Director: Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers
Cast: Alia Shawkat, John Reynolds, John Early, Meredith Hagner
Running Time: 27 min
It seems these days you can’t turn around without hitting a comedy series about millennials having existential crises. From Girls to Broad City to Master of None to You’re the Worst to Love, the television landscape is chock full of stories about millennials full of malaise. Enter Search Party, a new dark comedy on TBS that sells itself as a mystery comedy. While the mystery part of mystery comedy makes for an interesting twist, most of the pilot feels like ground we’ve covered before in shows that are still on the air.
Dory (Alia Shawkat) is stuck in life. Her career as an assistant is going nowhere, her bumbling boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds) no longer seems to interest her, and her best friends Elliott (John Early) and Portia (Meredith Hagner) seem too self-obsessed to care about her deepening depression. When Dory finds out a college acquaintance is missing, she fixates on it, determined to solve this mystery.
Dory and her friends feel very much like the main cast from Girls. Narcissistic and lost in the world, it’s incredibly hard to feel sorry for them as they gossip over brunch. While Dory’s career woes made me feel sorry for her, she never seems to take any concrete steps towards improving her situation, instead fixating on a distraction – her college friend’s disappearance.
Walking in to the show, I thought it would be much more millennial dark comedy than mystery but the parts ended uip being pretty evenly weighted with the average twenty-something material. Thanks to that, the pilot stays somewhat interesting. While you do wonder along with Dory about what could’ve happened to this girl, there is no real urgency to care about the mystery like Dory does. It’s fascinating that the creators have taken this concept that could be a one-off episode on so many other shows and turned it into its own show. The result is that while the pilot can hook you (ending on a cliff hanger helps), it seems unlikely they’ll be able to sustain such suspense. And at the end you’re left wondering what this show actually wants to be. Is it a dark comedy? A millennial sitcom? A mystery show capitalizing on the success of Serial?
While the concept of mystery comedy works for the pilot of Search Party, I’m not convinced such a gimmick can be sustained for multiple seasons. And while the show’s pilot debut certainly does play to the dark comedy and suspense, the core of the show feels a bit too familiar to stand out from the pack.