One of the TV hits of last season was TBS’s new show, Search Party. As a comedy, it stretched across genres as Dory (Alia Shawkat) led her friends on a search for their missing friend Chantal (Clare McNulty). By the end, it got very dark, complete with existential angst and a possible murder.
Search Party is back for a second season on TBS. Producer Michael Showalter, know for The State and Wet Hot American Summer, spoke with /Film about the new season.
Given the riff in They Came Together, is New York a character on Search Party?
You could say so, yes. I would say so. Anything that’s shot in New York, New York is a character. But you know what, when something’s shot in L.A., L.A. is a character too.
So you mean that sincerely even though you made fun of it in They Came Together.
Yes, yes, yes.
Does season two pick up immediately after the finale?
It does, it does. We literally pick up right where we left off.
Had you planned that when they wrote the finale?
We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t make any decisions about it, but when you start writing the second season, you start thinking about what the different possibilities are. We decided that that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to just literally start right where we left off and go from there.
Do you deal with Keith’s dead body?
A little bit. That’s of course assuming that he’s dead.
Dory thinks she and her group are the only people who’ve ever been through something like this. Is that extreme narcissism?
I won’t diagnose her as an extreme narcissist but there’s a definite sort of self-centeredness to these characters which is in a way what makes them so susceptible to the kinds of problems that they get themselves into. It’s a kind of belief that they’re the only ones who are ever in these kinds of situations which forces them to act in extreme ways.
Is that universal? Everyone thinks whatever they’re going through is the first time it’s happened. You can’t even tell them, “Well, I went through something like this…”
“But not the way I went through it.” Although I do think it’s true that most people wouldn’t have killed somebody. Most people don’t have a dead body in a closet.
That’s true. I assumed she meant finding Chantal. Even so, some people have killed somebody. They are not the only ones.
They are not the only people, that’s true.
Now that they’ve found Chantal, is there a new mystery?
Yes, in a sense. They need to figure out who knows what they did and if anyone knows what they did, because they don’t want to be caught.
The first season included little details of things everyone does, like making phone calls on the toilet, that aren’t usually portrayed in TV and movies. Were those fun to pinpoint how we live life now?
Yeah, that comes in having a specific voice. You’re always looking for those details. That’s what makes it stand out and feel unique.
When Portia gets killed off on her show and her mother says, “What did you do wrong?”, did that come from anything you, Sarah Violet or Charles experienced with non-industry relatives?
I’m sure. We all know what it’s like to feel the disappointment of a parent. Especially in the entertainment industry, there’s always going to be those people that don’t see it as a legitimate pursuit.
Or see that if something happens, it’s just the business, not anything you did.
It’s your fault. Portia’s mom is really hard on her, which explains a lot about Portia.
Is Search Party more scripted than Wet Hot American Summer?
Actually, Wet Hot’s pretty scripted too. Wet Hot is a very tightly scripted show actually so we’re shooting it very much the same way we would shoot Search Party. It is a very scripted show. There is some improv but it’s not anything like a thing where we’re making it up in the moment. We wrote eight episodes, eight individual episodes.
Was your schedule back and forth between Wet Hot and Search Party?
I’ve had a busy couple of months. I was editing Big Sick while we were writing Wet Hot and then I was editing Wet Hot when we were writing Search Party.
Have you been gratified by the reaction to [feature directorial debut] The Big Sick this summer?
It’s incredible. It’s been an amazing experience.
It really portrayed the limbo of waiting in a hospital, something you don’t usually see in film. Obviously it was Kumail and Emily’s story but do you have any relatable experience to that?
Oh yeah, absolutely and I think we all do. That’s what drew me to the script was that universal experience that many of us have had of having a loved one in the hospital and the anguish of waiting, the different ways we have to cope with that.
Do you have another movie you might do after Search Party season 2?
I would like to. I don’t have anything ready to announce, but I would love to direct another film.
Would you write another film too?
Both, both. I co-wrote [Hello, My Nam Is] Doris. Big Sick’s the first one I’ve done that I didn’t write but I’m looking at scripts that other people wrote, but also developing some things I would want to write myself.
Are you writing on Search Party?
Well, I was in the writers room. I didn’t write any scripts this year but I was in the writers room breaking story.
Does knowing the characters from the first season give you more material to work with now?
Oh yeah, oh yeah. You get to take the characters in directions that are fun when you know who the characters are and you know what the audience’s impressions of those characters are. It has greater impact.
Did you also learn what viewers responded to in the first season?
Probably, a little bit, yeah. I think we knew some of the areas we went into and said, “Oh, that worked. We weren’t sure it was going to work but it did.” The suspense element, the creepiness. That probably gave us a little confidence to lean into that a little more.
Do both TBS and Netflix have plans to continue Search Party and Wet Hot?
I don’t know. I know we would love to continue. Certainly with Search Party, we would really like to continue telling this story so we’ll see. We don’t know yet but we’ll see. I hope so.
Search Party returns Sunday, November 19 on TBS.