What was NBC to do when the network — which has forgotten how to launch and nurture new comedies — found itself with one of the best midseason series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? The only logical thing to ensure the show’s survival: give it to Netflix. As I wrote at Quartz,
As Netflix continues to change the way viewers watch TV, in the process evolving from a niche outlet to one that wants to be all things to all people, the streaming service has also done something unexpected: it’s helping to save the network sitcom.
While many new sitcoms are canceled long before they have time to hone their comedic voice and tailor the show to the strengths of its actors, Netflix’s two-season commitment to Kimmy Schmidt ensures the sitcom will get the breathing room it needs to find its comedic bearings. And while Netflix’s binge-loving audience gravitates toward serialized dramas like Breaking Bad, Kimmy Schmidt proves that this can also be an ideal method to watch comedies as well:
And while Kimmy Schmidt episodes might not end with a traditional cliffhanger designed to carry you over to the next episode, like Netflix’s dramas ordinarily do, the show boasts plenty of comedic momentum. Out of the first six episodes I’ve seen, each ones gets stronger and stronger, as Fey and co-creator Robert Carlock build out their world and slowly layer in more laughs. The fourth episode is by far the funniest, packed with uproarious pop culture riffs and a disturbing yet riveting turn from guest star Martin Short. In a normal broadcast environment, many viewers would have thrown in the towel long before that point.
There’s much more in my Quartz story, including an explanation why NBCUniversal ends up the biggest winner in the show’s migration to Netflix, and an explanation from Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos as to why this is such an “interesting turning point” for the industry. It’s somewhat of a companion piece to last month’s Adweek cover story on the not-so-funny state of network sitcoms.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt debuts tomorrow on Netflix. Make sure you watch; every episode gets better and better!