I recently finished watching the first season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Wikipedia article). A Netflix original series, the show chronicles the life of Kimmy Schmidt as a “mole woman” who escaped from the captivity of a deranged but charismatic minister, and moves in with the flamboyant Tituss Andromedon. I’ve heard fantastic opinions on it for months, but didn’t start watching it myself until recently.
My feelings on Netflix original programming are hit or miss. Some of them are fantastic, others are boring. I try to at least give any new series from Netflix a shot, just to see if it’s any good. When some friends told me about “Unbreakable,” it sounded right up my alley. Densely packed with 90’s references and a hilarious story to boot? Sign me up.
As soon as I was able to find the time, I watched the first episode. As the credits rolled, I was far from impressed. The individual jokes and 90’s references were amusing, but didn’t elicit more than a brief chuckle. Building the back story felt forced and the humor there was lackluster. I realize that any new series has to construct a base on which to elaborate, but I was disappointed at how much the show had been talked up without any stellar humor.
Initially, I chalked “Unbreakable” up as a loss. Much like “Weeds,” it just wasn’t funny enough to bother watching any more. Upon informing those who recommended the show to me that I didn’t find the pilot episode very funny, they encouraged me to give it a little more time. After the first few episodes, they claimed, it would leave me in stitches.
Eventually, I decided to watch the second episode, just to see if I might like the show any better. Given a little more understanding of the story, I did find a bit more humor in the next episode. Not enough to seal the deal as my favorite comedy by any means, but something I could see watching when I want to laugh. Still, I didn’t get why everyone thought this was just the funniest show to have come out in years.
Again, I updated the friends who introduced me to the show. And yet again, they told me to keep watching. A show really shouldn’t take this long to get good, I reasoned, but I decided the worst thing that could come from watching at least one more episode would be a half hour of ennui.
When I was able to watch the third episode, something just clicked. Somehow, I finally understood the show. Segments that I could see where the writers had attempted to be funny suddenly cracked me up. Little quips that might go unnoticed by most resulted in my having to pause the show for fits of laughter. This show was *really* funny.
For the remainder of the series, I can’t recall a single episode that wasn’t fantastic. Enough drama to build up a decent story, but so steeped in humor that I couldn’t stop laughing, this is what I want in a comedy. I probably finished the last 10 episodes of the series in 2 weeks or less.
As I pondered why my opinion of “Unbreakable” could have changed so drastically, I concluded that the bulk of the humor comes from the dynamic between characters and the situations they find themselves in. Banter between Kimmy and Tituss becomes so much funnier as viewers learn more about the characters themselves and begin to appreciate their connection. Ordeals that Kimmy stumbles into are infinitely more amusing when you realize just how disconnected she is from modern reality.
Obviously, viewers must be educated about the characters and their situations; they don’t start on the pilot episode with an intimate knowledge about Kimmy and her entourage. Until viewers begin to understand these intricate facets of the series, it seems mediocre at best. Once these elements have been established, however, the show is absolutely ludicrous. “Unbreakable” is easily the funniest sitcom I’ve watched in a very long time.
For anyone who hasn’t yet watched “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” or has only seen the first episode or two, please give it another chance. Once the show clicks with you, I guarantee you’ll want to binge watch the remainder of the first season and wait with great anticipation for season two.
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