Recommended: Murderville on Netflix
What's Murderville About?
A murder mystery is solved through a series of improvised comedy scenes.
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
Merging improvisational and scripted comedy is not a new thing — John Lehr’s 10 Items or Less was one of the funniest shows of the aughts — but this adaptation of the British series Murder in Successville feels fresh and innovative, a tribute less to its format than the all-in performance of Will Arnett. The show is structured like a whodunit, sort of: Mr. Lego Master plays homicide detective Terry Seattle, who is paired each episode with a different “detective trainee” in solving a bizarre murder.
The conceit of Murderville is that the guest trainee doesn’t know the storyline; going into each scene cold, he or she must wing it. As a result, everyone else in the scene forced to improvise, including the murder suspects and Arnett himself, and that last part is why Murderville ultimately succeeds: Arnett is so completely over the top.
Operating as an especially manic version of Leslie Nielsen from the old Naked Gun movies, Arnett consistently makes it a challenge for his trainees to keep straight faces. (At one point Conan completely loses it, a la David Spade in the Matt Foley sketch.) Unlike live improv comedy, there’s no audience, so the single-camera footage can be edited, resulting in a show that manages to be both loose and tight.
Murderville isn’t remotely a murder mystery, or even a parody of a murder mystery. But it offers a fresh take on improvisational comedy, one of the few underrepresented subgenres in today’s television landscape.
Pairs well with
TOPICS: Murderville, Netflix, Annie Murphy, Conan O'Brien, Haneefah Wood, Ken Jeong, Krister Johnson, Kumail Nanjiani, Lilan Bowden, Marshawn Lynch, Phillip Smithey, Sharon Stone, Will Arnett