Your SEARCH for a New TV Sensation Is Over

WHO:

  • Creator: Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer, The Baxter, Hello, My Name Is Doris)
  • Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development)
  • John Reynolds (the mustachioed police officer in Stranger Things)
  • Meredith Hagner (the hack artist who changed her name to “Montana” in Younger)

WHAT: This dark comedy series from the minds of Michael Showalter, Sarah-Violet Bliss, and Charles Rogers satirizes NYC millennials who get caught up in an absurd disappearance mystery. The hilariously named Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty) goes missing, and pictures of her appear throughout the city. Wayward Dory (Shawkat) recognizes her as some girl from college she barely had contact with, and the spark to find her missing “friend” is born. But her disaffected friends Elliott (John Early) and Portia (Hagner) along with her bland boyfriend Drew (Reynolds) seem to be completely uninterested in Dory’s case of intrigue. As amateur sleuth Dory grasps at clue after clue, her friends’ lives weave in and out of the story, as a larger picture appears to form.

1200x630bb

 

WHY: Shawkat’s relatable take on Dory has us just as convinced as she is that she alone can solve this case. Piecing together the clues along with her is half the fun in this series. Although the downside is that they throw in as many frustrating red herrings as they do actual clues, leaving us, the at-home Poirots, to flounder when they don’t pan out. But the hijinks of her little clique help smooth out the otherwise rough season. The struggle to balance comedy with the dark side of the disappearance case is something the writers don’t quite perfect until the end of the season. But, when they finally do, the payoff is so extraordinary that I was in a fit of laughter for hours.

The satirization of millennials is so on point that it almost feels like they were just going for authenticity. Hagner especially is the breakout star in Search Party. Playing a struggling (heterosexual, white, blonde) actress who ends up getting cast as a Latina cop in a popular series leads to quite the few colorblind jokes aimed at the industry. (Bonus shout-out to her mother who is played by Broadway actress Christine Ebersole!) But, like any successful series, it is the dynamics of the four of them as a group that keep you coming back for more.

If you start the series and find the mismatching tones too dissonant, just stick with it. I promise you it’s worth it (if not for the great surprise guest stars along the way). And know that the season finale combined with the premiere of season two (already airing) is one of the funniest hours of television that I’ve seen.

WHERE: TBS (and Amazon)

WHEN: Season 1 is streaming online; season 2 airs Sunday nights at 10.

BONUS PAIRINGS:

  • for a similarly darkly comedic take on millennials: You’re the Worst (2014-present)
  • for a blend of dark comedy and criminality: Weeds (2005-2012)
  • for a deeply sarcastic amateur sleuth: Veronica Mars (2004-2007)

Advertisements

Book vs. TV: THE RETURNED Conundrum

17182421What if your dead loved ones returned to your life? Such is the premise of Jason Mott’s The Returned, inspired by a dream he had of his mother. Throughout the world, people—or whatever they are—reappear, causing global strife. Where they return and which dead ones return appears random, and leaves even more questions for the newly created International Bureau of the Returned.

The story opens itself up to all aspects of supernatural/sci-fi storytelling. Undead people, mysterious circumstances—Stephen King could knock out a 1,000-page book about it, easily. But Mott’s novel does not concern itself so much with uncovering the facts of these bizarre aspects and, instead, focuses on how it affects the small town of Arcadia and the quiet lives of the people therein.

The novel’s main perspective jumps between the aging Hargraves. Harold and Lucille lost their son Jacob about 50 years ago, and when he appears on their doorstep—thanks to Bureau Agent Bellamy—neither of them knows what to make of it. As the Returned’s presence sparks strife throughout the world, the Hargraves try to reconcile what Jacob’s return means to them. But circumstances grow increasingly dangerous as Arcadia reacts to being invaded by both the Returned and the government.

If this story sounds familiar, then you may have been one of the few viewers of ABC’s recent drama Resurrection. That show was adapted from Mott’s novel, expanding his world of characters to better suit a TV series. And, in fact, the series improves upon Mott’s novel (perhaps thanks to his consultation on the show?), with characters actively seeking answers to the riddles of the Returned.

img-allshows-resurrection

While the show (at least for now) lacks some of the global expansiveness of the novel, it is far easier to get drawn into its world. Mott’s writing has a slow, contemplative pace that is punctuated far too frequently with Southern colloquialisms. You practically hear a Southern drawl as you read his words. The series matches the contemplative, slow boil storytelling but foregoes most of that treacly Southern charm which grates the reader in the novel.

The Returned and Resurrection address thoughtful issues of religion and human rights and do so in a tactful, grounded way. But Mott’s novel never seems to quite get to where it needs to be, distractingly lacking a certain verve (my mind strayed far too often when reading it). But Resurrection excels at improving upon its source material and creating an urgency in its storytelling. Blessedly, it’s been renewed for a second season, which gives you about a year to breeze through the series’ first eight episodes.

 

Sidebar: How Enraptured Are We with the Rapture?

TheReturned_CompleteIf the title The Returned sounds familiar, perhaps you’ve been too busy watching the French series The Returned (aka Les Revenants), which also deals with dead people returning to their homes. The series’ existence necessitated the title change for the TV series adapted from Mott’s novel, even though the title The Returned was perfect for it. And, in case that isn’t enough, A&E is adapting the French Returned (which has aired in the US on the Sundance channel) into an American series, also titled The Returned—in a frightening trend of adapting perfectly delightful international series into American ones (even if all that’s changed is the name of the city and everyone’s accents—I’m looking at you Broadchurch/Gracepoint).

left-behind-bookBut all this Returned business is punctuated by the increase in the opposite premise occurring as well. The Leftovers, one of HBO’s summer shows (based on Tom Perrotta’s novel), focuses on the lives of those left behind after a significant (and random) chunk of the population up and disappears. While that lacks the religiosity of the Rapture, Nicolas Cage is starring in a mainstream reboot of the highly Christian (and highly addictive) Left Behind novels.

Someone seems to think audiences are currently captivated by the Afterlife—in one way or another—but how much of this can we really handle before it becomes passé? (And whom do you despise more: Nicolas Cage or Kirk Cameron, who originated the role that Cage is taking on?)

THE WHITE QUEEN 1.1 Twit-cap: “In Love with the King”

(The following Twit-cap contains minimal spoilers)

MV5BMTA4ODgxMjEzNjNeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDY0MjAzMDAx._V1._SX640_SY900_

  • This wintry opening scene is very much like the opening #GameofThrones scene
  • Elizabeth Grey? Does she undergo a journey similar to Gandalf to become the WHITE Queen?
  • (She’s about to perform some magic, so maybe?)
  • This is possibly the most feminine that Janet McTeer has ever looked
  • Elizabeth can’t be bother to change her clothes before her next meeting with the King? How poor IS she?
  • At least she took those 15th Century self defense classes
  • Must stop self from picking everyone’s corresponding #GameofThrone’s character
  • (Instead of a Kingslayer there’s a Kingmaker)
  • “So this is love?” –King Edward bursts into the classic CINDERELLA song
  • How do you forget the ring to your own secret wedding?
  • Max Irons can be my King
  • This Seer business is intriguing but also v silly
  • And the dialogue could really use some work
  • “Your daughter will never be royal.” –Duchess Cecily bursts into the popular Lorde single
  • #TheWhiteQueen is equal parts #GameofThrones and #TheTudors and I’m totally OK with that
  • I should also really brush up on my War of the Roses knowledge…or just keep watching the rest of the season…