“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has been released from the figurative bunker, this time with an interactive episode, subtitled “Kimmy vs. the Reverend.” Running about 80 minutes, it’s a good demonstration of both the state of an innovation – which Netflix previously used on its “Black Mirror” episode “Bandersnatch” – that’s already starting to feel like a tired gimmick.
Once again, the narrative takes viewers along on an adventure with Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) and Titus (Tituss Burgess), with the wrinkle being that they are presented with a series of choices. Two options appear side by side across the bottom of the screen, with the viewer clicking on one of them, taking the story – such as it is – in that direction.
To their credit, the producers have fun with the contrivance. They even break the fourth wall, to use a popular viewing term, both figuratively and literally at one point.
Still, the choices presented – a party dress or a classy one, go work out or skip it and take a nap, etc. – don’t really add up to much in moving the story along. As a result, the whole exercise feels labored and slow.
According to the producers, who had bid farewell early last year, the idea of a movie-length special morphed into this “first interactive comedy event,” with Netflix wanting to try out what the service learned from “Bandersnatch” in a different realm.
The script is a group effort, credited to producers Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Sam Means and Meredith Scardino. In the press notes, Scardino noted that the format allowed the writers to indulge in “great, weird tangents that we have gone on that might not normally have made their way into a typical non-interactive episode.”
Yet therein lies the problem. Because nothing in the interactive elements can be allowed to derail the overall story, the detours all feel like tangents. While it’s moderately interesting to see how the technology works in a comedy setting, it’s amazing how quickly the novelty of that wears off.
Netflix deserves credit for continuing to experiment in this arena, but so far, the stunts have done little more than expose the process’ limitations. It’s more than a shiny toy, but less than an element that genuinely enhances the finished product.
What’s left, then, is an oversized episode, with over-the-top guest stints by Daniel Radcliff and Jon Hamm as Kimmy’s fiancée and the reverend, respectively, and one particularly inspired sight gag about an interactive choice gone wrong.
Of course, one of the things people liked about “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was its protagonist’s persona as a relentlessly upbeat, wide-eyed dreamer. Fans of the show will surely welcome an opportunity to be reunited with these characters.
Still, given a choice between watching the old shows and wading through this one, the suggestion here would be to click B.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend” premieres May 12 on Netflix.