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Tina Fey’s Modern-Day Yentl Story

Her new series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, premieres on Netflix in March

Rachel Shukert
January 22, 2015
Tina Fey. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Tina Fey. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

What is that strange tingling I feel all the way from the top of my head to the tips of my toes? Could it be the unfamiliar effervescence of unbridled excitement, or is it just heartburn? Well, for once—and perhaps the first time in 2015—the answer is the former! Because the trailer for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the new Netflix series from Tina Fey, a woman who needs no introduction, has just been released, and in the words of Queen Elizabeth I (the Cate Blanchett version of her, anyway) it is marvelous in our eyes.

I had the great good fortune of reading the original script for the pilot of the series, back when it was still called Tooken (otherwise known as the past tense of “take”). I read a lot of scripts these days, and most of them seem relatively dead on the page; it takes a special kind of skill to be able to see what will come alive when it’s actually cast and filmed. But this one, even in embryonic Final Draft form, was one of the funniest pieces of writing I have ever read—so funny, in fact, that some of the other diners in the airport restaurant I was reading it in shot me looks of irritation. (Nobody actually came over to tell me to shut up, because I was in the Midwest.)

The show stars The Office’s delightful Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt, a 30-year-old woman who was kidnapped at age 14 and has, for the past 15 years, been living in an apocalyptic religious cult in a bunker with the rest of her prairie-garbed sister-wives (there’s something about cults that always requires a weird outfit, isn’t there?). When the “Indiana Mole Women,” as they become known, are at last rescued and released into the wild to make their immediate rounds on all the morning-shows, Kimmy takes one look at the bustling streets of Manhattan and decides, Marlo Thomas-style, to make a go of it in the big city.

The premise is hilarious, and so are the performers, including 30 Rock’s Titus Burgess, who seems to spend much of the trailer in an elaborate Iron Man costume. But as I was watching it, another thought occurred to me: a young woman looking to break free from the bonds of a repressive religious group and spread her wings in the wide world? Funny outfits and hairdos and a lot of spinning tracking shots of a young(ish) woman’s hopeful face? Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is nothing less than a modern-day Yentl story. Papa may not be able to hear us, but Tina sure did. And I can’t wait to binge-watch my feelings.

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.

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