Best known for the zany TV comedies “The State” and “Stella” and feel-good films “Wet Hot American Summer” and “The Big Sick,” Michael Showalter might not be the person you’d expect to find behind an ambitious new noir. Yet as producer of the TBS comedy “Search Party,” the second season of which premiered on Sunday, Showalter is taking a walk on the dark side.
“The show’s been received exactly as we hoped it would,” Showalter told Leigh-Ann Jackson of The New York Times in a profile published the day of the second season’s premiere. “It was this weird little tiny explosion in the middle of the zeitgeist. It wasn’t a big giant ripple, but you could feel that people were telling their friends, ‘You need to see this show ‘cuz it’s probably not what you think it is!’”
The brainchild of Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers — listed as a co-creator, Showalter describes his role as “kind of a high-ranking adviser” — “Search Party” follows a quartet of dysfunctional Brooklyn millennials, led by Alia Shawkat of “Arrested Development” fame, who attempt to solve the mystery of a missing classmate’s whereabouts. The show took a sudden turn at the end of its first season, setting the stage for a more ominous tone in season two. “The two big ingredients of the show that we’re constantly experimenting with and modulating are the sort of drama and suspense of it, and the comedy,” Showalter said. “We’re trying to find the balance between the two, and trying to find the humor in the tone.”
According to Showalter, the show’s cast was clued in ahead of time to the show’s direction. “There are directors who are like: ‘If you watch this scene where so-and-so looks scared, they really were scared because off-camera I threw a bucket of blood at them!’ he explains. “That’s not really respectful to the actors. My philosophy about that is if we’d given the actors the option of knowing and they said ‘I don’t want to know,’ then it’s whatever works best for them.”
Even with the show’s excursion into noir, Showalter and his co-creators work to keep things enjoyable for viewers. “They’re very brilliant and artistic,” he says of Bliss and Rogers. “I just try to be the meathead audience member who just wants fun.”
“If there’s an idea that sounds fun,” he explains, “I just want to make it work. So when I say ‘fun,’ I mean sort of pulpy, you know? Like, it’s just off. It’s just popcorn-worthy. I like the fireworks of the show, you know?”
Despite a generational remove, Showalter says that his own experiences living in Brooklyn around the turn of the century give him insight into the characters. “In a lot of ways, [the characters] are not that different than the way I was when I was in my 20s. They have social media, but other than that we were stupid and didn’t know what we were doing!”
Dark times indeed.
This story "Michael Showalter’s Comic Eye For Noir" was written by Daniel Witkin.