Murderville is the kind of show that can either go very, very right or spectacularly wrong. After all, it does depend quite heavily upon the improvisational skills of the celebrity guest star of the week. Get an actor who can’t think quickly on their feet, and the whole thing will fall flat. Which is why it’s no surprise they started strong out of the gate with celebrity guest Conan O’Brien, who is undoubtedly no stranger to improv. And likely to be able to hold his own in a comedic stand-off with star Will Arnett.
But are the two together enough to sell the concept? Let’s get to it.
With a show like Murderville, you don’t expect This Is Us levels of tension and drama. Which is good because you don’t get it. What you do get is a magician’s assistant who was sawed in half – and couldn’t be put back together again. You also get a chance to see O’Brien in a full magician’s costume. Honestly, if you were expecting anything more serious than that, I don’t even know what you’re doing here. Even if this show wasn’t entirely ridiculous, I’m 1,000% certain O’Brien would have worn that costume. I’d pay money to have him appear on Law and Order just to test that theory, in fact.
The “murder” is exactly as ludicrous as you’d expect. Not just because of the premise of the show but because…again…Conan O’Brien is the trainee. (The magician continued sawing even after seeing all the blood because, instead of using their safe word, “Stop,” the victim Sarah said, “You’re sawing me in half.”)
This particular murder has three suspects: Former magician’s assistant, Deb, who now works as a waitress after growing too old for the gig; Captivating Keith’s rival, Magic Melvin, whose act was stolen by his former assistant; and Kathy Johanson, leader of the local chapter of the Mothers Against Magic Association. And while my hat goes off to O’Brien for making it through without cracking (much), it bears mentioning that the rest of the cast has to make it through the episode without cracking at his antics, too. While being sure to drop the clues needed to solve the murder. I don’t know how the little girl didn’t lose it, since O’Brien seemed as determined to make her crack as Arnett was to break him.
As one might expect, O’Brien was irreverent and fun as he interviewed (one way or another) each suspect, and then it came time for the dramatic reveal. Well…not dramatic, perhaps. Again, there was that whole magician costume. Still, O’Brien rather surprisingly deduced correctly. I say “surprisingly” because, by the time the reveal came around, I was having too much fun to pay attention to the breadcrumbs dropped along the way. So I really appreciated that they broke down the clues that should have brought him to the correct culprit.
- Terry Seattle used to be married to the Chief? I don’t know why I was (pleasantly) surprised that the series would have an overarching plot. Probably because I just came for the hijinks with the celebrity guest of the week. But, hey, if there’s some sort of plot carrying through the season? Color me intrigued.
- It’s seems to be a staple of fictional cop shows on television to start the first episode with the seasoned cop breaking in a new partner. I don’t know that it’s typical that the old pro is usually quite so grizzled or the new partner quite so…irreverent. But I enjoy watching them play with old tropes anyway.
- As I wrote in my series review, the show is mostly like an excuse to see how much Arnett can mess with his celebrity guest stars until they crack. And with “this ginger monstrosity” and “does she know?” in the first five minutes, O’Brien may not have cracked, but I did.
- The sloppy jalapeñ-joes. Oh my god. “I wanna die!”
- “No one gets that excited about cards!
- “Just pick a state that nobody lives in.” Somehow I knew he’d pick Idaho.
- “Tittynope! Tittynope!”
- Dramatic pause… “ANY CARD!”
- “I don’t know how the whole age thing works. I’m still working on that.”
There’s no mistake about it: Murderville is exactly the show you’d expect it to be. Which makes it precisely the show I wanted.
Murderville is streaming now on Netflix. Did you enjoy “The Magician’s Assistant?” Let us know in the comments!