There are very few shows on television like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Kimmy takes the dense, verbal, laugh-a-minute formula that Tina Fey and Robert Carlock pioneered on 30 Rock and translates it to a much bubblier, happier show.
Kimmy Schmidt, the person, is an unfailingly sweet and selfless person doing to her best to leave a mark on the world and the show that bears her name follows suit. It’s a brightly colored, absurdist carnival ride. It’s also an absolute joke machine, with several absolute laugh out loud moments per episode.*
*My nominee for season four’s best joke: “Al Gore Rhythm.”
That doesn’t mean it isn’t partly satirical either. The show can at times have a cynical heart underneath all that sunshine. Plainly put, this is a high-wire act of fast paced humor, satire, and pure, sugary fun.
Now that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 4 has finished its run on “Houseflix” (the first half of season four at least) where else can you find this dose of happy place comedy meets absurdist comedy? Not just anywhere obviously. If you squint though you’ll find bits of Kimmy (ew) all over the television landscape.
Here are some options.
Let’s start with the most obvious. 30 Rock is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s first show together and it features many of the things you love about Kimmy. The joke structures remain mostly the same. That is to say: roughly every 40 second on screen there is a joke uttered that’s so devastatingly clever and funny in can scarcely be believed. 30 Rock also exists in a similarly heightened, at times bizarre, universe. It doesn’t have the same level of sweetness as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt but Liz Lemon’s relationship with coworkers (and boss) are at times legitimately affecting.
Cheers is among the greatest “hang out” comedies in TV history. The opening theme song spells out its modus operandi clearly: Sometimes, you want to go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. Sam, Diane, Coach, Woody, Carla, Norm, and Cliff are always glad you came. Sit down, have a drink, and forget about your problems for 22 minutes. Cheers embodies the best parts of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s sense of community and family even if it doesn’t have its fast paced verbal barbs.
A hospital may not seem like the most relaxed place, but, on Scrubs, the halls of Sacred Heart become a sanctuary as much as Kimmy and Titus’ rundown street level New York apartment is. Scrubs has a cast full of characters who would just absolutely be a blast to hang out with. Turk. J.D., Carla, Elliot, Dr. Kelso, Dr. Cox, and the Janitor are all wonderful fill-ins for those looking for more of Kimmy, Titus, Lillian, and Jacqueline. J.D.’s frequent fantasy sequences are even reminiscent of Kimmy Schmidt’s cutaway gags. Scrubs turns a hospital into a happy place because its characters are happy to be there.
New Girl was originally about one kooky woman named Jess moving to a Los Angeles loft with three guys and all the hilarious drama that would ensue. But the drama never really ensued because Jess and her roommates Nick, Schmidt, Winston (and Coach, for a handful of episodes) are all chill people. There may be no more comfortable and fun place on television than the New Girl loft. Not even an inter-roommate romance can spoil the joy of playing “True American”with this crew of friends. Just like the fact that Lillian’s apartment being an old pirate ship can’t interrupt Kimmy and Titus’ fun.
Will & Grace
Will & Grace at first seems like an odd comparison to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s a relatively conventional show from a different time (and also now) that’s peppered with timely jokes and a life track. Look at the makeup of the cast, however and the similarities become more clear. Both shows have a “core four” of central characters. Kimmy and Titus are close analogs to best friends Will and Grace. Lillian and Jack share a similarly absurd comic sensibility. Karen and Jacqueline are garish, out of touch socialites that still somehow have genuine love for their goofy middle (or lower) class friends.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt share a sense of unfailing optimism. Both Leslie Knope and Kimmy Schmidt are dedication to making a positive impact on the world. Plus, they’re also both from Indiana so hopefully their paths have crossed. Parks and Rec and Kimmy Schmidt have each mastered the art of “gentle satire,” pointing out aspects of society that could be better while maintaining their lead lead characters’ sunny dispositions. And of course each show is wildly hilarious.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt each have protagonists who can occasionally be described as “crazy.” Kimmy is a “just got out of a doomsday bunker and trying to reacclimate with the world around her” crazy. Rebecca Bunch is more of a “quit my real estate lawyer job in New York to move to West Covina, California and stalk my ex boyfriend” level crazy. As both shows advance, however, it becomes clear that their respective main characters may be the least crazy people in their worlds. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is technically a comedy musical. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt certainly isn’t categorized as such but that doesn’t stop it from churning out “Pinot Noir,” “Boobs in California,” and “Daddy’s Boy.”
Chewing Gum and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt don’t have a lot in common aesthetically. Their senses of humor are quite different and Chewing Gum opts for a more realistic feel over Kimmy Schmidt‘s sense of heightened reality. Its lead characters, however, are almost spookily similar. Tracey Gordon (frequent Black Mirror actress Michaela Coel) is a 24-year-old shop girl living in London. After spending her adolescence in a restrictive, religious setting she wants to get out into the “real world,” lose her virginity and break out of her awkward shell. She also wears bright primary colors. Sound like anyone we know?
Happy Endings captures Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s unbridled sense of joy perfectly. Happy Endings is a show almost without conflict whatsoever. It follows a group of six friends (all played by incredibly talented and funny comedic actors) living in Chicago and hanging out. That’s about it. Sure, the show started with a major conflict as one character leaves the other at the altar on their wedding day. That is quickly resolved and all but forgotten about and Dave, Alex, Jane, Penny, Max, and Brad are able to enjoy their lives together. Happy Endings doesn’t have Kimmy‘s verbosity but it sure does have its heart.