Search Party is one of the smartest, funniest TV shows of the year

Dory’s search for an old friend reveals the spirit of today’s young, awkward hipsters like nothing else.

Alia Shawkat as Dory (TBS)

Alia Shawkat as Dory (TBS)

Search Party is a new, dark-comedy series starring Alia Shawkat as Dory, a muddled twenty-something who stumbles across a “missing” poster for an old college acquaintance named Chantal. How can a show like this in the age of acclaimed (dramatic) crime series survive? Well, the tone immediately becomes apparent after Dory is told by a stranger that she’s stepping in shit and “shouldn’t get on the subway.”

Dory works as an assistant to a rich housewife while trying to obtain some sort of satisfaction in her personal life through her relationship with Drew, a guy who seems so mild-mannered we forget at times just how selfish he can be. The rest of the group is completed with friends Elliott, a gay uber-narcissist and Portia, a perky, optimistic actress.

Don’t be fooled by the age of the characters in Search Party because there’s plenty in here for older viewers, especially those who continuously bitch about the so-called (yep) “millennials”. For example, the first thing the similarly-bitchy Elliott remembers about Chantal after hearing about her being missing at a small rooftop party is how she used to brush her hair in public, an activity that apparently should be carried out in private.

It’s not always mean and there are plenty of silly laughs scattered throughout the 10-episode season. When Elliott gives a speech in a bar recalling his previous battle with cancer at a young age, he says he learnt the value of friendship and that you “can’t fight a war alone — you need an army.”

(TBS)

(TBS)

Each episode reveals new hints about Chantal’s past and potential whereabouts, always ending with a traditional cliff-hanger that never makes us feel stupid for wanting to immediately watch the next episode.

Shawkat is wonderful as the confused Dory and is best known for her work in the terrific Arrested Development. In that particular comedy series, it quickly became clear that all members of the fictional Bluth family were self-obsessed eccentrics whose actions were determined only by their individual and immediate goals. Search Party shares similar traits and has a young but equally talented cast.

For example, Portia meets Agnes, one of Chantal’s actual friends who works at the Bronx Zoo and declares how she hates that she loves her job. Here, the wide-eyed Portia steps in saying “me too,” silently begging Agnes to ask a follow-up question. Sadly for Portia, this never happens.

The egomania follows Dory too. Whilst travelling to a vigil, this irritates Elliott, who asks whether she’ll give a speech on the “one and only interaction you ever had with Chantal.” But there’s no question the show simply works, with Dory being very relatable and (usually) grounded.

She seizes on the chance to find Chantal and feels her life suddenly has a purpose despite her personal relationships and career being stuck in a malaise, a feeling shared by many people in their 20s and 30s. Since the arrival of the Great Recession, very few shows have been able to capture the atmosphere of our modern era the same way Search Party has. This easily makes it one of the best TV shows of the year.