Lately I seem to be on a roll with every show I watch having to do with solving murders. The most recent shows have been Dexter: New Blood and Resident Alien, each having to deal with the topic in murder in very different ways. I think murder is the just the easiest go-to when it comes to story telling, because you can introduce a murder in the first episode and give it three or four additional episodes of character introductions and backstory until you have to start the pathway of actually trying to solve the murder because you’ve collected significant evidence. Oddly enough these murder shows seem to find me as I was recently adding trailers to our sub-reddit page when I came across a trailer for a new show on Netflix called Murderville.
Welcome to Murderville, a new series starring Will Arnett as a detective who, in every episode, has to solve a murder with a new celebrity guest star as his partner. The catch is: the guest star is never given a script so they have to improvise their way through the case!Source
Murderville is a six episode show on Netflix that reminds me of shows when I was growing up as they do a whole story in 30 minutes, except everything is improved. Will Arnett plays a detective who isn’t all that bright and going through a divorce with his Haneefah Wood who is the chief of police. This means that they have to interact as she gives him the cases. Much like the TV shows of past, each episode has a special guest star who plays a trainee under Will Arnett and has to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the improv part. As the blurb above stated, the guest star is given no script and has to only react to the other characters. Since Will Arnett is in mostly every scene he has to not only improv based on what the other characters are saying he also has to work off the special guest star that week and keep the story on track. After watching this I think Will’s given a page of bullet points before each scene is shot informing him what has to happen in the scene, and it’s up to him to get everyone there. This may sound like an original idea, but much like many comedic shows it’s an Americanized version of the British show Murder in Successville.
In each of the six episodes of Murderville the guest star really does have to pay attention to clues which are sometimes items in a scene or things said by characters they interview. The possible suspects in each episode are also people you may know, and some you may not. I assume each episode has suspects who are comedians or known in the improv world, but I only recognized Rob Huebel and Phil LaMarr. The guest stars chosen seem to random, or with this being Netflix they either have something currently on there or coming up. The guest stars, in order of episode, are Conan O’Brien, Marshawn Lynch, Kumail Nanjiani, Annie Murphy, Sharon Stone and Ken Jeong. Three of these people are comedians and out of those three only two actually pull off funny episodes. The one consistent thing that is always funny in each episode is making a character break, which means they start laughing and most of the time it’s Will who’s causing it.
Will Arnett plays senior detective Terry Seattle who is a dopey, sad and almost pathetic person who has an infatuation with Tommy Tune, who I found out was a real person, and is always bringing him up. He is haunted by the death of his partner, which until episode six was an unsolved mystery open for over a decade, and lives in his office because he soon to be ex-wife lives in their home and kicked him out. I find Will Arnett hit or miss as sometimes he’s great and sometimes he over does it with a character and it becomes annoying. I loved him in Arrested Development but his part, albeit small, in Hot Rod wasn’t my favorite. In Murderville Will absolutely kills it, but does take jokes overboard at times but to me that was just a way to stall to thing of something to say. Even though these are six individual episodes with different murders, his story is the only one that carries over from episode to episode. I’m not sure if these were shot in order, but I feel like his improv is strong in some episodes and lacks in others. Almost like he had some improv rust he had to shake off before he got comfortable.
Let’s go over each of the episodes and their guest stars to see how they did
Title: “The Magician’s Assistant” Special Guest Star: Conan O’Brien
In honesty this was the guest star that hooked me. Conan O’Brien is an accomplished comedy writer, host, and podcaster who often goes off on improv tangents with his guests. Conan has a great straight face when delivering silly lines and that’s what helped the episode as well as making other break.
Title: “Triplet Homicide” Special Guest Star: Marshawn Lynch
Marshawn Lynch is a former NFL player and I think that he was brought in solely by Conan O’Brien based on his appearance on Clueless Gamer. He’s funny, but I feel like at times his improv took a back seat to him trying to be an actor. The guest star’s job on the show isn’t about acting, it’s about having fun and making people laugh.
Title: “Most Likely to Commit Murder” Special Guest Star: Kumail Nanjiani
Kumail Nanjiani is a comedian and actor and by far this was the episode I laughed at the most. When you watch it, you’ll understand when Will asks him to walk a certain way. I appreciate that even after the scene was ending Kumail stayed with that bit and kept walking the way Will asked to
Title: “Murder by Soup” Special Guest Star: Annie Murphy
I knew I had seen Anne Murphy on a TV show, but it was only after I looked her up did I remember her from the show Schitt’s Creek. This episode was good, but not anything special. Annie did fine, but something about the jokes were smile worthy but not warrant a person to laugh out loud.
Title: “Heartless” Special Guest Star: Sharon Stone
Sharon Stone is an award winning actress, but not great at improv. Sadly this was the weakest of the episodes. She got too much into the acting part and took her role too seriously, which took away from any jokes she could have provided.
Title: “The Cold Case” Special Guest Star: Ken Jeong
Ken Jeong is a licensed physician, actor and comedian, so I thought this episode would be great but it wasn’t. It makes me feel like when things are thought out and written down, they’re funny but not off the cuff. I expected a lot out of this episode but it fell flat.
This is what I consider a second screen show. If you had dual monitors you can play a game on one screen while it plays on the other and it works. You can glance over every now and then and see what’s going on, but since the improv is mostly audio you don’t have to always look at the screen. All you need to go is glance, see what the setting is, who they’re talking to and maybe look for a clue and you’re set for 5-7 minutes before you get to the next scene. Also, there is a lot of narrating done by Will so you always know what’s going on.