“It’s great for comedy!” former Saturday Night Live head writer Tina Fey enthused of Donald Trump’s frontrunner status among GOP contenders for the White House. Fey, appearing at TCA’s Summer TV Press Tour 2015 to tout her Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, speculated her former SNL colleagues are champing at the bit to get back into original episodes. Asked by journalists to perform some Trump jokes, Fey responded, in the nicest possible way, that she had “no fully formed jokes – sorry.”
Fey and co-creator Robert Carlock were congratulated for their Emmy noms. “You took down Big Bang Theory!” one journalist said of Unbreakable’s best-series nom and BBT’s non-nom. “If you’re going for the nerd vote, we ate the nerd vote,” Fey joked, adding, “So many people were watching Big Bang they forgot to vote.”
Unbreakable follows Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) as she starts her life in New York City, a la That Girl, only Schmidt is doing so after being trapped in a doomsday cult for 15 years. The comedy, originally developed by NBCUniversal for NBC broadcast network with a 13-episode game plan, debuted instead in March on Netflix with twice that order after NBC opted for a drama-laden midseason sked. Universal TV is the studio – its first stab at Netflix.
Although the series’ first season was developed for NBC with its broadcast TV content restrictions, Fey said not to expect much change in the second season, though it’s being written with Netflix distribution in mind. “I think the tone of the show does feel set,” Fey said, explaining she hears anecdotally there is a lot of co-viewing of the show by adults with tween kids. “I would have to ruin that tone in Season 2. I don’t think you’ll hear profanity or see nudity, but it gives us license to play with time and structure – and not worry about offending any advertisers, or the NFL or some of the other restrictions of broadcast,” she said.
Lack of ratings is liberating, she raved. “We know Ted [Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer] is pleased, but we don’t have any actual numbers. Anecdotally, I immediately heard from so many more people than I heard from in 30 Rock. I feel like a lot more people are watching. Let’s go with that!”
Having all episodes come out at once in March, it was “kind of thrilling” to hear from so many people within a week who had watched all 13 episodes. Fey acknowledged she’s delighted not to have to beg viewers to stick with the show to see another episode next week, “Oh, a baseball game is next week – try in two weeks.”
Kemper, who subbed on NBC’s Today show, got asked about that experience. “They needed someone to fill in,” she explained, adding, “I would love to host a talk show, in 15 years when this is over.” She said the gig did involve some prep work. “Sometimes reading about Ariana Grande,” Kemper began, stumbling over the pronunciation, “Sometimes research was learning about her licking donuts. I don’t know – Willie Geist does it.” Asked what she learned from the experience, Kemper said, “I have never done live television. It’s a little unnerving. You say something idiotic and then it’s out there. If I learned anything it’s to be aware that it’s live.”