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Murderville: how Netflix turned an eccentric and whimsical hidden gem into a car crash

Krister Johnson's remake of the 2015 BBC Three show 'Murder in Succesville', Murderville, seems to have missed the mark. Instead, creating yet another disappointing Netflix murder-mystery comedy show.

By Olivia Workman, Fourth Year, French & Italian

When Krister Johnson developed Murderville for Netflix, I’m sure she aspired for a product akin to the likes of Greg Daniels’ U.S. adaptation of The Office, but sadly it couldn’t have missed the mark more.

Murderville is a remake of the 2015 BBC Three show Murder in Successville, an interactive murder-mystery comedy show with improvisational elements. This year, Netflix has attempted to recreate it with the likes of comedy greats such as Will Arnett, Conan O’Brien, Kumail Nanjiani and Ken Jeong.

Will Arnett and Ken Jeong// Courtesy of IMDB

On paper, Murderville has some of the few American comedians that might transfer well to an English audience. Will Arnett’s deadpan humour in Arrested Development evokes the style of Monty Python, and Conan O’Brien seems to be one of the few late-night hosts with a propensity to ridicule himself and touch on subjects that others might shy away from. Nonetheless, it seems like a poor decision by the producers to use him for Murderville.

In the U.K. original, the joke arises from the fact that Tom Davis (Will Arnett’s character) has the ability to shock and toy with his celebrity counterparts, owing largely to the fact that Davis has a background in improvisational theatre and his guest stars do not. So when you have Conan O’Brien or Ken Jeong, who are well-versed in improv, acting as the guest stars, the whole essence of the show is lost. Without a doubt, O’Brien or Jeong would have worked much better in a role such as Arnett’s, and they should have kept the guest star slots for non-comedians.

Will Arnett and Kumail Nanjiani// Courtesy of IMDB

After all, part of the charm and what made for ‘candid’ moments in the original was that the celebrities participating had no acting credits. If they did, they were definitely not known to the British public as actors. The BBC Three original featured reality T.V. stars, radio hosts, pop stars and football commentators as the guest stars. Without a background in acting, this meant that these celebrities genuinely felt out of place in Murder in Successville. Seeing them cope with absurd events that aired on the perverse and mocked celebrity culture is what made the show.

The original series is in the same field as the other surreal, offbeat programmes within the BBC Three stratosphere, similar to The Mighty Boosh or Snuff Box. Unfortunately, it would seem that this realm of comedy, which Arnett has expressed his admiration for, does not transfer well to an American format.

Courtesy of IMDB

As expected, Netflix’s overproduction loses the quirk and bizarreness that Murder in Successville once had, and instead replaces it with an overly polished, big-budget, final product devoid of all laughter.

Sadly, this American version will be shelved with the many other televisual failures that have tried to cross over the Atlantic, such as Skins (2011) or the quite dreadful Us & Them (2018)- the American adaptation of Gavin & Stacey (2007-2019).

Featured Image: IMDB

Will you be watching this American adaptation?