This series intrigued me when I saw the first teaser/trailer. I have pretty much enjoyed Kristen Bell in everything she’s been in with few exceptions. The supporting cast in this is talented and has demonstrated their skills in other projects across multiple platforms and mediums. Plus, one of my guilty pleasures has always been watching and commenting on “trashy, by the numbers” media, so an entire series made by professionals that does just that seems like a “no brainer” as far as enjoyment prospects go. Of course, intent doesn’t always translate to execution.
As with a lot of current media, there is nothing really wrong or bad or off from a technical standpoint. There is obviously talent and money behind this project. The cast, led by Bell, is talented. Hell, even the two kid actresses cast are good without being annoying or obnoxious which is not an easy feat. Set design, music, cinematography, etc.: there are skilled individuals working in front of and behind the camera on Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window. However, the series, ultimately, does not really deliver on its initial premise of parodying or satirizing the films and television series it takes its inspiration from.
Comedy is one of the most difficult genres to work in and with. Action is pretty straight forward in expectations and delivery. Drama has certain keynotes and sequences that must be hit. Even Horror with all its cultural, regional, and temporal limitations still has an underlying universality to its approach. Yet, it is very difficult to contextualize and quantify what makes someone laugh or find something funny. Diving deeper into the various subgenres under the overarching umbrella of Comedy has further complications and obstacles when creating in the space. However, when something works, it works. We may not be able to vocalize or breakdown the exact reasons why a line or scene was funny unlike works in other genres, but there is agreement on said line or scene being humorous. And the same applies for when it does not. Netflix’s Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window does not quite work.
The major issue is the series does not seem to know what its intentions are. It is not satire since there is no criticism or commentary concerning anything. Neither the characters nor the story offer any reproach, critique, or discussion about the nature or narrative of the Lifetime, Hallmark Mystery, etc. films it is certainly referencing or alluding to. The obvious recourse then, especially considering the title and trailer, is that this show is intended to be parody, right? But, it really does not try to be funny which is a basic conceit of parody. Yes, there are exaggerations or hyperbole of the tropes of the genre, like the reveal of the killer’s identity; however, these are not done or played for laughs. They are acted fully straight without caveat or consideration from any character. It’s almost the opposite of the “straight man” where everyone is simply the “straight man” in the skit with no one actually making the joke or performance.
In essence, the show thinks itself far more clever than it actually is. By playing the entire series fully straight, there is no humor to be found in this parody. The few attempts at levity or exaggeration come off as merely part of the story and universe created. For all their supposed ridiculousness, these beats end up being par for the course. There is no snappy dialogue or quips. No random outlandish moments. Just no actual “funny” or fun to be had. Again, a great cast, intriguing premise, financial backing, but, when all is said and done, it all manages to result in not much.
The takeaway, I guess, is simply to make sure to get the basic job done before attempting to be clever or smart.