Search Party: A Review
You may have seen the adverts for 2016 American crime drama Search Party on Channel 4. I did, and I was hooked in by the inclusion of lead Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) who I love. I found the series (only 10 episodes long, 20 minutes each) on All4 and sat down with friends to watch the pilot. After the first episode that was that: too hipster, no substance, irritating characters - no ma’am.
Shawkat plays Dory, a young PA who lives with her doughy boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds) in New York and is lowkey trying to find the meaning of life. The whole thing felt a little try-hard: the hipster theme song (Obedear by Purity Ring), the Brooklyn-pad-cum-shrine-to-IKEA that Drew and Dory can somehow afford, Drew’s ridiculous bifocals.
Then, several days later, I read a Guardian article that convinced me to give Search Party a second chance. “This hipster murder mystery is the sharpest TV satire in years”, it said. Well, I was sold, and from episode 2 I loved it. The irritating characters become an integral part of the movement of the story, and the theme song even grew on me (it’s now in my iTunes library - no shame).
Search Party is a well orchestrated crime drama, and just like an orchestra, everything is introduced very smoothly and exactly at the right time. Every sub-plot and character arc is carefully managed and subtly contributes to the main story of a missing girl (Chantal) who Dory becomes obsessed with finding. Dory’s infuriatingly self-obsessed friends (Eliot and Portia), her safe AF boyfriend and the intractable ennui of her own life are gradually exposed along with dozens of red herrings and several hilarious comic incidents. Because the bonus element of this series is it’s funny as hell.
In episode 2, Rosie Perez shows up as realtor Lorraine De Coss. By this point, Dory is balls deep in theories about intelligence officers and police corruption and Perez is the only one who supports Dory and also believes Chantal is still alive. Seemingly legitimate, Perez later shows up at a party that Eliot is throwing and causes a hilarious scene. When she slaps that plate of cheese onto the floor, I nearly spat my tea everywhere… I nearly spit my tea, bitch!
Dory continues to wade through the #IAmChantal bullshit to try and actually find out what has happened to (as Drew says) a Facebook friend she hasn't seen for 6 years. It’s hard to watch because even though she is going to dangerous lengths in her search for Chantal, you know she is making a more sincere effort to help Chantal than any other of her other friends. It’s a struggle that pushes away those closest to her and in the end leads to her to a truth she’s not one little bit prepared for. And that image, that single image of Dory right at the end of the last episode, is so utterly powerful that I was finally convinced of Search Party’s excellence.
I won’t tell you what happens, but it was one of those times where I sat back and thought damn, that’s good writing. Rarely does that feeling come around but when it does, you know you’ve found an incredibly piquant television series that you will return to again and again. Please go and watch it y’all!
P.S. As a Brit, you just have to get used to how they say “Chantal”.