Netflix Series “Murderville” amalgamates many genres of television together and tries to create a show where you can just keep your mind aside, not look for any logic, and have an entertaining time. It has elements of reality TV and improvisational comedy, wrapped together in a spoof-ish package. The series has been directed by Brennan Shroff and Iain Morris. The series is a remake of the British show “Murder in Successville.”
“Murderville” stars Will Arnett as Detective Terry Seattle, who likes to establish his authority from the word go. Haneefah Wood plays the character of Chief Rhonda Jenkins, who also happened to be Detective Seattle’s wife, but now is going through a separation. Detective Terry doesn’t miss a chance to belittle Detective Darren Daz Philips, played by Philip Smithey, but Daz, as people call him, has the last laugh when he starts dating Chief Rhonda Jenkins. Amber Kang as Lilan Bowden is always present at the crime scenes or at the morgue with her ludicrous details and theories that give Terry and his partner an idea about the case. Terry’s partners, who are real-life celebrities, change in every episode and add their own flavor to the narrative.
The Narrative Structure
So Terry Seattle, along with Chief Rhonda, Daz, Amber Kang, and a few others, are part of the permanent cast. In a nutshell, they’re like the hosts of a reality show.
Kumail Nanjiani, Conan O’Brian, Sharon Stone, Anne Murphy, Marshawn Lynch, and Ken Jeong come for one episode each and partner with Terry to solve the murder. The catch is that they are not given any script beforehand. So basically, they do not have any clue what lines Terry is going to throw at them or what situations he will put them in. They are free to improvise and go with the flow. They are given the key points and evidence left behind by the killer in the crime scene by Lilan Bowden, and then, based on the interrogation of the suspects, they have to decide who was the killer.
Did Murderville Achieve What It Intended?
Be it improvisational theater or actors adding their own element by performing off the cuff, what it does is that it creates authentic moments that are truly magical in nature. When an actor is thrown into a situation where he doesn’t know what to expect next, he or she is in a total state of vulnerability. It is not always necessary that humor comes out of their actions, but they do start acting on their impulses, and that is a treat to watch. The British version, Murder at Successville, was able to do just that. Genuine moments of sheer brilliance were created where we were made privy to some fascinating nuances that were unintentionally created by the performers.
Also, it is to be noted that the actors who are part of the recurring cast have the script beforehand, which in this case was Terry Seattle and his team. They know in which direction the writers want to take the story. Now, when the celebrity guest says something which is totally contrasting or incompatible with the intended pathway, the host is also thrown off balance. They too come into a position where they have to improvise, and, more importantly, psychologically, they come into a state of conflict. They know the script, so it plays in the back of their mind, but they respond to what was said. So, as a matter of fact, the scene could end in total chaos, or the actors could complement each other in a facile manner. Either way, what comes out is free of the often experienced emotional reticence.
“Murderville” fails to create these improvisational paragons and sometimes becomes quite restricting. The scripted gags also seem ineffectual at times. The celebrities, especially Kumail Nanjiani and Sharon Stone, give us a few moments of pure delight, but the effect is momentary. “Murderville” has a characteristic moorish feel to it, one that is often created by sitcoms. I believe that is the only thing that works in its favor, not because of its merit, but often because of its preposterous nature, which gives you a break from the serious scheme of things and a chance to have that blithe laughter that everybody yearns for in times like these.
“Murderville” is a 2022 comedy drama television series created by Krister Johnson. Season 1 is streaming on Netflix.