There are two good reasons to pay attention to the The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which is Tina Fey’s new series that debuted Friday on Netflix.
The first reason is that the show, about a young woman rebuilding her life in New York City after 15 years in a cult, is good — really good. I saw a preview of the first two episodes in New York in February, and the show is odd, fresh and funny. It’s easy to root for Kimmy (Ellie Kemper, who also played Erin on The Office), while her gay black sidekick Titus (Tituss Burgess) may be unlike any other character on TV. The show got a 78 at MetaCritic and folks at Rotten Tomatoes seem to like it too.
The other reason to take note of Kimmy Schmidt is because it shows, once again, how much the creation and distribution of TV has changed. As the New York Times recounted earlier this month, the initial episodes of Kimmy Schmidt were supposed to appear on NBC. The network, however, got cold feet, so Tina Fey decided to take it elsewhere.
Netflix lapped it up and agreed to buy two full seasons. Fey told the Times that the shift in platform also allowed for better plots and pacing because episodes were not confined to 22 minutes.
The stars of the show, meanwhile, appeared conflicted over the implication of services like Netflix displacing networks. In response to a question at the February premiere, Kemper said she was glad to be a Netflix star but still felt loyalty to NBC.
Finally, while the The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has the makings of a hit, its actually popularity will be hard to measure since Netflix doesn’t disclose how many people watch its shows (even though it knows precisely). As such, it will be hard to know if Kimmy will outperform the unwatchable Marco Polo, another recent Netflix offering that was likely targeted to a very different audience.
If Kimmy succeeds, it will be another feather in the cap of Netflix’s home grown hits, to go alongside House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.