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  • Writer's pictureHannah Pearson

TBS’s Search Party Could Have Been a Movie…. But I’m Glad it Wasn’t


Spoilers For: None. Safe for Searching.

Wardenclyffe Tower

TBS’s show Search Party was one of those hidden gems shows I knew existed, it had been floating on my list ever since it came out in 2017, but for some reason I just never got around to watching it. When the trailer came out it checked many boxes for the kind of thing I would binge in a day: a show centered around a mysterious disappearance and it’s possible connections to a scandal (check) New York millennial with relatable jokes about social media, unpaid internships, and hookup culture (check) Alia Shawkat (check! check!)

But like a lot of the shows on my list of things to watch next, Search Party kept getting bumped. Lack of time and other shows with a bigger, flashier appeal kept taking over my prime time slot-- which is basically the time when my daughter goes to sleep and before I pass out from exhaustion. I quickly forgot its existence. It wasn’t until a shout out from my favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder, that I remembered Search Party was still out there. A quick scan in my streaming services and I found it waiting for me on HBOMax.

Once I got it into I actually did something I usually don’t do with a new show, I tried to not tear through it in less than 48 hours, but instead space it out over a week. Each episode was short, only 25-30 minutes long, but the end always gave a juicy little cliffhanger. By the third episode I wanted to binge them all in one night. I needed to know what happened to Chantal? Where was she? What was the connection to all the things Dory was finding out?! But I paced myself, forcing myself to go to bed only after one or two hits. I liked the anticipation I had throughout the day and desire to get past toddler bedtime routines so I could find out just a little more. When I reached the last episode and got the ending, which was both satisfying and surprising, I realized the show, based on the book by Simon Lelic, could have easily been just another movie. The whole story takes place over a short amount of time and even the side stories never get that big. Trim some of the fat, attach a few more big names, and it could have easily been lost in the shuffle of Netflix categories like “Raunchy True Crime with Strong Female Lead” or “Quirky Assemble Comedy.” But I’m glad it wasn’t.

Had the show it been a movie then it probably would have be bumped further down my "need to watch" list. I would have assumed it was cheesy or low budget. And had I watched it then at best it would have made an enjoyable hour and half, but I doubt it would have lingered in my mind. More than likely it would have just been an excuse to eat popcorn.

Watching the show unfold over tiny episodic chapters made it feel like a guilty pleasure beach read.

I could sit down and devour several chapters in one sitting or I could set it down, go enjoy the sun and let the plot unravel in my mind. Letting the story get larger and larger in my imagination made the ending more satiating. I won’t give any spoilers in this piece, and I can see why a lot of people probably hated the ending, but I will say that I’m sure the creators knew that a slower burn in the form of a TV show instead of a one off movie would feed into the overall message of the story.

Besides the captivating story line, the characters are incredibly endearing-- even when they are being annoying. John Early’s flamboyant and selfish Elliott, and Meredith Hagner’s vapid and oblivious Portia, could have easily been tropey and overplayed, but I think both actors play the parts with enough sincerity that they steal scenes and I never hate them for it. Alia Shawkat is a great straight woman and main character for the viewer to use as an avatar. I think most of us have at one time been too curious, too intrigued by a mystery to walk away when we know we should. John Reynolds’ Drew isn’t special but he is necessary. Oh and Ron Livingston, Christine Taylor, and Rosie Perez were excellent, per their usual.

I know there are two more seasons (and maybe a fourth?) and I’m tipping my toe ever so slightly in season two, just as I had season one. Typically a show like this I would be fine with a one season run. I didn’t bleed for the characters and there weren’t a ton of unanswered questions. I do hope the next seasons have a bit more development with our side stories, and a more diverse cast is always needed/wanted. I get where they are going with premise for season two but I’m skeptical of the longevity. I don’t know how it can run for two whole seasons but I feel like I’m already in the ride so no point in getting off now.

Rating: 3 Tentacles

Better as a TV show or should it have been a movie? Tell us what you think!


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