TBS is launching two new comedies this fall — “People of Earth,” which premiered on Halloween, and “Search Party,” which kicks off Thanksgiving week, running two episodes per night for five nights for a complete Season 1 run.
And we’re here to tell you that “Search Party” is excellent, so make it appointment viewing next week (or at least program your DVR).
Part “Girls,” part “Veronica Mars,” part “Pretty Little Liars,” “Search Party” picks up with late-20s Dory (Alia Shawkat) finding out that a girl she barely knew in college, Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty), has gone missing — she’s an “endangered adult,” according to the missing posters.
Fueled by a lack of meaning or direction in her own life, Dory becomes fixated on the case, launching her own investigation sometimes helped, mostly hampered, by her three best friends — Portia (Meredith Hagner), Elliott (John Early) and boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds).
The pleasure lies not in discovering the truth, but in searching for it
While John Early is obviously a modern treasure and the supporting cast doesn’t contain a single slouch, what makes “Search Party” so compelling are the two women at the center of the story: Dory and Chantal.
At first glance, Chantal seems like that super sweet girl everyone basically likes, so could it be that she was simply the victim to a tragic random act of violence?
But as Dory digs deeper into Chantal’s life, she uncovers darkness and secrets, edging the mystery into a far more complicated place.
There’s also the question of whether or not Chantal is really alive. Dory thinks she spots Chantal in the premiere episode, but the audience is left wondering how reliable a narrator Dory really is — she seems so desperate to find her way that we could believe Chantal’s appearance is purely by an act of will (or delusion).
Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
Aside from the Chantal/Dory A-plot, there’s a lot going on with Dory’s trio of friends, plus her ex-boyfriend Julian (Brandon Micheal Hall), who went to college with Chantal’s gang. You won’t like any of them at first — and you’re not supposed to. But each character deepens with each passing episode, making it clear why Dory is friends with them — you may even find yourself caring.
‘So, what kind of porn do you like?’
It also can’t be understated how funny “Search Party” is. It’s not a laugh-track sitcom, of course, but there is always humor to be found in dark times and this finds that in spades. The show’s real ambition, or more properly genius, lies in its slice-of-life, everyday moments — think sharply rendered satire over mumblecore ennui; Baumbach over Duplass — which don’t distract from the darkness or drama, but ground and lighten them instead.
Whether you watch “Search Party” for an hour every night next week or save it up to binge over the weekend, you won’t be disappointed. Our only complaint is that there are only 10 episodes, because we definitely have found ourselves searching for more.
“Search Party” premieres Monday, Nov. 21 at 11 p.m. ET/PT on TBS, airing two half-hour episodes each night until Nov. 25.