As far as concepts go, Search Party shouldn’t work. For a start, the central premise sounds a lot like one of those ‘what if they made a TV show, but about us?’ conversations you’d have in an Uber at 4am, flying high on the alcohol-induced conviction that you and your friends are both hilarious and fascinating, but in an entirely unique way (appropriate, really, given that at least two out of *Search Party’*s four protagonists are textbook narcissists). It’s a Hitchcock-style mystery drama, populated by feckless, love-to-hate Brooklyn hipsters. It’s a millennial-skewering satire that goes deeper than gags about sourdough toast and wonky (ie, it’s a millennial-skewering satire that’s actually funny for millennials) – and it’s also criminally under-watched. Here’s why this Gen-Y mystery drama is more than deserving of a slot in your streaming schedule...
The storyline is bizarre but believable
Season one introduces us to Dory (played by Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat), a directionless 20-something who’s searching aimlessly for purpose, flitting between a made-up job (she’s an assistant stroke-general dogsbody for a rich alcoholic Upper East Sider, a brilliant I-know-her-face-from-somewhere cameo from Christine Taylor) and a lacklustre relationship with the very beige Drew. That purpose comes when she sees a ‘Missing’ poster pointing to the disappearance of her college acquaintance, Chantal, a girl who existed on the peripheries of her friendship circle. Soon, she’s channelling that need for purpose into an obsessive search for Chantal, increasingly convinced that not only is she alive and in danger, but at the centre of a major conspiracy. As Dory becomes further and further enmeshed in her millennial murder mystery narrative, she enlists her spectacularly self-absorbed friends into the hunt: aspiring actress Portia and pathological liar Elliot.
The characters are horrible, but brilliant – and they’re probably just like you
With Dory busy fine-tuning her various neuroses, Search Party’s best lines come courtesy of the aforementioned double act. When Elliot (John Early) first discovers that Chantal is missing, he’s spectacularly nonplussed, dismissing her with: ‘She was always brushing her hair in public. Like, brush it at home, please.’ The very rich, very white Portia (Meredith Hagner), meanwhile, is capitalising on Hollywood whitewashing by getting cast as a Hispanic detective in a low-rent cop show. These are terrible people, but you might end up rooting for them all the same.
It's created a genre of its own
Think film noir, lit for Instagram, or Fleabag meets Rear Window, with more succulents and rooftop brunches. Search Party has all the pitch-black humour and lacerating self-awareness of the former with the uneasy, obsessive tendencies of the latter. Thanks to its Brooklyn setting and cast of self-absorbed, privileged characters (each one embodying a mountain of first world problems), comparisons to Girls are inevitable but inaccurate: the jokes are darker, the one liners are uncomfortably laugh-out-loud and the cliff hangers are straight out of melodrama. Plus, it doesn't take itself as seriously as Lena Dunham (which is *always *a positive.)
It nails that sense of 20-something aimlessness
In season one’s pilot episode, Dory sits through a job interview for a teaching programme (which, in one of the show’s many brilliant throwaway details, is titled ‘Leading Women To Lead’) in which her airy CV is entirely eviscerated, leading her to lament ‘Everybody can tell me what I can’t do, but nobody can tell me what I can do.’ Search Party isn’t just about unravelling the mystery of why and where Chantal has gone: it’s about Dory’s obsessive need to place herself at the centre of something. Cynically put, she’s created herself a problem because she’s privileged enough not to have any real ones; more generously, she’s trying to write herself into a narrative with all the shape and structure that your twenties so often lack.
It's not another Netflix show - and that's OK
Yes, Netflix is brilliant, but the sheer quantity of shows to work your way through (The Crown! OITNB! Black Mirror! Tenuous conspiracy documentaries about Princess Diana!) can make you a little myopic when it comes to considering what else is out there. If Search Party had premiered on Netflix, rather than TBS in the US and All4 in the UK, more people would be talking about it – but you’d almost certainly have had the bite taken out of the twisted season finales by a rogue piece of #content.
You won't have to sign your life away to catch up
In the era of peak TV, it’s a given that each shiny new show will demand hours and hours of your time (God forbid you attempt to get into an American show with more than one season and emerge with your social life intact). Each Search Party segment comes in at just under 25 minutes, meaning that you could finish off one 10-episode season in the course of a four hour lull or a medium-sized hangover. Maths.
It doesn’t suffer from ‘difficult second season’ syndrome
If season one was all about Dory and co.’s self-obsessed quest for the missing girl, round two unpicks the consequences of reading too many Instagram quotes telling you to be the hero of your own story. When Chantal is – without giving too many spoilers – finally located, the gang are inadvertently caught up in something truly disturbing, with actual consequences. Search Party didn’t need a second season, per se, but you’ll be glad it got one.
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.