Netflix’s ‘Murderville’ Fuses Improv And Mystery For Pure Fun

Murder mysteries have been a popular genre in the mainstream for a long time. From the first Sherlock Holmes book, ‘A Study in Scarlet’, to the hit movie ‘Knives Out’, the story’s archetype remains consistent: someone is murdered, an investigation ensues with clues pointing to the true culprit, then a final gathering. with all the suspects meets and a murderer is declared. There may be a few unexpected elements to the story, but most of the time they follow this pattern. Netflix’s new show, “Murderville” is no exception. However, it has its own twist: improvisation.

The show drops audiences into an old-fashioned police station, with homicide detective and main character Terry Seattle, played by Will Arnett (“Bojack Horseman”). Seattle opens with a grizzled detective monologue, alluding to classic genre overtures. However, in the third shot, the audience sees him driving a pickup truck-style Camaro, and from there, it’s obvious this isn’t your normal murder mystery. Seattle’s internal soliloquy is then interrupted by the Chief of Police (Haneefah Wood, “Nurse Jackie”) to briefly discuss the aftermath of her divorce from Seattle. Arnett is absolutely fantastic in his role. He’s quick-witted with his one-liners and jokes, especially when satirizing internal dialogue and classic police jokes. He’s able to act out any scene to make you laugh, but the show’s main appeal is the wide variety of guest celebrities.

There are a total of six guest celebrities, one for each episode released, including Conan O’Brien, Marshawn Lynch, Kumail Nanjiani, Annie Murphy, Sharon Stone and Ken Jeong. It’s not a completely new idea – iconic shows like “Scooby-Doo” have also featured a number of guest stars “playing themselves”, but the most interesting part of this show is that the guest stars have to completely improvise every line. The audience receives a wide range of experiences from each guest star. O’Brien, famous for his comedic talk show, was a great opener for the show. It was obvious he had television experience and knew how to follow an impromptu scene, but surprisingly, it was legendary retired Seattle Seahawks running back Lynch who stole the show. He was absolutely hysterical, throwing out quip after quip and following the rhythm of the scene. Knowing it was improv made it even more humorous because it seemed like he was just being himself. Plus, Arnett’s over-the-top acting next to the cool and calm Lynch made every scene a joy to watch.

Sometimes the hilarity and absurdity of the show reaches the actors and the audience can see them breaking character. The first time it happened, when Terry Seattle covered his mouth to hide his laughter in a serious scene, I thought it was an editing error. However, as the show progressed, it became a regular occurrence, with some characters laughing out loud and having to start their sentences over. This is similar to blooper reels on sitcoms, which can often be funnier than the actual show.

If you’re looking for a grimy, tough detective show like “Sherlock,” this isn’t the show for you. While there are certainly aspects of classic murder mysteries, like searching for clues left behind by the murderer, it’s much lighter, in part due to the improvisational nature of the show. It’s important to note that not all of the show is improvised; there are fixed backgrounds and scenes, and some jokes were a little too perfect. Also, some episodes were funnier than others, with the guest stars ranging from mildly humorous to making me laugh out loud. Still, “Murderville” is a genuinely hilarious show overall, and you should go watch it right now.

Daily Arts editor Maxwell Lee can be reached at [email protected].edu.

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