English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #robertcarlock

The Evolving Cinematography and Direction in Kimmy Schmidt

After being trapped in a bunker for a decade, Kimmy finally experiences the lively world she has been missing out on for the past ten years and the lighting and direction style certainly reflect this situation throughout the entire series.  In this post, I will be analyzing the cinematography and direction in the episode titled “Kimmy Goes to a Party!” (Season 1, Episode 7)  of Kimmy Schmidt: Unbreakable, and more specifically how this episode provides a stark contrast to those previously in the first season.

Early on in the season, the first episodes are filled with quick, snappy cuts that make the viewers feel almost overwhelmed. This is deliberately done to make the viewer feel as Kimmy does living in the overwhelming city of New York after being locked in a bunker for 10 long, tedious years.  However, after Kimmy gradually adjusts to this lifestyle episode by episode, the direction changes as cuts become longer and more problematic situations start to thicken the plot of the series. This episode is filled with suspense as Kimmy attempts to impress a guy she likes and Jacqueline Voorhees faces paranoia regarding a possible affair her husband had.  Naturally, this episode is filled with some of the longest shots of the whole series as the characters must face these issues and invoke a sympathetic response in the audience toward the character’s issues (which is nearly impossible to do with the short shots that are common throughout the show).

In regards to the lighting, the show is filled in this episode, and the whole series for that matter with vibrant color as Kimmy is re-experiencing life in the lively New York City after being held captive in a lifeless, gray bunker for the previous 10 years.  The costumes within this episode, like all episodes in the series, are vibrant, appealing to the visual eye of the audience.  Kimmy is the perfect example of the vibrant color scheme of the show as she is always wearing some sort of clothes with highlighter pink, yellow or blue coloration.  Even with the very bright lighting of a show set in New York City, the director makes it an apparent goal to make sure to go the extra mile by creating a vibrant wardrobe and including other items with playful colors to enhance the jubilant, open lighting of the episode to contribute to the warm-feeling shots of the episode.

Even with the bright lighting, this episode is not to unique from the whole series as a whole.  The entire series is filled with the aforementioned color schemes and lighting in this episode.  With that being said, it should be re-emphasized that the lighting in this series is wholly unique. I have never watched a show that was this visually playful and it truly contributes to the jubilant experience that the show is meant to be for the viewing audience.

Image result for kimmy schmidt bright lighting

Kimmy Schmidt showing her true 1996 kid style with the iconic bright yellow kids button down sweater

Let’s Take a Look at the Writing Behind Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!

I decided for my first blog post delving into the television sitcom, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I would focus on the writing of the show. More specifically, I will focus on the writing of the pilot episode. The pilot episode is written by Robert Carlock, a writer for several NBC comedies and Tina Fey, a household name who is known for her work on Saturday Night Live. The writing still is not entirely unique in comparison to other shows that I watch often; however, there are some aspects that are worth noting.

First, the prevalence of comedy in this show is unmistakable. The comedy skits are everywhere. The first scene of the show which displays Kimmy with her fellow cult members would be expected to be a serious introduction to the show, but this is not the case. In about thirty seconds, the situation turns into a comedy skit where apocalyptic cults are torn apart by humor that takes advantage of all cult stereotypes. I even found the name of their supposed leader to be quite humorous, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. This comedy skit approach is a predictable one, taking into account the writers of the show. Tina Fey’s rise to fame is credited to her ability to write humorous skits for Saturday Night Live. Her talent for writing skits is clearly incorporated into Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Aside from the heavy use of comedy, the rest of the writing is pretty standard. There is no use of a voiceover which surprised me due to the fact that a lot of newer sitcoms choose to incorporate this. A major portion of the universe which the show takes place in is fabricated. There are many references to Kimmy’s fabricated background in the pilot. Kimmy’s cult, the cult leader’s name, and even her hometown: Durnsville, Indiana, are all fictional. Personally, I believe Robert Carlock and Tina Fey were the perfect choices to write this show. I can’t imagine how this show would have turned out if half the comedy skits were removed. The subject matter of the show is too outlandish to keep viewers hooked without the comedy. Nevertheless, Robert Carlock and Tina Fey are killing it and I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

The opening scene where Kimmy Schmidt and fellow cult members await rescue

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