Review: Innovative 'Afterparty' Pays Off

by Karin McKie

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday January 28, 2022

'The Afterparty'
'The Afterparty'  (Source:Apple TV+)

Apparently, crime does pay, as well as entertain. True crime podcasts and Friday night crime magazine shows continue to entice audiences, and limited TV series like Steve Martin's "Only Murders in the Building" are being binged nationwide.

Producing team Christopher Miller and Phil Lord ("The Lego Movie" and Oscar-winning "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse") add to the canon with the eight-part murder-mystery-comedy series "The Afterparty." They've assembled a crack team of fast-talking comic actors in this whodunit set during the Hillmont High School 15th anniversary reunion in Marin County, California.

After former school alum and current Bieber-like pop star douchebag Xavier (Dave Franco) takes a tumble off a cliff (akin to the British crime drama "Broadchurch" and the Monterey-based series "Big Little Lies"), Detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) rounds up the usual suspects from the deceased's afterparty in his mansion to solve the crime.

Each suspect gets their own 30-minute episode and storytelling style, using Rashomon-like different takes on the clique's complicated relationships and possible motives. Xavier, formerly Eugene, made his bones as a cheesy white rapper with hits like "X Marks the G-Spot," and had begun making films like the live-action "Hungry Hungry Hippos" movie and the Hall and Oates biopic "Private Eyes."

Episode 1 follows Aniq (Sam Richardson) and his unrequited love for Zoe (Zoe Chao) in a slapstick romcom milieu, complete with John Hughes-style montages. Aniq remained a nerd after high school and now designs escape rooms, while Zoe never left the building. She's a promising artist who became an art teacher at the school, then the vice principal.

The second episode dissects Zoe's ex-husband Brett (Ike Barinholtz) with a "Fast & Furious" flavor. He tosses off hackneyed buddy movie catch phrases like "My word is my bond" and "I'm too young for this shit." Uninvited, he shows up at the reunion and afterparty to "jam the clam" — that is, stop Zoe from hooking up with any her former classmates. Brett gets into a figurative (and literal) pissing contest with Xavier.

Hipster doofus Yasper (Ben Schwartz) had been in a high school band with Xavier called Skarpe Diem, because "pop is a phase, but ska is forever." But as the rapper's star rose, Yasper got stuck installing AV and security equipment in McMansions like Xavier's. Yasper and close friend Aniq exuberantly deliver this musical episode revolving around the song "We All Get One Shot Twice." Other solid numbers include "Yeah, Sure, Whatever," as well as an ode to the purgatory of the texting "dot, dot, dot," the ellipsis that keeps Yasper from stardom while awaiting a "song blessing text" from Xavier.

Class president, drunken party girl, and now "deeply alone" veterinary receptionist Chelsea (Ilana Glazer) had a put a monkey wrench in her classmates' relationships in the past, during a fateful St. Patrick's Day party, as well as after graduation. Her episode segues into the fifth, which focuses on that infamous March 17th soiree. Zoe's story is further unspooled in episode six, using effervescent animated cartoons to showcase her split personality.

Detective Danner's origin story is shared in episode 7, and features excellent cameo performances by Reid Scott, as her police academy classmate, and Fred Savage, as a suspicious Hollywood husband and cop series show-runner. Danner advises him to "get back to reinforcing cultural stereotypes like you all do," while this innovative series successfully skewers, rather than perpetuates, status quo tropes and types.

"The Afterparty" premieres January 28 on Apple TV+.

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at KarinMcKie.com