A good whodunnit is hard to come by and when we can’t find those we turn to murder mystery dinner parties. That’s what Murderville is, one big murder mystery dinner party that comes with all the awkwardness and all the chaos. Based on the BAFTA award-winning BBC3 series Murder in Successville, Murderville pairs up celebrity guest stars Annie Murphy, Conan O’Brien, Ken Jeong, Kumail Nanjiani, Marshawn Lynch, and Sharon Stone with Senior Detective Terry Seattle (Will Arnett).
In each episode, Terry Seattle takes his new recruits to the crimes scenes and interrogations. The catch? Well, everyone is in on the murder plot except the celebrity trainee. Without a script, the celebrity guest must follow Detective Seattle’s instructions no matter how chaotic they get and try to collect clues along the way. But that’s not it, Murderville actually has a story that progresses including solving the murder of someone close to Seattle. Murderville is a six-episode procedural crime comedy that is just absolutely absurd.
For fans of Arrested Development, Arnet’s Seattle is the Gobiest Gob to Gob outside of that series and it works. With deadpan delivery of some of the weirdest plot points and instructions that leave his trainees straining to keep in a laugh, it works. That said, the chaos that runs rampant in Murderville can be too much. Comedic timing isn’t all about getting laughs, it also includes letting people recover from one before they go into another. That means some jokes get swallowed up that while you can find in a rewatch, that you just gloss over in your first watch.
The erratic pace is inherent in the formula behind Mruderville, which makes some guest appearances better than others. While none of the appearances are bad, Arnett’s very specific brand of comedy works better when playing against established comedians who know how to time their humor like Nanjiani and Jeong who lean all the way in but throw wrenches in the script or those moving at a slower pace like Sharon Stone who brings a serious note to the story or Marshawn Lynch who is clearly focused on guessing the murderer correct.
All of that being said, Murderville isn’t a place for viewers to solve mysteries. While I’m a sucker for whodunnits and mysteries and even the dinner parties that have a $5 budget, Murderville is about watching one, not participating. I’ve tried through two watch-throughs to play along and each time I find myself baffled and focused on celebrity guests or Arnett, completely unable to take in the sets. Outside of some extremely obvious moments where the camera moves to focus on a clue, the character work swallows up and fun that could be had to play along.
And maybe that’s okay. Netflix’s Murderville is Will Arnett doing the most with a celebrity guest star that has no clue what’s going on — and it works. The series is hilarious when it breaks what you expect when celebrities go completely left when Arnett and company think they’ll go right. The absurdity that comes with each episode gets cheap laughs but it also gets some great ones. Murderville is fun and with everything like it is right now, we can all use a big laugh.
Murderville is streaming exclusively on Netflix February 3, 2020.
Murderville is hilarious when it breaks what you expect when celebrities go completely left when Arnett and company think they’ll go right. The absurdity that comes with each episode gets cheap laughs but it also gets some great ones. Murderville is fun and with everything like it is right now, we can all use a big laugh.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.