Review: ‘Murderville’ is hilarious… sometimes

Netflix’s new improv comedy series starring Will Arnett offers a fun spin on the murder mystery genre. The first season of “Murderville” is available to stream.


A combination of improvisational comedy and murder mystery makes “Murderville” an entertaining show despite inconsistent guest reactions. The first season of the show is available on Netflix. (Image courtesy of Netflix)

Lucy McHugh, Contributing Writer

The new Netflix comedy series “Murderville” combines unscripted comedy and murder mystery, and it’s as entertaining as it sounds. 

Will Arnett leads the show as senior homicide detective Terry Seattle. He is incredibly dedicated to his job and exudes extreme confidence despite how pathetic his life is outside the job. Detective Seattle’s quirky personality makes him the perfect character to anchor the show

“Murderville” also includes a few recurring characters who help develop each episode’s storyline alongside Detective Seattle. These include forensics expert chief Rhonda Jenkins-Seattle (Haneefah Wood), forensic scientist Amber Kang (Lilan Bowden) and a precinct cop named Daz Phillips (Phillip Smithey). The distinguishing factor of the show is its illustrious list of guest stars — each episode features a different celebrity guest who is brought on as Detective Seattle’s new partner. 

While Arnett and the other series regulars follow a general script that gently guides them to the end of the episode, the celebrity guest must work their way through solving the murder case without a script. This dynamic makes the show whimsically funny and exciting to watch. 

Each episode of “Murderville” has the same components. Detective Seattle and the celebrity guest engage in silly introductions before Chief Jenkins interrupts to tell them that “there’s been a murder.” 

After hearing the details of the case, Seattle and his partner embark on a quest to solve the case. This entails interviewing three main suspects and conducting an undercover mission. 

At the end of each episode, the celebrity guest must reveal which suspect they think committed the murder. Their prediction is either confirmed or denied by Chief Jenkins who reveals all of the clues that were strategically placed in each scene of the episode.

The most exciting part of each episode is watching each celebrity guest improvise their way through the episode while Arnett pushes their limits. The celebrity guests from season one include comedian Conan O’Brien, former NFL player Marshawn Lynch, actor Kumail Nanjiani, actress Annie Murphy, actress Sharon Stone and actor Ken Jeong. Arnett is hilariously dynamic and throws everything he has at each celebrity guest, often causing them to break character with laughter or confusion. 

While each episode follows a similar storyline, the flow of each episode is different because it depends on how the celebrity guest bounces off of Arnett’s humor. This leads to some inconsistency within the season. While the majority of the episodes are ridiculously funny, a few of them are affected by the lack of chemistry between Arnett and the guest. 

The best guest stars were Conan O’Brien, Marshawn Lynch and Kumali Nanjiani because they fully committed themselves to the foolishness of the show and engaged with Arnett in a lively manner. All of them put their own spin on the way they interacted with Arnett and were up for any situation that Arnett designed for them. Whether it was Conan attempting to ask a suspect questions while Arnett forced him to eat a Sloppy Joe, Lynch coming up with his own detective name “Detective Bag-a-bitch” or Nanjiani attempting a cool walk based on Arnett’s absurd instructions, watching these celebrity guests interact with Arnett was quite amusing.  

On the other hand, Annie Murphy, Sharon Stone and Ken Jeong were disappointing to watch because they didn’t fully immerse themselves in the show’s world. This often resulted in Arnett dragging them through the episode and fully taking on the responsibility of trying to make the viewer laugh. 

Ken Jeong followed Arnett’s lead but broke character almost every time Arnett said something to him. Most of Jeong’s screen time was dominated by him laughing at Arnett or attempting not to laugh, resulting in little dialogue between the two of them. Despite Jeong’s experience in the comedy industry, this episode was not effective in exhibiting his comedic strengths, which made it less enjoyable to watch.

“Murderville” is a recipe for success: a clever combination of improv comedy and murder mystery, as well as an entertaining cast of recurring and rotating characters. However, the contrast between each celebrity guest’s ability to go with the flow and fit into the show’s preposterous nature offsets its best qualities. 

If “Murderville” is renewed for a second season, a consistent set of eager, versatile celebrity guests will be the key to unlocking the show’s full potential.

Contact Lucy McHugh at [email protected].