No matter what it may seem like, the current generation of twenty-somethings can’t have it easy. Not only do they have so many apps, social media trends, and follower counts to maintain, they are also constantly being ridiculed in pop culture for being the absolute worst. The generalisations usually draw them out as entitled, distant, and uncomfortably selfish. Popular shows like Girls, Broad City, and You’re the Worst have illustrated their big but usually very small concerns and preoccupations to varying degrees of derision.
It is a generation with too much information, too many people to please, and appearances to keep up as they live in a world defined by retweets, likes and shares. The pressure to bucket yourself as a certain kind of person has never been greater.
But how often does a TV show talk about the anxiety of not fitting into this order of things? No series has examined the identity crisis that comes with the need to be constantly “on fleek” on Snapchat. About how real relationships built over face-to-face conversations are lost.
Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Michael Showalter and Charles Rogers for Turner Broadcasting System, Search Party does the rare job of discussing this meaningless existence. Turning the lens inwards, the comedy explores a disturbing but hilarious existential crisis in a constantly connected world.
Dory, portrayed by Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat, doesn’t have much going for her. She works as a personal assistant to a rich housewife and lives with her dull and spineless boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds). When she attempts to break out of the rut, she is told how uninteresting she is. She sums up her dilemma, “It’s just like everybody can tell me what I can’t do. But nobody can tell me what I can do.”
So, when Dory chances upon a missing flyer for a girl she knew in high school, she finds a much-needed purpose in life. Aspiring poet Chantal Witherbottom has gone missing and Dory is going to find her. Stalking the streets of Brooklyn in a detective story of her own making, Dory goes looking for “That Girl” from her dorm, dressed in a vintage trench coat. It has a very dark murder mystery vibe, which goes surprisingly well with the show’s unique brand of satirical humour.
Dory hatches conspiracy theories, creates flow charts on her apartment walls with post-it notes and string, hacks emails, infiltrates a fertility cult, and at one point attends a “non-interactive intimacy experience”, which is another name for a group of men sipping out of toy tea cups while watching a grown woman dressed like a little girl play with dolls. She meets a private eye, and just like she consoles herself with tiny similarities in how she and Chantal label their music CDs, Dory gets the encouragement she is looking for.
Though hesitant, her friends are always a part of this noir Nancy Drew adventure. Elliot (John Early), a sassy pathological liar remembers Chantal as the girl who has nothing to offer, but on hearing that she is missing, immediately tweets about the sweet girl from high school. Television actress Portia (Meredith Hagner) claims that Chantal was jealous of her. They don’t completely understand Dory’s obsession with Chantal, but none of them back out of the mission.
Picking up pieces of the story, building on assumptions and her nascent detective skills, Dory creates a version of Chantal in her mind. Dory is looking for Chantal and hoping to find herself.
The dialogue is crisp, clever, and even quotable. Alia Shawkat shines as an insecure, confused, but determined woman. Search Party makes for an engaging mystery, and a very compelling comedy which gets better as the series goes along, building to a stinging twist-in-the-tale finale.