The recent run of small-screen mystery spoofs is, itself, slightly mysterious given that few genres have a more precarious bar to measure success.
All on its own, comedy is subjective, precarious, but when it comes to a long-form mystery, a bad solution or resolution is uncomfortably easy to undo even the most adored builds-ups.
Friday, January 28, airdate: Friday, January 28
Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson, and Larry Dorf are some of the most famous artists in the world.
Hulu's Only Murders in the Building was a treat because of its performance in both genre elements, delivering laughs and, ultimately, a whodunit that kept viewers guessing. Apple TV+'s upcoming The Afterparty does not perform quite as well with its unfolding puzzle, but its central structural twist each episode unfolds in a different manner is clever enough to mostly cover for my lack of investment in suspects and motivations.
The eighth and final Woman episode of the show is actually hilarious and answer the show's vague questions much better than the previous seven episodes.
The rest of the finale isnt as good, but theres an amusing cameo in the closing minutes that sets up a second season I have no interest in watching, because lets be clear: Woman is never mysterious in the slightest and only fitfully funny.
Woman, created by Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson, and Larry Dorf, believes that the Agoraphobic Karen subgenre is focused on female shut-ins of privilege whose attempts to thwart justice are undermined by institutional indifference or outright misogyny.
Kristen Bell, who was the star of one of the funniest ongoing mysteries ever created, would have acknowledged where this one falls short. Anna is an artist still grieving the death of her daughter and the demise of her marriage to forensic psychologist Douglas (Michael Ealy, wasted) and interacting only with her friend/art dealer Buell (Cameron Britton, mostly wasted).
Neil (Tom Riley, wasted) and Emma (Samsara Yett, less wasted) move in across the street. Then Anna decides to take the law into her own hands, an initiative thats hampered by her challenges leaving the house.
For a sense of how calcified the Agoraphobic Karen mystery subgenre is, one ought look no further than how exhaustingly Joe Wright had to put on action to bring energy to The Woman in the Window. For maybe a half-hour, director Michael Lehmann is able to do something similar if more overtly comic in this Netflix series, layering in the post-Hitchcockian flourishes the Dutch angles, fast-cutting flashbacks, and shots from unusual
There are a few chuckles in the premiere that come exclusively from thriller aesthetics, but Lehmann tires of the affectations and Woman becomes visually inconsistent, matching the rest of the comedy in the series. There are running jokes here that are as broad as anything in Police Squad. There are few droll toss-offs.
There were times I chuckled at, like the changing epitaphs on Anna's daughter's tombstone (and the circumstances surrounding her death), or the varying mockery of a thriller voiceover, or the simple presence of a handyman who has made a multi-year project out of installing a new mailbox.
There are also episodes that completely forget that the series is a comedy, but that is not possible if the show's central mystery was able to sustain interest in earnest, which it certainly is not. Instead, Woman just regurgitates the exact tropes from previous genre entries, without any interest in putting the title down. What does it say about institutional sexism? What does it say about female sexism in an ever-more-connected world?
Bell would have a unique voice or personality to speak of in eight episodes, according to Veronica Mars fans. Bell is also great. she follows Annas mania and gives good line readings to some flimsy punchlines.
You never want to be the third in a trend The Afterparty and Only Murders are superior on basically every level or attempt to do a genre that requires accomplishing two things exceptionally well if you are unsure about whether or not to perform either.
The first 10 minutes of the finale were absurd.