That quote — that moving the Tina-Fey produced The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt from NBC to Netflix being “one of the most remarkable developments of the last couple of years in television” — actually comes from Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, who spoke with Vulture about how that deal transpired. The streaming service, which is usually in the business of saving or reviving shows that had already been canceled — like Arrested Development or Longmire — made the bold move in this case to pick up another network’s series before it had even aired.
The problem for NBC was that, as has been the case for the last several years, it has been moving toward broader sitcoms and away from niche sitcoms, like Tina Fey’s 30 Rock. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — which is about a woman (Ellie Kemper) who escapes from a cult after 16 years and moves to New York to start all over — is in the “same comic tone as 30 Rock,” only darker, and obviously, a darker, edgier 30 Rock doesn’t fit into NBC’s About a Boy vision of sitcoms.
Without a complementary time slot partner and a shaky midseason release strategy, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was on the verge of being dumped by NBC before it had even aired.
In stepped Netflix, or rather, Tina Fey came to them.
We got a call from Tina Fey and from Dave Miner to come to New York,” Sarandos told Vulture. “We came up literally on the last day of production, watched some of the shooting. Met with Tina and the team, heard what they were planning, and said, “Look, if you can work it out with NBC, we’d love to do it. And within 12 hours, we’d seen nine of the 13 episodes. And within four days, the deal was done. So for us it was this huge thing, but the whole thing happened in four days.”
That, folks, is why Netflix is so amazing: There’s no pride. They wanted a show from Tina Fey. They knew that Tina Fey would appeal to the Netflix audience. So, instead of pussyfooting around the idea — as the USA Network did with Happy Endings for weeks — they stepped in and bought it up because, as Sarandos said, “it’s so perfect for us. You know what I mean? Just slightly off-center, super serialized, and comedic and complex story line.”
In other words, somewhere in between 30 Rock, Arrested Development and The Jonestown Massacre? I can’t wait to see it. All 13 episodes will air in March 2015.