When TBS’ Search Party landed late last year, most people didn’t know how to label it.
Was it a satirical commentary about the narcissism of a generation? A dark comedy about a group of friends floundering their way through their 20s in New York? A mystery-drama about a young woman who goes missing and the thrilling search for who might be responsible for her disappearance and why? When the season ended, we discovered it was a bit of all of those things — a kind of cautionary tale about the hunt for life’s meaning that was both hilarious and incredibly depressing.
Season two, which just aired its final two episodes, took Dory (Alia Shawkat) and the rest of her friends on a darker journey with higher stakes and even more biting, self-reflective musings. And funny moments. Lots of funny moments. We talked to co-creators Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers about the future of the series, their love-hate relationship with the word “millennial,” and how the show’s descent into madness reflects what it was like living in 2017.
Things have gotten much darker this season for Dory and the group. Was that always the plan, or are we kind of mirroring the zeitgeist of 2017 right now?
Sarah-Violet Bliss: The plan wasn’t, “And then we’ll just get darker and darker,” but we found that the darker it got the funnier it got, and we were just kind of discovering it as we were going.
We get to spend more time with each of the characters this season and really explore their descent into madness. Was that fun to write?
Charles Rogers: In the first season, we were really finding and defining and refining the characters, and then this season, it was like now that we know who they are, what do we want to see them show that we didn’t know? It was really fun but I always feel like if there’s something psychotic about writers’ rooms when everyone’s discussing fictional characters so passionately like they’re real people. You’re like, ‘Portia would never do that, guys.’
How do you guys feel about the term “millennial,” especially when it’s used to label your show?
Rogers: Maybe I’m just tired of hearing that word, but I kind of feel like at this point, the connection I feel to the show is so much deeper than a cultural label. It does play like a very big part in the way the characters are drawn and the context and the sensibility, but also, these characters feel like real people to me, and the comedy comes from them as people. I guess the satire is really the millennial edge.
Millennials get a bad rap for being narcissistic.
Rogers: I think everyone’s narcissistic.
How has the theme shifted from season one when Dory was looking for Chantal (Claire McNulty) to season two when the group’s dealing with the fallout from that search?
Bliss: Season one was the search for meaning and [how that doesn’t] end the way that we want — it’s meaningless. In season two, it’s like, “Well, this is what you wanted. You wanted danger, and you wanted there to be a purpose of your life that was self-important in some way, and careful what you wish for.”
Which, strangely, mirrors the way a lot of us feel about living under a Trump presidency in 2017.
Rogers: It was really hard to predict where the world would be by the time this show came out, but I feel like we put all of our feelings into the show, especially right after the election when we started writing in January. There’s a lot of themes in this season that ended up coinciding with a lot of topical stuff happening right now, but that was all very incidental, and maybe just a product of us putting our feelings in the show and hoping that would at least reflect society in some way by the time it came out.
I feel like I’ve seen plenty of stories go viral that follow the same formula as Dory’s. Really terrible things happen, people try to cover it up or make it better, and things just get worse. Do you guys base your writing off real life?
Rogers: I think more than anything we had a lot of conversations about denial and trauma and the ways in which you end up kind of spinning an alternate reality to avoid responsibility for actions you’ve taken that you feel were bad. We’ve never killed anyone, most people haven’t, but hopefully the richer thing is seeing what some version of what the characters are going through in your own life, even if you haven’t done that exact thing.
John Early’s character has had a really rough time this season. His hair has started to fall out, he’s developed stress hives, at one point he check himself into a facility. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun to watch. How game was he to basically look like a plague victim on TV?
Bliss: He was very excited to fall apart completely.
Rogers: A big part of [his breakdown] is how much responsibility he takes at the top of the season for being the leader and knowing what to do. And so we wanted to show that, in this case, the person who took the most charge ends up feeling the most unraveled or responsible. So, it was a direct reflection of how much responsibility he took, and how he really is not geared to handle that, and how much of his personality is just for show.
Portia (Meredith Hagner) also had a strange season, especially with that Charles Manson storyline that also ended up being topical since the guy just died.
Rogers: So crazy. The Charles Manson thing, and then there’s also so many sexual harassment things right now.
It’s almost like you guys predicted all of the shit that would go down this year, but cults have been a recurring theme on this show.
Bliss: We’re just honestly kind of fascinated by sociopaths. We talk about them a lot, and how they kind of run the world in all these different little facets that could be called cults, you know? [Jay Duplass’] character is pretty similar to a cult leader and right now, we only see Portia’s fondness for him, but the ways that people have this charisma that is attractive is kind of fascinating to us. It’s pretty pervasive throughout our society.
Is there a lesson we can learn from Dory and the rest of the characters on this show?
Rogers: I think the second season’s message is a little bit of a departure from the first season in that it is that sort of be careful what you wish for vibe, but the third season message — I think really rings true in the second season, and I think that it’ll come full circle throughout the series — is that there is no real meaning to life, except what you give your life. You project meaning onto life and that’s both a tragic and empowering experience.