In the most recent Water Cooler Podcast, I remarked that one of the things I’m most thankful for this year is TBS, for finally stepping up its programming game (remember Ground Floor? If you don’t, consider yourself lucky).
Angie Tribeca kicked off the year with a marathon stunt that worked, and soon TBS brought us summer guilty pleasures like Wrecked and thoughtful political discussions with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
TBS’s latest series, Search Party, may be the creme de la creme of network potential. It stars Alia Shawkat, who hipster audiences may know as Maeby Funke from Arrested Development (and of course, if they’re truly hipsters, they loved AD before general audiences discovered it). Shawkat plays Brooklynite Dory, who in the opening scene, discovers a missing-persons flier featuring her college classmate Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty). When Dory tells her friends about her discovery, they are glib, making fun of the former classmate before tweeting about the story for attention.
This is where Search Party especially excels. What could be a witless satire of Millennials ends up being savvy commentary on this younger generation. The vapid and beautiful Portia (Meredith Hagner) claims Chantal was insanely jealous of her in college, and whether or not this was true, her “me! me! me” plea induces eye rolls. But when she pays a lunch visit to her mother (Christine Ebersole), we discover why she’s always clamoring for attention. Her mother dismisses her daughter’s recent success in acting before forcing a work colleague to attend lunch with them so they’ll have something to talk about. Ouch.
Dory’s friend Elliott, played by John Early, is not as developed over the course of the first two episodes, but is hilarious nonetheless, with fresh comedic delivery (“I heard about a party I’m throwing tonight”). Dory’s boyfriend Drew, played by John Reynolds, looks like the evil love interest in every ’80s movie, which is in stark contrast to his actual demeanor as Mr. Too Nice Guy. When he suspects Dory is cheating on him with her ex Julian (Brandon Micheal Hall), he texts him a nonthreatening message to get together, maybe at a restaurant if he’s hungry. It’s a clear lampoon of this softy social-media generation, while flipping the switch on character stereotypes. For as much as you hate Drew, you can’t help but like him a little bit, too.
With Search Party, TBS has officially transformed from the network of Must See TV reruns to a standalone venue for must-see programming. Don’t be surprised if Search Party gets Critics’ Choice nominations before it lands any bigger awards attention. Although that’s just the way Dory’s friends would prefer it. Once everyone else discovers it, it’s over.