Search Party begins with the disappearance of Chantal Witherbottom, a girl Dory (Alia Shawkat) kind of, sort of knew back in college. While her friends dismiss the missing girl, Dory becomes consumed with the idea of finding her.
I watched this show when I was in the depths of post-election, post Brexit anxiety. It’s a comedy and a grating satire with surprising moments of heartfelt emotional honesty that make for a pretty great comfort blanket for the news-bruised psyche.
Anyone in need of an emotional break, here are some reasons to watch the show:
It’s like Girls Meets Veronica Mars
This is how the show was sold to me, and it’s the most accurate description I’ve found. Search Party, like Girls, is a perfect satire of a certain kind of white, privileged twenties culture.
Conversations take place at each other, rather than to each other. All the characters so desperate to appear impressive they don’t even notice how they feel, or whether they feel anything at all. The show presents us with these now all too familiar archetypes of the emotionally undeveloped fame and success seekers and then spends a season ripping them to shreds. In a funny way.
It’s about being numb
…In a funny way. Dory is not living the life she imagined. A few years out of college, she’s in a relationship that’s past its best and in a job she doesn’t care about and she has absolutely no motivation to move forward – until she finds out about missing Chantal. It takes the disappearance of a girl she never really knew to wake her up.
She’s surrounded by friends who don’t really care about Chantal, or her mission to find her. Portia (Meredith Hagner), a wannabe actress is more deeply affected by her mother’s dismissal of her acting job than Chantal’s disappearance. Dory’s boyfriend, Drew (John Reynolds) is only concerned with keeping Dory from breaking up with him. Elliot (John Early) really only cares about himself, and his (probably) impending fame.
They mostly just come along for the ride for something to do. And for some great vigil outfits.
They are playing at being in a detective show
Dory has us convinced she’s solving a mystery that has Chantal at its centre but her investigation is all dead ends. She spends a day following a woman around New York who swears she has information about Chantal, that she’s being followed, that it’s all about real estate.
We figure out she’s mentally ill a little while before Dory does.
This show does disappointment in a uniquely satisfying way.
Shawkat’s performance really makes this show. She presents as this fragile, doormat of a person who doesn’t realise how desperately she wants to care about something until she learns of Chantal’s disappearance. She plays it with this low key air of desperation that undercuts the satire of the show to create a complex story about life and what meaning we inject into it.
It’s really funny
The important thing to understand about this show is that everyone in it is awful. They are insensitive naval gazers who make even the tragic disappearance of a girl they barely know about them. They place themselves at the centre of a story that isn’t theirs – it belongs to a missing girl and a grieving family who get hardly a mention.
Everything they do is so inappropriate… and deeply satisfying to watch.
For anyone in need of a complete break from current events (who isn’t?) I recommend this show as part of your self-care regimen.