When you think about murder mysteries, you probably think about Agatha Christie, Murder She Wrote, or Sherlock Holmes. Your mind may wander to big, Gothic mansions in the middle of nowhere. Aristocracy, knives, butlers, Clue.
There are so many buzzwords that will pop up. This genre is old and has firm roots. People always love the element of a whodunnit. The audience is actively participating in each plot, working along with a detective to solve the crime.
It's time to flip this genre on its head. Knives Out did a valiant job, but I was honestly wondering if anyone else could follow.
Then I sat down and watched Lord and Miller's show, The Afterparty. This show takes all the tropes and characteristics of a murder mystery and just updates them. It moves the crusty mansion to Malibu. It revitalizes the cast of stiffs into a high school reunion. And it makes the victim a famous kid who has a backstory with each and every one of the attendees.
And the biggest coup? The show uses each episode to shine a starring light on all our suspects, allowing them to tell the events of the night back to us with a different genre. For example, the third episode is a musical starring Ben Schwartz, with songs that will stick in your head for a week. Episode two is basically Fast and the Furious with Ike Barinholtz.
This genius conceit allowed them to get a ton of famous people into the cast. The promise of having comedians like Ilana Glazer (Broad City), Sam Richardson (Veep), and Jamie Demetriou (Stath Lets Flats) headlining episodes is great. Especially with Tiffany Haddish's cop tying them all together.
If you look at this show from just a marketing aspect, it breathed new life into the murder-mystery concept. It's so easy to make a trailer full of recognizable faces. Actors want to be in things where they get to shine, and only starring in one episode means they can shoot these famous people quickly to keep cost and commitment low. Still, all those faces are so easy to put on a poster and to attract fan bases. Plus, you get diversity and inclusion without having to struggle to get more people on screen.
From a storytelling perspective, you allow yourself a lot more creativity as you mash the murder mystery with all these other genres. There's horror, thriller, musicals, actions, and all of them blended with signature comedy. It's a fun challenge to weave this stuff together. And I'm happy to say the show delivers.
The next time you are pitching a TV show, think about how you can sustain episodes by challenging the norms of the genre and putting together an idea that not only attracts top talent, but also feels fresh and interesting for audiences.
Have you watched The Afterparty? Check it out on Apple TV+, and let us know what you think in the comments.