate to any of this? :p

Notable Episodes: “Kimmy Goes to School!” for giving us Titus’s music video, “Kimmy Is Bad at Math!” because Dong is awesome, “Kimmy Goes to Court” and “Kimmy Makes Waffles,” the mole women’s showdown with the Reverend and a chance for them to (comedically) relive their trauma.

#36 | THE LIST | #34

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