I just finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and though that too much longer than it should have, I’m definitely not alone in feeling that this season was a huge improvement from last year- which is saying a lot, considering it’s what gave us Peeno Noir and the world’s catchiest theme song. I didn’t think UKS could get much better, but I should know never to underestimate Tina Fey (and so should Taylor Swift).
There was something really fresh and 30 Rock-ish about the writing this season, especially in Kimmy’s little “what the huh?” and weird gags like Titus putting a mannequin arm up his sleeve so he could hold Mikey’s hand while eating a sandwich. But another thing I found myself realizing as I watched this season was how Kimmy and her friends reminded me of another wacky group living in semi-squalor who are kind of just not good people: the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang. Obviously, the UKS group is not as villainous- they’ve never gotten addicted to crack just to get welfare or tried to pick up girls at an abortion rally. But both shows have put humorous twists on serious topics- racism, sexism, gentrification. Even observing character to character, Kimmy is basically a non-violent Charlie Kelly, right? She’s not quite a sociopath but couldn’t the self-absorbed Jacqueline easily go toe to toe with Dennis Reynolds? And are you not surprised Frank didn’t think of making tenants live in a tug-boat basement before Lillian did?
Let’s look at the facts. This season, Jacqueline gives her son an ADHD drug so they don’t have to spend time together, and then trashes a store with him to give him back his joy. Later, she ruins someone’s Lupus Awareness Awareness benefit by having all the married men meet their mistresses at her benefit, just so she can reclaim her top-dog status. Kimmy and Dong have sex in the back of a cop car, and he gets deported. Titus goes to the funeral of a colleague, where they’re literally dumping the body into the East River. Kimmy watches fellow mole-woman Gretchen do coke with a “junkyard Elmo.” Tina Fey shows up as an alcoholic therapist who drinks on the job. These people are kind of screwed up, and yet it’s funny as hell to watch.
Life’s similar at Paddy’s Pub, where the Philadelphia characters are somehow not in jail after all this time. They’re bad people, and it’s really entertaining because after 12 years they haven’t changed at all. I’m personally not bothered by their craziness (it’s a commentary on society, guyssss) but for some viewers they’re just too mean. You’re not rooting for them, because you hope their schemes don’t work- you don’t want them to get away with tricking the Health Inspector, because it’s disgusting, but you can’t look away either. Life is good for Charlie, Mac, Dennis and Dee, because they’re skating by and fine with it, but it isn’t for everyone else. You’re just left hoping you never run into anyone like them on the street.
On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, life is always sunny, for everyone. Jacqueline trashes a store, but it’s to bond with her son. The benefit she ruins is ultimately so she can raise money for her Native American tribe. That funeral Titus goes to- Ice T and the crew of Law and Order: SVU are there to pay their respects, and Ice T plays the saxophone. Gretchen becomes the leader of her own cult, which ends up being a positive, and Leah Remini joins. Tina Fey’s Dr. Andrea actually does end up helping Kimmy. Even Dong’s deportation ends up being just a minor setback. I’m sure he’ll return somehow, because that’s how life works on Kimmy. Nothing that terrible ever really happens, and it works for the audience, too. We’re rooting for them the whole time.
Tina Fey and Robert Carlock have created a world where bad things happen, and bad things are done, but through Kimmy’s bright-eyed view on the world it all comes across as harmless and in good fun. It’s not one of the darkest shows on TV (though looming ahead for next season is Kimmy’s divorce from the imprisoned Reverend), and of course it draws similarities to other shows, but it gets away with achieving something positive. Talking about serious subjects, while keeping it light, and keeping you laughing is no easy task, but Kimmy pulls it off. It’s the worst, laziest pun I could come up with, but that really is unbreakable.