This past Saturday I was bored and looking for a way to kill time in between a morning trip to the gym and 12 hours of college basketball. Having just re-signed up for Netflix (the month subscription will end shortly after the release of Daredevil in April, but yes this is a dramatic turn, albeit not a complete 180, from my binge watching warning posted a few weeks ago), I decided to kill time by trying an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the new comedy series from Tina Fey, rejected by NBC and picked up by Netflix. By the end of the day, after skipping several games of March Madness (something I would have considered almost sacrilegious) and taking a few breaks I had finished the 13 episode run. Unlike my House of Cards marathon, which was double the amount of time and done under a self-imposed podcast deadline, the binge of Kimmy happened completely organically. The show was too damn enjoyable to stop. And that is why it joins the rare company of my “Perfect Season of TV Club.”
Now I will only focus on the few comedy shows to post perfect seasons in my estimation, but obviously if drama were to be included, off the top of my head I would include season 3 and 4 of Breaking Bad, Seasons 3 and 4 of The Wire, Season 2 and possibly 5 of Six Feet Under, and I am sure The West Wing posted at least one perfect season, if not more. But as far as comedies only a few shows have posted perfect J-L seasons.
To post a perfect season every episode must be hilarious. No performances can be weak and it has to finish perfectly as well. It also helps if the season builds upon itself with either lots of great callbacks and/or humor that improbably gets stronger from a strong start as the season progresses. Admittedly most modern shows with shorter runs have better shots at pulling off a perfect season, but so be it. Despite my recent praise of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I did not think of one season in particular to put on the list. As an all time great comedy it’s place is assured, but no one season felt “perfect,” though I would put my enjoyment of the over 100 episodes at over 80% hilarious, with only a handful being not worth watching. But only the following shows have garnered perfect status in my mind:
- Eastbound and Down – Season 1.
- Hello Ladies – Season 1 + the 90 minute movie
- Arrested Development Seasons 1 & 2
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Season 1
Now there is of course a chance that the limited run of these shows makes their perfection more memorable (only Eastbound made it to even 4 seasons, since the Netflix 4th season of Arrested Development was the worst add on to a classic since Indiana Jones 4 and Godfather 3 I do not count it), but if you have a good and varied sense of humor I don’t see how you could challenge them. Yes Eastbound is a tad vulgar and Hello Ladies a tad depressing and awkward. But both on the list were tremendous and perfect. If you don’t think Arrested Development was the best comedy of all time then you are wrong. Arrested Development is like the deadbeat Dad of both Modern Family and It’s Always Sunny – it gave them the blue print of what made them great without giving a sh*t about anyone or anything AND it had the best cast of a comedy ever. The cast was so good that almost no one from the cast was able to get cast as anything but a variation of their AD character for the last 12 years.
And that brings us to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I referred to the show this weekend on Twitter and Facebook as “relentlessly funny.” That is what it is. There is so much strong, subtle and brilliant humor in every minute of every episode that I found myself laughing out loud more than I have in a very long time. The premise of the show is basically 4 women are held by a religious fanatic in a bunker for over a decade (yes, basically they made a comedy that might have been subtly inspired by the Ariel Castro case in Cleveland) and then rescued. Kimmy decides to stay in NYC after a Today Show appearance and make a new life for herself. She has a gay acting roommate and a job as a nanny for a billionaire’s wife. For 13 episodes the show is a masterpiece. From the opening scene where a Charles Ramsey-esque black man is immediately auto-tuned describing the rescue of the women and repeated every episode as the theme song, to the incredible funny courtroom cameo -as-religious fanatic defendant the show is a home run every episode.
The cast is incredible without a weak spot, or even less than a strong spot, but Ellie Kemper (Kimmy), Jane Krakowski (the billionaire’s wife) and Titus Burgess (Titus – the gay roommate) all deserve Emmy nominations. They are all in full comedy beast mode. Now, just to get a little indignant and righteous – go watch Transparent on Amazon, if you can muster the 5 hours this week to watch the “comedy” that won the Golden Globe this year. Then watch Kimmy Schmidt. My prediction is the laugh ratio will be at least 1:500 in favor of Kimmy.
And I know that I am sometimes harsh on women in comedy and proclaiming that men, thanks to societal expectations and culture and many other reasons, are on the whole, much funnier than women and obviously Tina Fey, whether an exception to that thought, or proof that that thought is nonsense deserves major respect (not that she doesn’t have it already). Though I didn’t particularly care for her run as head writer on SNL, 30 Rock was brilliant and I think Kimmy may be her best work if it can maintain the brilliant pace it set with season 1. And that raises a question: with Tina Fey’s legendarily muscular calves, her tiny thug facial scar and her amazing comedic skills… are we sure she isn’t really a man? Hash Browns Just kidding! Hash Browns LOL (inside joke for Kimmy fans).