Search Party, which first began on US channel TBS in November 2016, is a bizarre mix of concepts – hipster millennial comedy meets stylish, spiralling mystery – that ends up being something all of its own. It is critically adored (the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum called it a whole new genre – “the noir sitcom”) but it’s not yet a dominant player in the TV conversation.
Dory (a nervous, insecure Alia Shawkat) is so directionless she can’t get a job but still hopes to be a mentor for a women-in-leadership programme (called, perfectly, “Leading Women to Lead”). When she learns that an old college acquaintance, Chantal, has gone missing, she becomes determined to solve the mystery and rescue her.
Dory’s wet boyfriend Drew (John P Reynolds) and self-absorbed friends Portia (Meredith Hagner, pitch-perfect as this part-time actress and full-time basic bitch) and Elliott (John Early, as a camp narcissist in increasingly ridiculous outfits) are, by contrast, almost psychopathically uninterested. Elliott’s only thoughts on Chantal amount to: “She was always, like, brushing her hair in public. It’s, like, brush it at home, please.” But as Dory falls down a rabbit hole of clues, the other three inevitably get sucked in with her.
The entitled characters are, at first, insufferable. But the show stretches them to the limits of their vulnerability, showing the anxious human beings beneath their posturing facades. You begin to root for them before you know why. And you’re drawn into the mystery, thanks to each episode’s whiplash-inducing cliffhanger.
Search Party is the ultimate combination of piercingly accurate social satire, compelling crime drama and silly comedy. Both seasons are available to watch, free, on All 4 – so you can still be ahead of the curve.
This article appears in the 03 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Young vs Old