Alia Shawkat stars in this very broad-spectrum comedy.
Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) is in her late twenties and has no idea what she’s doing with her life. She’s a graduate of NYU who is in a mundane relationship with her boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds). Her closest friends, actress Portia (Meredith Hagner) and narcissist Elliott (John Early), don’t particularly offer any helpful advice. However, one day she sees a supposedly missing former classmate named Chantal (Clare McNulty) at a restaurant in New York and decides to track Chantal down. She gets help from Drew, her friends, as well as her ex-boyfriend Julian (Brandon Michael Hall) and investigator Keith Powell (Ron Livingston), and starts to both lose herself and find herself in the process. Along the way, she runs into cult of jewelry sellers, a blackmailing zoo worker, and a very friendly French-Canadian. The second season deal with the fallout from finding Chantal, the third season is a courtroom drama, and the last season deals with a kidnapping related to the court case.
I hadn’t heard of this show while it was on TBS, which is probably due to my not having cable anymore. When I finally watched it, I had no idea what it was about, but the first season got me hooked pretty quickly. Dory, and most of her friends, are all kind of lost, mostly due to their own selfishness. A recurring theme throughout the show is having a character see someone else go through a tragic event and say “but what does that mean for me?” Throughout the series, we see each of them change massively and mostly for the worse.
The best part of this series is that each season mostly feels like a completely different story. The style and wardrobe often seem to change accordingly. The first season is a mystery as Dory tries to find Chantal and it contains one of the funniest finales that I have ever seen. The second season is a thriller with some noir elements. The third season is a courtroom drama. The most recent season is more of a horror story related to kidnapping. No matter what the structure, though, it’s all done in a comedic style that is mostly based on the fact that the lead characters are all still the same broken, selfish, and dishonest people throughout. Rather than growing from their experiences, they often seem to become more focused on themselves as the show goes on, but, like the Gang in Its Always Sunny, they’re all so horrible that the only people who can put up with them are each other.
Because of the nature of the characters, this show would absolutely not work if the performances weren’t all great. Since, with the occasional exception of Drew, you mostly have to dislike these people, it’s important to make them detestable in interesting ways. It helps that the supporting cast, which varies from season to season, are also usually populated by great characters. Probably my favorite cast is Season 3, where the attorneys involved are played by Michaela Watkins as the snarky prosecutor, Shalita Grant as essentially Elle Woods dealing with the worst client ever, and Louie Anderson as a washed-up and fairly checked-out older lawyer. Their interactions, while they will absolutely drive any actual lawyer nuts to the point of screaming at the television that this is not at all how law works (Yeah, me included), are absolutely hilarious.
Overall, I recommend this show highly. It’s rare to find a show that’s so willing to reinvent itself.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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