In the case of Search Party, the New York City locale is more than just a hip backdrop. It’s thematically appropriate: In New York, you’re constantly surrounded by other people and their problems, even as you’re completely consumed by your own. Should we get involved in other people’s business if we think we might be able to help? Or are we really just trying to make ourselves feel good? At what point does our responsibility to help others in need trump our respect for their privacy? In such a densely packed city, these hypothetical questions can quickly become real. In the first episode, Dory and Drew overhear their neighbors in the middle of a nasty fight; Dory wants to go over and make sure everything’s OK, but Drew doesn’t know if they should get involved. When he eventually does knock on their door, a woman answers and yells at him to mind his own business.
But Dory won’t back down, no matter how many volatile characters she encounters — including Lorraine (Rosie Perez), a manic woman whom Dory meets at the police station; the leader of a New-Age-y cult, played by the always-excellent Parker Posey; and a fellow searcher, Keith (Ron Livingston, who apparently has not aged in the past ten years). “I’m just tired of things that don’t matter,” Dory tells Lorraine.
With its cast full of sketch comedians and its hip Brooklyn backdrop, Search Party has an indie-movie feel, thanks to its indie-movie creators; Bliss and Rogers co-wrote and co-directed the 2014 film Fort Tilden, which won the Grand Jury award at that year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. Bliss was also an early collaborator on the web-series-turned-HBO-show High Maintenance, another series populated with a variety of nutty New Yorkers.
At a lean ten 20-minute episodes, Search Party is tightly plotted, ending each installment on a cliffhanger that tugs the viewer along to the next episode. Bliss and Rogers cleverly take advantage of our fixation with the next big twist to keep us hanging on, constantly shifting our attention in a new direction and slowly revealing more layers to the story. The final twist, when we finally find out what happened to Chantal in the last episode, is itself a brilliant comment on our seemingly bottomless urge for a new direction, a curve ball that will startle us out of our hollow complacence.
Search Party premieres tonight at 11 p.m. on TBS.