I feel like I've just crawled out of a bunker. Unlike the one from which Kimmy Schmidt emerges in the pilot of Netflix's new show (from the brilliant minds of 30 Rock's Tina Fey and Robert Carlock), however, it's a womb-like space filled with optimism, sunshine, nurturing, and support. That's right; I just finished all 13 episodes of the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. But, unlike with most binge-watches, which studies have actually shown can leave you feeling depressed and lonely, I feel invigorated. A Fey/Carlock show starring the lovely Ellie Kemper will do that to a person. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fish-out-of-water sitcom unlike any we've seen before. In the pilot, the title character is rescued from an underground bunker she's inhabited for the last 15 years with four other women and a doomsday cult reverend who kept them captive. After the requisite Today show interview with Matt Lauer, Kimmy decides to stay in New York rather than returning to Indiana, where everyone in town knows her name and story, and pities her accordingly. She soon finds a roommate (the vocally and comedically gifted Tituss Burgess), who comes with a zany landlord (Carol Kane), and a job working for the lonely, rich socialite Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski, basically playing Jenna Maroney from 30 Rock but with a secret reinvention tale of her own). Even though her backstory is dark, Kimmy isn't a victim. Fey and Carlock could have gone that route with her character, making her angry at the world and cynical, but instead they allow Kimmy to be a lens for viewers as a way to look at the world with fresh eyes. "One of the defining characteristics of Kimmy is that she's not jaded," Kemper said during a recent conference call about the show. "I think Kimmy has an optimism that anyone would like to share. The story does focus more on the post-cult experience, [but] without dismissing what happened to her...[T]he focus is on what happens as you move forward, rather than the fact that it could keep you grounded in the past." I don't want to spoil too much of the show for you, because doing so would take away from all the joy you're going to get from watching it. Instead, I'll just provide a quick primer of things to be on the lookout for as you plow through it. It'll make the viewing experience even better.
1. The title is the premise, but that doesn't mean Kimmy is a one-note caricature. Her spirit is strong and ultimately unbreakable, yes, but even eternal optimists have to deal with life's lemons before making some kick-ass lemonade (and wearing bright yellow as a visual metaphor for that axiom). 2. Just like 30 Rock, most jokes aren't just meant to be one-time quick hits. They're usually setups for a payoff that will occur later (sometimes even in another episode), a recurring motif, or adding layers to an alreading existing storyline. The Febreze — here, Buh-breeze — ad parody is a particular highlight. 3. This is a show about how strong women are. It says so right in the opening credits: "Females are strong as hell." 4. Even though female empowerment is ingrained in every minute of the series, the writers also want viewers to check themselves for instances of something Kimmy asks in their own lives. "Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Replacing one male authority figure with another?" she asks. Basically, screw the fact that the patriarchy has made so many of us think we need a male authority figure to show us the way. Buh-breeze that crap outta your life.
5. Cameos: There are so many amazing ones in store for you. The doomsday cult reverend is probably one of my favorites. 6. Tina Fey's husband, Jeff Richmond, who provided 30 Rock with its bouncy, orchestral score, is back with another whimsical soundtrack that enhances the show so much. 7. Feminism isn't the only social issue that's addressed. Be on the lookout for commentary on race relations (Kimmy's roommate Titus has an easier time in New York as a werewolf than as a Black man), immigration laws and the undocumented immigrant experience, and how the 1% can live in a bubble of indifference. 8. Even if you're not a New Yorker, you can appreciate the barbs Kimmy Schmidt takes at New York living, like the cult of spinning and that Real Housewives lifestyle. 9. Kimmy's amazing name necklace, which is made of those silver cubes with letters on them. I definitely had a "Lauren" one back in the day. 10. Homages to other New York-set TV shows and movies, like a recreation of the Friends (which one character calls "Six White Complainers") opening. Now go forth and watch, my friends. Or, as Netflix says...