On what level do we notice the colors a director of a film or TV show chooses? When we watch, we’re noticing all kinds of other things: the dialogue, the intrigues, the humor, the suspense. We don’t necessarily always consciously notice the way directors help these things work together; we don’t necessarily instantly analyze what’s happening on screen; we don’t necessarily think of film as a visual phenomenon first. And why should we? Why should we view these works with special technique-detecting goggles on? We shouldn’t, but, as Todd VanDerWerff points out in this excellent Vox video essay, there may be a reason for our positive response to a show or film, and that reason may lie with the director’s ingenuity, rather than the twistings and turnings of individual taste. It’s a simple point, possibly, and almost tautological, but one worth making, lest we see ourselves as mindless amoebae, wondering from one stimulus response to another. VanDerWerff trains his sights here on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, one of the more interesting serial dramas around at this moment, novel for both its storyline and its hyper-caffeinated, fresh-from-left-field approach to storytelling; there have been precious few TV dramas that made cults an integral part of their storyline, though they might have appeared in the occasional school-of-Law-&-Order procedural every now and then. The piece clues us in to the director’s ingenious use of colors here, primarily, also giving us a small glimpse of enough TV history, via a clever timeline and some fast shots of older shows, to drive home the idea that experimentations with the clash of Day-Glo colors and milder hues, of the colors of emotional overdrive with its bland opposite, are yet another indication of the rare and strange period of TV history in which we live. A piece like this reminds me of what a writing teacher once said after a rather long monologue on technique: "These are terrible things to think about, but they’re wonderful things to have thought about." If you’re a fan of this show, maybe this careful examination will make you more aware of technique the next time (or two) you watch.
Watch: Why the Colors of ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ Are So Important