Too long, didn’t watch it all
Your enjoyment of the Netflix satire series ‘The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window’ will depend on two things. First, you must like Kristen Bell. Admittedly, it’s not hard to like Kristen Bell, undoubtedly one of the most appealing American TV performers of all time. But you’d better really like her if you watch this show. Not only is she in nearly every scene, at least half the scenes are just Kristen Bell, typing in her computer or on her phone, or just moping in the dark.
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Second, you had better be familiar with the genre that The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window parodies. Specifically, the show draws on two terrible books that later became terrible movies: The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window. It also milks Gone Girl, a better cultural product than the above, as well as even lesser knockoffs.
Bell plays Anna, a grieving painter who lives alone in a nice house on a well-heeled suburban street. She makes a lot of chicken casseroles, fears the rain, mourns the loss of her daughter, who, in one of the show’s most ridiculous twists, died when a serial killer ate her. This happened in a prison, when the daughter went to work with her father, a forensic psychologist. That pretty much sums up the mindset of this show, which isn’t afraid to show stabbing close-up and uses a ventriloquist’s dummy as a major plot point.
The show mocks every cliché of the upper-middle-class woman in peril genre: the relentless wine drinking and pill popping, the suspicious neighbors, the untrustworthy imagination, the creepy therapist, the clichéd, melodramatic prose, and the ludicrous plot twists. The big reveal will seem quite funny until you realize that it’s only a degree or two removed from the actual, unironic ending of The Woman In The Window.
But that’s the big problem with The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window. Well, one of the big problems. Though every one of the eight episodes contains at least one major laugh line and several smirk of recognition lines, too much of the material plays itself straight, or at least close to straight. It’s absurd and satirical, but there’s a lot of filler that would vanish in the two-hour one-off parody movie that this material deserves. It’s funny, but often not funny. I watched episodes one through four, and episode eight, and that was enough.
The total runtime of The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window is more than five hours. That is too long, especially considering that there’s not one character, other than Kristen Bell’s Anna, who has more than half a dimension. Anna’s handyman Buell, who is always fixing her mailbox, is funny in an off-brand John C. Reilly kind of way. The rest of the cast, though not wooden, is pretty bland and generic.
But given the cliffhanger ending of season one, and the fact that The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window has been at the top of the Netflix charts since it debuted, and that it stars the most popular TV actor of her generation, I suspect there will be another season of Anna’s mystery adventures. It’s kind of Veronica Mars with a Zucker brother in the writing room. I can’t say I love this show as much as Anna loves her wine, but I’m in for a least four or five episodes of the next season.