Imagining ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ as a Drama
The second season of Netflix’s runaway hit sitcom, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” premieres on Friday, April 15, and the world can’t wait to see more of the overly innocent Schmidt take on New York City and whatever else the world has in store.
But in watching the show’s breakout season in 2015, one thing jumped out at me – why isn’t there a dramatic version of this same storyline?
In other words, how compelling would a one-hour drama be about a woman, or a trio of women, kept captive in an underground bunker for years, only to finally escape to see a world much different than the last time they saw it?
The easy comparison is thinking about the three Ohio women that were kidnapped by Ariel Castro, who kidnapped each of them between 2002 and 2004, then held them captive until May 6, 2013. That’s a lost decade for three women, one of whom even had a six-year-old daughter with her captor.
Strangely, it was probably this incredibly sad story that might have prompted Tina Fey and her fellow writers to even come up with the Kimmy Schmidt backstory.
Obviously, the success of both “Room” and “10 Cloverfield Lane” proves that this storyline can make for a compelling movie, but I think a 50-episode series would do it much better justice.
for a brief moment, @WBTVWorkshop listed kimmy schmidt as an acceptable drama to spec. i would love to write kimmy schmidt as a dark drama!
— kiyong kim (@mr_kiyongkim) March 21, 2016
From “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” to “Unbreakable”
With that in mind, I decided to come up with a five-season story arc that I would love to see as a one-hour drama, in 10-episode seasons, on a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon.
The show opens on a peaceful family dinner scene, with a man and three women (two 20-somethings and a teen) saying grace and passing the fixins’. But we slowly begin to realize that there are no windows, and none of the women choose to engage the man in any disagreement.
We realize all three women are held captive either in a basement or an underground bunker, and the man is the only one that’s allowed to leave their living arrangement.
Through the course of the first season, we begin to see flashbacks (“Orange is the New Black”-style) to understand how each woman somehow found themselves held captive in the bunker. We even find that there was another woman that is no longer in their group! But why?
In one episode, around midseason, we’ll witness a full day of the life of the kidnapper, seeing how comfortable he is with his crime, and how he can maneuver in and out of the world without anyone thinking something is awry. From Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to the door to police being called to his house for “playing his TV too loud,” we see him easily deflect all visitors without any problems.
In the Season 1 finale, one of the girls finally escapes out of the bunker, which ends up being a basement to the house, and runs next door to freedom.
When the season opens, we see the girl ran into the arms of her neighbor, who we find out quickly is the brother of her captor.
With this second captor introduced to the storyline, most of the second season surrounds how these two monsters created this hell in a series of flashback episodes.
The other two girls are eventually introduced to their other kidnapper, and we come to learn that he has kidnapped women before – but his basement isn’t full of living women he captured. Needless to say, he’s not quite a family guy.
In many of these episodes, there are small victories won by the women, as they either cause bad things to happen to their unknowing captors, or their escape plans develop by one more step.
In the Season 2 finale, one of the girls discovers she’s pregnant.
Several months after the previous season’s finale, we find a woman giving birth without a midwife or nurse, but only a book provided to them by their kidnapper. He’s indifferent about the child, although he’d probably prefer to kill it, which his brother offers to do for him.
After the baby’s birth, we understand that the women have now put their energy into caring for the child, to protect it from the man. Escaping has become a secondary goal.
This is the first season we get a look into the lives of the families left behind. Three separate families are dealing with the news of their missing loved ones. Two of the families lost their daughters, while the third has a husband looking for his wife. Maybe she even left behind a child, who she has referenced in the past, and the new addition to their bunker ignites her intentions to escape.
Finally, one of the women uses their escape plan to get out of the basement, and she runs into the waiting arms of a patrolling policeman who can’t comprehend what’s unfolding.
The fourth season opens with the police surrounding the house and eventually breaking into it, to save the two women and child left behind. But their captor is long gone, and the hunt is officially on – for the evil man and his even-more-evil brother. (This is when we learn about all the bodies in the brother’s basement.)
The third or fourth episode looks into how the men escaped getting caught, and we see how they had been planning for such an event for years, with this fallback escape option. It doesn’t look like they’ll be caught anytime soon.
There’s an insane media circus surrounding the three women and child, as they are reintroduced to their families. From the difficulties in coming to grips with loved ones that they thought gave up on them, to the post-traumatic stress syndrome that haunts them every night in their dreams, we realize the nightmares for these women are far from over.
But one of the women is especially friendly with the media, going on talk show after talk show, as the nation tunes in to hear more horror stories and see her progress, but the others just try to reclaim their lost lives.
In the Season 4 finale, their kidnapper is finally captured, after a shootout that leaves his brother dead.
A year or so after the arrest, we meet his lawyer – a high-profile defense attorney that has gotten off several celebrities in the past. The trial is set to begin and the women, who are now looking much different than we have ever seen them, will have to relive it all on the witness stands – with cameras shockingly admitted into the courtrooms.
This turns into the new trial of the century, as the defense introduces the real mastermind behind all of this – the father of the two brothers. He taught the boys how to keep people captive, after he kept them locked up in their basement for a decade, explaining that their mother leaving them was their fault and they had to be punished.
While the trial is the focal point that the entire season surrounds, each episode is a window into the lives of the freed women and child, as they try to return to regular lives at home and in the workplace.
The series finale is when the jury returns with a verdict.
I realize this last season is really weak, as there’s absolutely no way this guy would get off, but I think a look into the lives of these women after being reintroduced to the world is compelling and the trial would be what pulls us through the season.
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) April 6, 2016
Obviously, a dramatic version of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” would have to distance itself from the Netflix sitcom or it would be very difficult to take it seriously. But there’s no doubt that it’s an interesting storyline that someone should develop further.