Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt recently finished its four-season-run on Netflix, and I thought now would be a good time to look back not only at this newest season, but the show as a whole. If you’re coming in blind to the show, executive producers Robert Carlock and Tina Fey also worked together on Fey’s star vehicle 30 Rock. That should tell you a lot about whether you’ll like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, as it doesn’t veer far from that show’s format.
The titular Kimmy Schmidt is portrayed by Ellie Kemper, best known for The Office and Bridesmaids. She’s just as jubilant and sunny here as she was in those two roles. After spending years as a “mole woman” trapped in a bunker by a religious fanatic, Schmidt is reintroduced to the world by her dramatic roommate Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), loopy landlord Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane), and spoiled boss Jacqueline White (Jane Krakowski). Kemper and Krakowski are the most consistent among the main cast, with Burgess and Kane often saddled with such ridiculous dialogue to deliver on they can’t help but stumble here and there—though through no fault of their acting.
The overarching narrative is that as Kimmy discovers what it means to have a free will for the first time, she helps those around her actuate on their own. Titus stops playing the victim and pursues his acting career, Jacqueline discovers she is more than a simple trophy wife, and Lillian, well, Lillian maybe actually makes some lasting connections with those around her? Like 30 Rock, a lot of the humor isn’t simply derived from witty banter, but outlandish situations and sendups the characters find themselves in. Most memorably, Titus enacts a full-on reenactment/parody of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. The fourth season features a true crime documentary and an episode dedicated to an alternate timeline (a la Community). This high concept stuff for most sitcoms, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt handles it all with a wild looseness that makes you feel it could all come off the tracks at any moment.
Unfortunately, as with any show shooting for the stars, it does miss at times. Earlier I singled out Burgess and Kane for being uneven, but it’s really the material for them. They’re intended as the Fonzie-style breakout characters, but the antics surrounding them wear at times. Titus and Mikey’s relationship provides some of the biggest laughs of the show, but particularly in this final season there were moments such as the double date dinner where the gag just seemed to drag on. One can’t expect Burgess to save forgettable writing in such a scene, but it does feel like such a waste compared to the much more joyous scenes from an interrupted version of the musicals Cats. Kane, it should be noted, may have the hardest material to pull off as the enigmatic hippie-that-time-forgot, and that she milks some of the biggest laughs of the entire series is a testament to what a rare treasure her career in comedy has been so far.
Sure, there are ups and downs over four seasons of a sitcom, but when Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt works it’s one of the funniest shows on today. If you missed it, take the time to binge all of it now. If for nothing else, just take in what class acts the four leads are. The series goes out on a high note but, then again, much like Titus performing, it never realty completely came down from that note.