Apple TV + ‘s The Afterparty, the show with a kaleidoscopic approach to genre, hits a new low this week as it becomes a dreadful procedural for its penultimate episode. The show has been many things by now – an unfunny cartoon, a musical, an action movie, an arthouse experiment – but it’s never fully just given into being bad television on purpose before now.
There’s something frankly a little insulting about being asked to watch a half-hearted impression of something The Afterparty creator Christopher Miller and the show’s writers keep telling us is bad and a waste of time and unrealistic. I’d much rather just watch a rerun of JAG on Pluto TV than continue with this baleful re-creation.
What, for heaven’s sakes, is the point of The Afterparty?
The Afterparty recap: ‘Danner’
In this week’s episode, Detective Danner (played by Tiffany Haddish) finally comes clean to Culp (John Early). She took over the case of the death of pop star Xavier (Dave Franco) even though she was expressly told not to. She did this because the detective they were going to bring in to replace her, Germain (Reid Scott), was a figure from her past. (Never mind that it’s incredibly irresponsible to have suspects wait for three hours at the scene of the crime while a detective flies out to do his job.)
It’s her turn to tell her story, while Zoë (Zoe Chao), Aniq (Sam Richardson) and Yasper (Ben Schwartz) listen in. She talks about rising in the ranks of the LAPD and how she cracked her first big case while working on one of Germain’s murders.
This show can’t cop a laugh
This story takes the form of a cop show, which means that the only jokes in the episode are when Haddish ad-libs. And frankly, this isn’t her finest hour, to put it very kindly. In fact, it’s nobody’s finest hour.
Danner stumbles upon a murder involving a TV producer (Fred Savage) and she’s the only one who figures out that the chief suspect didn’t commit the crime. By doggedly trying to prove her hunch, she alienates everyone in the department, including Germain. So she definitely doesn’t want him big-timing her in her own backyard.
This is a curious tactic to introduce this far into a show that’s been, albeit completely unsuccessfully, mining all of her ideas for something resembling humor. “Danner” has no joke for the audience to be in on. It’s shot like an episode of Southlandwith high-contrast, sweaty LA playing host to a twisted mystery to be solved by a beat cop.
I can’t say I fully understand what the creators think they’re doing here. Are we meant to be inspired by Danner becoming a cop? Is it good that the police are more intersectional now? What is any of this doing in a comedy show, even one as dire as The Afterparty?
Christopher Miller and his frequent partner Phil Lord making media about a cop making good is nothing new. But they used to be in on the joke a little more. Or maybe it just seemed that way because we couldn’t see the full picture of their work.
The police are the heroes in their Jump Street movies with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, but the jokes are formal and incidental to the idea of policing. They’re jokes about cop shows and movies, not really jokes about cops. The good guys still save the day and the bad guys go to jail, even if the journey is madcap and ridiculous. Haddish’s cop story in The Afterparty is pretty purely “celebrating how this woman became a cop.”
Miller, Lord and the other Afterparty writers also don’t seem to know much about police procedure, despite having clearly seen dozens of cop shows. For instance, when Danner arrests a suspect, she just kinda hangs out with her and doesn’t put cuffs on her or anything.
Missing the point
The point of the episode is that Danner beat institutional sexism to become who she is, not that the police are violent and corrupt, because it can’t be about that even though characters keep hinting at it. It waffles obnoxiously about whether the cops are here to help or hurt people.
The show then, even more obnoxiously, has Haddish talk about how the cop show that a murder suspect works on isn’t true to the experiences of real cops while she’s in a bad cop show parody with no jokes in it. Every few minutes in this laughless pastiche of bad crime dramas, the show keeps having characters opine that these crime dramas are all bad and unrealistic, while being bad and unrealistic.
It’s insult to injury after six episodes of this. “This show sucks,” she says, watching the show-within-the-show that Savage’s character produces. It sure does.
Watch The Afterparty on Apple TV +
New episodes of The Afterparty arrive on Fridays.
Watch on: Apple TV +
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.
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