Entertainment

Tina Fey's 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' turns doomsday into new day

By Bill Harris, Special to Postmedia Network

Lauren Adams, Sara Chase, Ellie Kemper and Sol Miranda in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. (Handout photo)

Lauren Adams, Sara Chase, Ellie Kemper and Sol Miranda in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. (Handout photo)

More Coverage

I'm gratified to report that the new series from Tina Fey called Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has adopted what I like to call “Tina Fey timing.”

Even in elevated and exaggerated comic circumstances, it's that thing where a character says something bizarre, and there's a brief cut to another character, who gets a momentary sort of “huh?” look on his or her face. The subtle “huh” rarely is acknowledged, and the conversation tends to just continue in brisk fashion.

On 30 Rock, one of my favourite sitcoms of all time, Fey perfected “Tina Fey timing.” It's a unique device, and I find it to be instantly recognizable, in a positive way.

“Oh good, yeah, the small reaction, that's good,” said Fey, whose new series, which stars Ellie Kemper, debuts Friday, March 6, with all 13 first-season episodes available on Netflix.

Mobile users, click here

“I think there's a rhythm to Robert's writing (meaning Robert Carlock, co-creator of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and mine that melds. And I think also, it literally could be because we have the same editors that we had on 30 Rock.”

One big difference between 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is that the former was on NBC and the latter is not. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was developed for NBC, but when NBC ultimately took a polite pass, Netflix happily gobbled it up.

Like 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a clever, quirky comedy. Clearly NBC is shying away from the clever, quirky comedy business, since those shows tend to attract more positive reviews than actual eyeballs to network TV. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt may prove to be a far better fit for Netflix anyway (a second season already has been assured).

As Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt begins, Kimmy (Kemper, who you'll remember as Erin on The Office) and three other women are rescued from an underground doomsday cult, where they have lived for the past 15 years. They were kidnapped when Kimmy was in the eighth grade, and subsequently they were taught, and believed, that the world above them had been destroyed.

The “Indiana mole women,” as they're dubbed, are accorded a brief spurt of media fame. “WHITE WOMEN FOUND,” the headlines scream, and then in smaller type, “Hispanic woman also found.”

After a TV appearance in New York, the wide-eyed but resilient Kimmy decides to stay, because she feels it's time to really start living and make up for the time she has lost. Of course, she is completely ill-equipped for modern life, let alone modern life in the Big Apple.

Some of her initial observations: “I can't tell phones from cameras! ... Even policemen have tattoos! ... Dancing is about butts now!”

Fey and Carlock actually have found an economical way to make fun of two eras. The current era always is ripe for comedy, especially when someone with fresh eyes, like Kimmy, is looking at it. But also, because Kimmy is straight out of the late '90s in terms of her cultural references, that era is fair game for comedy, too.

“The late '90s was a dumb time,” Fey acknowledged.

Fans of Fey's brand of humour may be disappointed that she doesn't have an on-screen role in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Fey hasn't given up being an on-screen performer or anything like that, but she said she certainly doesn't have to do it every time.

“Robert and I both were writers at Saturday Night Live and we've talked about the joy of writing for someone else, and setting up someone else to be funny,” Fey said. “It's very enjoyable to write jokes for Ellie and (co-stars) Tituss (Burgess) and Carol Kane.

“The upside of acting in things is mostly, like, getting your hair done and having people bring you clothes. So you can have a little of that in your life, but it's just as joyful to be behind the camera.”

As long as you keep up the “Tina Fey timing.” To me, that kind of comedy is unbreakable.

Twitter: @billharris_tv

bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 

 

 


Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions


Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »