Sigh. I’ve almost used my entire word-count, and I’ve only got as far as the title. And yet at least that ridiculous title lands, and the audience will presumably understand that this made-for-Netflix tv show is a parody of films like The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window. That’s helpful, in that with whole episodes going by without anything recognisable as an actual joke, it’s often hard to tell if this is parody, pastiche, or just a bad copycat of the murder-mystery format that’s been bludgeoned to death already.
This IS a Netflix show, so bored housewives, sexual fantasies and chugging down wine are staples; you can’t say that the streaming service don’t know their core audience. Bereaved mother Anna (Kristen Bell) mixes booze with medication, and can’t tell imagination from reality. That’s a problem when hunky Neil (Tom Riley) and his daughter move into the house across the road, but Anna’s casserole-gift advances are cock-blocked by Neil’s air-hostess girlfriend Lisa (Shelley Henning) who Anna sees murdered at her window. Is Neil the killer, or could Anna’s mind be playing tricks on her?
This eight-episode series barely has enough action to cover a 80 minute film; having counted the gags, there’s one every twenty minutes or so. But when they do come, they’re awful; Anna spots Neil carrying what appears to be a body in a bag, but when she challenges him, it turns out to be…a ventriloquist’s dummy! Or the mystery of Anna’s missing daughter is explained by her husband working with cannibalistic serial killers; guess he shouldn’t have enrolled in his workplace’s ‘bring your daughter to work’ day! Them’s the jokes, guys.
Director Michael Lehmann made some funny films back in the day (Heathers, Hudson Hawk), but there’s nothing he can do with such a drastically underwritten show; even with Will Ferrell executive producing, it’s hard to imagine at what point this half-cooked effort was worth putting into production. Bell does what she can, but the solution is mind-numbingly juvenile, and the Glenn Close cameo in the final episode makes zero sense. It’s ironic that Netflix scored a massive hit by repurposing the series You, and yet can’t seem to repeat the black comedy trick themselves; The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window just shows how difficult making good comedy is, merely observing the cliches without a spin, and the whole thing deserves to be swiftly dropped into the streaming equivalent of the bargain bin.