Netflix’s Murderville is a fun and fresh “whodunit” series, which excels when the guest stars showcase their improv skills. Check out the details in my parents guide review.
Murderville drops on Netflix’s streaming service tomorrow, February 3rd. The series stars Will Arnett in a part-scripted, part-improv script, where each episode brings in a guest star to solve a murder. Guest stars include Conan O’Brien, Sharon Stone, Ken Jeong, Marshawn Lynch, Annie Murphy, and Kumail Nanjiani, who have to improvise their way through the case and solve the crime by the end of each episode. Check out the details in my parents guide review.
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Murderville Parents Guide
Meet Senior Detective Terry Seattle (Will Arnett), Homicide Division. For Terry, every day means a new murder case and a new celebrity guest star as his partner. But here’s the catch: each episode’s guest star isn’t being given the script. They have no idea what’s about to happen to them. Together, the guest star and Terry Seattle will have to improvise their way through the case… but it will be up to each celebrity guest alone to name the killer. Join them as they punch a one-way ticket to Murderville.
Murderville Age Appropriate Parents Guide
Let’s take a look at what parents need to know before letting their kids watch Netflix’s Murderville.
Language: Murderville contains strong language, with profanity used throughout. Lookout words include: f*ck, b*tch, sh*t, a**, g-d d*mn, crap, hell, and phrases like “Jesus Christ.”
Mature Content: The series contains mature themes like murder, which are at the center of every episode. While the murders are presented in a parody way, the scenes still show blood and crime scenes, which may be upsetting for some viewers.
Netflix’s Murderville is a new improv comedy/murder mystery series produced by and starring Will Arnett. It is based on a BBC sitcom called “Murder in Successville,” which aired from 2015 to 2017. While both shows operate similarly, Will Arnett has Americanized his vision of what that show was. The shows are pretty unique in that they showcase a blend of improvisation and scripted elements.
How does that work, you ask? Well, the series starts with each episode explaining how it works, but then once you start watching it, you just can’t quite put your finger on what is really going on. After an episode or two, it begins to sink in, and then you will want to go back and watch it from the beginning again… or at least I did. Will Arnett plays as detective Terry Seattle, a veteran cop who has been in a rut since his partner died many years ago. In each episode, there is a new murder mystery to solve, and in each episode, he is given a new partner to help crack the case. This is where the show gets interesting, because each new partner is a real-life celebrity. It will be up to them, with Terry’s help, to solve the murder based on the clues presented during the episode. So, while the celebrities are introduced as themselves, they know that they are participating in a show to solve a murder while the rest of the cast are in character as if it were an actual show. Confused yet?
While much of what the supporting cast of characters do and say is scripted, it can change a bit based on what the celebrity partners say and do. As the show explains, the celebrity partners are not given a script and everything they say or do is off the cuff. Will Arnett was made for his role as Terry Seattle, as he has the look and voice to really pull it off. His experience on SNL no doubt helped in this role as well. His dialogue has to be semi-scripted because they have to move the story along, but much of what he says is improvised for sure. The sets look realistic, although the “dead” bodies are clearly actors portraying victims, but the episodes unfurl much like a normal serious show, moving from one location to the next. By the end of each episode, the celebrity partners must choose one of three suspects presented as the killer. They may be right, or they may be wrong, but either way, Terry’s ex-wife, who also happens to be the police chief, played by Hannefah Wood, will let them know. She briefly explains why and then promptly fires the ones who are incorrect.
Where the show can be problematic really depends on which celebrity guest partner is featured. I don’t want to spoil any of their names for you, but it really is a mixed bag. Sometimes you expect a celebrity to be great, and they are. Other times, not so much. Some of them you can’t think for the life of you why they were asked to participate, and it shows. But then there are others who do surprisingly well against your better judgement and it works. This is really the only issue, as Will Arnett knocks it out of the park each and every time. But he can only do so much for lame duck partners that aren’t bringing anything to the improv table. Of course you will have questions, like, how do they handle different takes of the same scene if it is all improvised without giving too much away, etc. But those are minor hang-ups that don’t detract from the show at all.
Murderville as a concept is brilliant. Mixing these elements and showcasing the abilities of those involved to think on their feet is quite unique and can be priceless. The magic lies in the chemistry between Arnett and the guest partners; you can tell when it is working, and it is painful when it doesn’t. If the series hopes to survive for a second season, they will definitely want to assess what transpired this time around and vet their celebrity guests a bit better next time so that they can maximize the laughs to full effect.