In the same way that the recent Steve Martin/Martin Short Hulu series Only Murders In The Building felt like a throwback to the sort of late 80s/early 90s story-driven, character driven comedies that used to dominate movie theatres, new Apple TV+ series The Afterparty feels like a throwback to the hip mid-90s indie comedies that used to drive attention at arthouse cinemas (and languish on smaller screens at the multiplex).
Produced by Into The Spider-Verse's Phil Lord and Chris Miller (but created by Chris Miller, who directs every episode), the 8-episode whodunnit murder mystery is set in the hours after a high school reunion afterparty. The host of the party, an awful pop star-turned actor, has been killed and detectives are interviewing all the suspects one-by-one to determine who the culprit is.
Leading the investigation is Tiffany Haddish, alongside Search Party's John Early. Meanwhile suspects include Sam Richardson (Veep), Ben Schwartz (Parks & Recreation), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Ilana Glazer (Broad City), and a host of other recognisable faces. The victim is the good Franco brother, Dave Franco. It's an all-star who's who cast that will delight hipper TV fans of popular fringe shows from the past decade.
Every episode of the series takes on a different perspective, Rashomon-style, as suspects recount the events of the evening. While the show remains tonally consistent, it allows the show to take on different traits as the unique personalities of the suspects drives the episode - in the first three episodes of the show, which debut on Jan 28, the breadth of the show is on full display. Through Sam Richardsons eyes we watch a cute relationship comedy powered by a typically sweet Richardson performance, but the next episode feels far more dangerous and slightly angry with Ike Barinholtz telling the story of his efforts to win back his ex-wife (currently being wooed by Richardson's character), while the third is an annoyingly funny musical comedy with the egotistical madness that is Ben Schwartz at the centre of it all.
Each performance in the show is a knockout and the script is really nicely tailored to the strength of each of the series leads. That said, while it is great that every episode gives these performers an opportunity to really showcase what makes them an appealing, beloved star, as an ensemble, their grouping feels slightly incongruous. With a ten-year(ish) age gap between some of the actors, it feels a stretch at times to completely buy that Ike Barinholtz and Dave Franco, for example, attended school together. But they all gel on-screen together and there is a genuine sense of life-long familiarity between many of the players.
While The Afterparty won't be making many critics Top 10 lists at the end of the year - it lacks in the way of technical inventiveness and doesn't distinguish itself with any standout fresh performances or characters, the show will resonate with a lot of viewers. It has all the elements that will encourage viewers who connect with it to return to the show for repeat viewings. The show delivers viewers a funny, very watchable, great time. The Afterparty may not be the years best TV, but it could well be your favourite show of the year.
The Afterparty debuts on Friday 28 January on Apple TV+. Three episodes are available at launch, with the series continuing weekly for the following five weeks.