By Drew Matlovsky
In the saturated world of police procedurals, snarky sit-coms and the ever popular HBO-stylized “prestige” shows, the world of television often feels predictable, to the point of dullness. “Search Party,” however, appears to follow a different form. On the surface, it’s a mystery about a missing girl, Chantal, and our heroine Dory who attempts to find her. Of course, from here the typical rubric for a murder mystery show devolves. Dory barely knew Chantal, an acquaintance from college, who she has not seen in six years. Her self-righteous quest to prove that Chantal is still alive stems from her own personal inhibitions rather than anything else. Early on, she asks the question: “Would anyone even care if something bad happened to me?” Which in the context of “Search Party” is to be taken more philosophically than literally. Dory’s search for meaning as an apathetic millennial living in New York City compels her on this quest to find Chantal. This is where “Search Party” really hits its stride, as we start to realize that beyond the trappings of a mystery procedural, the show is really a satirical dig at millennials.
Dory and her friends are conceited and narcissistic, concerned more with their mundane existence post-college existence than anything else. Upon hearing of Chantal’s disappearance, the question “who is she again?” is immediately asked, then a murmuring of “thoughts and prayers” by the group over brunch as they immediately return to another subject. Yeah, it’s that accurate. Among Dory’s companions there is Drew, her man-child of a boyfriend; Portia, Dory’s even more conceited friend; and Elliot, whose narcissism as the groups stereotypical gay friend holds no bounds. “Search Party” focuses on the comings and goings of these friends, and particularly the tension between Drew and Dory as her quest for finding Chantal uproots the status quo of their relationship.
Of course, such despicable characters allow for a deeply satirical show. At the vigil for Chantal, twenty-year-olds are seen with pins that display “#IAmChantal,” Portia and Elliot dress as if they’re attending a monochromatic fashion party rather than wearing something more respectable and Chantal’s a capella group from college perform a rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” All characters are naturally unaware of the ridiculousness of their actions, which plays out for grim comedic effect. As the mystery behind Chantal’s disappearance unravels, the show maintains a nuanced approach, weaving in moments of dark humor with dramatic tension and biting satire, each element never overshadowing the other.
Perhaps indirectly, “Search Party” answers the question, “What would happen if the characters from ‘Mean Girls’ grew up and inadvertently attempted to solve a mystery?” Of course this is a niche question, but as Mark Waters and Tina Fey provided a genuine parody of suburban high-school life, “Search Party” carries on this spirit by lampooning the early postgraduate years. It just happens to involve a missing girl.
Season 2 of Search Party returns Nov. 19, on TBS. Stream the first season at TBS.com.