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Pop CultureNovember 24, 2017

Search Party is a show for millennials – and the people who hate them


Search Party is back on Lightbox for its second season – with new episodes arriving every Monday. Sam Brooks is here to tell you why you need to catch up on this show right now.

Mild spoilers ahead! If you don’t want to take my word for it, and why would you, you should read my previous piece about Search Party, and also just go watch Search Party.

It’s the most millennial show you can get

This sounds like shade, and saying it about some shows it could well be, but it’s genuinely one of the most special things about this show. Search Party doesn’t just poke fun at the millennial experience (the simultaneous self-awareness and self-absorption, the reliance on smart phones, the good dress sense), it genuinely understands and kind of loves the millennial experience.

Crucially, this show could only exist because these characters are millennials. Dory (Alia Shawkat) really chases after Chantal in the first season because of a huge dissatisfaction with her own life, and wanting to find a purpose for it. She does the classic millennial action of making something that should be all about another person, all about herself. It’s a huge credit to Search Party that this is relatable and not immensely off-putting, as it probably should be.

I see myself and my friends in the characters in Search Party. Although often uncomfortable and ugly, it’s also like looking into a funhouse mirror – you look better from some angles, then shitty, then laugh out loud funny from others.

You love Alia Shawkat

Alia Shawkat has been quietly (Whip It, Transparent) and not so quietly (uh, Arrested Development) killing it for years now, but Search Party is truly the peak of her career. It’s a shame that her performance hasn’t received the recognition that it deserves, because it’s pushing her in a darker and more vulnerable direction than any of her other work.

Her Dory is a character who is full of herself, but completely lacks the reflection that would make any of that self-absorption productive; seeing her realise how badly and easily she’s messed up is stirring and jarring. She also provides a necessary anchor for the show – she’s in more or less every scene – as well as grounding some of the wackier characters, which leads me to …

John Early and Meredith Hagnar are giving some of the best performances on TV

I’ve loved the delightfully blonde and even more delightfully homosexual John Early for a while now, think of him like a low energy Billy Eichner. His webseries with fellow comedian Kate Berlant on Vimeo (555) is a weird comedic delight – like David Lynch meets Will and Grace – and he’s been a goddamned gem in smaller roles in Broad City and Difficult People. Search Party lets him stretch a bit more, by giving him a proper character with depth and struggles.

John Early and Meredith Hagnar in Search Party

On the other hand, Meredith Hagnar is a complete revelation to me as struggling-ish actress Portia. The character is pitched as a ditzy blonde and Hagnar takes what could be a tired stereotype and runs with it. She has most of the punchlines and even when the character’s intelligence or personality is the butt of the joke, Portia is luminous enough to stop it from being particularly mean or cruel.

Search Party makes fun of all its characters, but it never forgets the humanity of everybody involved. It reminds us that even though Dory and Portia look like they come from completely different worlds, they’re all victims of the same human belief that they’re the protagonist of their own story and everybody else’s too.

These actors are going to be huge very shortly, so if you want to get in on the ground floor (or at least the second floor) you should be watching them here.

It’s a genuine mystery show

I don’t know what your tolerance for Agatha Christie is, but I love me some orient express murder and nile-y death. Search Party isn’t quite as much of an Agatha Christie novel as you might think, but the mystery at the centre of the first season (the disappearance of Chantal, a girl that Dory barely knows but feels a connection to) gives Search Party a structure that is sorely lacking in comedies of the mumble-y, Apatow-y vibe.

Even more importantly, it gives it an urgency. You want to find out what happens, you’re as invested as Dory is in finding Chantal, and the journey’s as satisfying as the result.

The second season is darker and more savage

Without spoilers about the first season – which ends in the most beautiful and appropriate way – the second season really takes the opportunity to dive into the weight of what happens, how it affects these characters, and what happens to the world of Search Party where something dire actually happens.

Search Party hovered around the drama-comedy fence uncertainly in its first season, but in its second season it really finds a gorgeous and unique balance between being about really dark, and really real things, and being truly highwire hilarious.

The first season was good sometimes great TV, and the second season promises to be great and necessary TV. Don’t miss out on this.

Click below to watch Search Party, exclusively on Lightbox:

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