While last spring’s excellent new comedies Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Wrecked, Angie Tribeca and The Detour have served as TBS’ announcement that it’s got bigger aspirations than just Friends and Big Bang reruns, none have raised the bar quite as high as the upcoming mystery comedy Search Party, aptly described by TBS as a comedic cross between Girls and This American Life’s Serial podcast.
We follow Dory (Alia Shawkat), a twentysomething young woman living in New York City obsessed with finding an old college acquaintance who has disappeared. Dory is a lot like most recent college graduates: unsure what to do next, feeling vulnerable and alone while her tight-knit group of friends seemingly have it figured out. As she digs her claws into Chantal’s (Clare McNulty) disappearance, she finds her life having purpose and meaning, again, drawing her deeper and deeper into the mystery of a girl she didn’t really even know.
As Dory falls deeper down the Chantal rabbit hole, she’s joined by her very self-centered and semi-vapid friends: Elliott (John Early), a pseudo-philanthropist, who makes sure everyone knows and remembers he had Leukemia as a teen; Portia (Meredith Hagner), a fashionable wanna-be actress, who struggles with finding acceptance from her mother even after landing a recurring role on a crime TV show; and Drew (John Reynolds), Dory’s boyfriend who, at first, comes across as a dependent, selfish manbaby but somehow sort of transforms into the voice of reason in the group (perhaps that sets the tone for how vapid each friend is in their own way). The casting and the wardrobe are so spot-on it takes very little effort to find yourself sucked into what the young Manhattan life is like (besides the murder mystery, of course… at least probably).
While Dory’s ragtag group of pals continually put themselves first, they also continually bend to Dory’s every whim, following her around Manhattan and beyond in search of a girl believed to be dead. Even when a different search party discovers Chantal’s bloodied blouse in the woods, Dory refuses to give up. She finds herself being nearly hoodwinked into joining a cult in Brooklyn where nearly all the women are pregnant and teams up with who she believes is a private investigator hired by Chantal’s parents before dragging her friends to Montreal, to where she believes Chantal may be hiding.
Much like FX’s recent critical darling Atlanta and HBO’s sunsetting slice of zeitgeist Girls, Search Party is, at its core, a story about a normal person lost in feeling important and relevant while dragging those closest with them along for the ride to provide dark comedic relief. I was quickly drawn into Dory’s fantastical journey, and loved it all the way to its perfectly timed crash back into real life.