It looked like Netflix was finally going to do it this time. A series created by the usually spot-on Tiny Fey starring the wonderful Ellie Kemper with Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess as solid support sounds like an instant hit. Unfortunately, the reality that is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt leaves a lot to be desired.
The plot revolves around Kimmy, a former cult member, returning to New York after 20 years inside an apocalypse bunker. Kimmy has a couple things going for it. Namely, a well-paced plot that doesn't dwell on background knowledge too much. We spend a grand total of 5 minutes setting up Kimmy's backstory, a less canny show would stretch that out for most of the pilot episode. But who really needs much more than, "she was gone for a while and now she's back." It's all a setup to deliver the audience to the meat of the show: Kimmy navigating modern New York.
Unfortunately, here is where the show begins to stumble. Kimmy's childlike innocence, while understandable and endearing, doesn't lead to any great punchlines. She eats candy for dinner. She carries a backpack with her to the club. Nothing much really comes from this other than a few tired, been-there-done-that jokes that will leave most audience members unimpressed.
To her credit, Kemper does a fine job. Her enthusiasm for the role shines through; think a ramped up version of Erin from The Office. It's not hard to imagine hilarity if the jokes were a little bit sharper. Jane Krakowski is excellent as well; think a ramped up, mom version of Jenna from 30 Rock. Her character gets some of the few real laughs of the series. Casting is certainly not the problem for Kimmy.
Ultimately, this is a show that could go either way. With the addition of another solid cast member in season 2, Kimmy could be a hit. I'm inclined towards optimism when Tiny Fey is involved. However, right now, the show doesn't look like anything new. Hopefully, the writing staff is as unbreakable as Kimmy herself.