Is The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window a Good Parody?
I expected straight garbage from The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window (TWITHATSFTGITW). Garbage so smelly that it stays in the nostrils for a few blocks after passing by it on the sidewalk. TWITHATSFTGITW wasn’t that atrocious. It didn’t even become a good hate-watch that passes the time. Honestly, I left it on in the background while I cleaned and cooked. By trying to mock the psychological thriller genre, while simultaneously being a psychological thriller, it somehow ends up being a boring show. Maybe it would have been better suited to a 90-minute movie, but for an 8-episode television show doesn’t work. It’s too much.
A good parody smartly mocks the thing it’s imitating. TWITHATSFTGITW doesn’t seem to know what it’s saying. The psychological thriller featuring a dead woman at its core is ripe for critical analysis so theoretically, it should be great parody fodder. Usually, an unreliable white female narrator is telling the tale so there are thousands of jokes built right into that premise. Anna (Kristen Bell) is the titular woman in the house across the street from the girl in the window and she’s best when she isn’t playing the role seriously. Kristen Bell does what she can, where she can. An overflowing wine glass is a funny running gag, but it’s also been done many times before. Most importantly, it’s been done better: Amy Schumer’s impression of Connie Britton’s character on Friday Night Lights and Cecily Strong’s imitation of Jeanine Pirro on SNL.
The production design was often the funniest part of a scene. Books with titles, “You Too Can Be an Artist,” You Also Can Be An Artist,” and “Anyone Can Be An Artist” are predominantly displayed when Anna is looking for some art supplies to bond with the neighborhood psycho child. Anna’s deceased child’s headstone has a different epitaph every time she goes to the grave, each one more annoying than the last. Some of the supporting cast members are also great. They know what type of show they’re in. Sloan (Mary Holland) and Detective Lane (Christina Anthony) lean into the zany side of things.
Of course, Anna’s therapist is her ex-husband Douglas (Michael Ealy). What was actually funny was that he was listed on her phone as Therapist. Not so funny – Anna and Douglas’ daughter dies after she’s accidentally locked in a room with a serial killer. Bring your daughter to work day, even though you’re a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI specializing in serial killers, is supposed to be ironic. I get that. I have a dark sense of humor, but even I didn’t think it was funny to have the daughter die this way. It was just unsettling. I did chuckle when Douglas tells Anna about Buell while he’s conducting a therapy session at a prison.
The climactic fight at the end of the season between Anna and Elizabeth is just terrible. The only time audiences should cheer when an adult beats up a child is when watching Orphan. Yes, the child isn’t really a child in that movie. Still. This was just awkward. Even though the child is a psycho, the fight scene is not entertaining. It’s played too seriously. Therein lies the biggest issue – by being a psychological thriller and trying to parody the genre, it fails at both.
The show would be better served if it leaned into the campy moments and omitted some of the serious elements. A shorter run time and abandoning any hope of the story itself being a thriller might have also helped. I think we would all be better off leaving this type of psychological thriller alone for a bit; perhaps it’s time to talk about the bizarre actions of the fascinating people who have proliferated these exact tropes.Watch The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window Now Streaming
February 3, 2022 at 4:07 pm
I respectfully disagree. As someone quite fond of spoof movies/shows, I found this to be an interesting take.
It admittedly doesn’t have the comic energy normally seen in these types of things, and I do agree that it probably didn’t need to be a show and could have just been a regular movie. In terms of spoofing a genre (while being an example of the genre itself), it does pale in comparison to the Edgar Wright’s films like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”. But frankly, that’s not a fair comparison because MOST things pale to those movies… And either way, there is something novel about this series’ approach.
I have never seen a spoof movie/show play its material so dead straight before. The acting, cinematography and the score imitates the genre so well that I would forget I was watching a parody and just get sucked into the (intentionally) hokey drama. Which then makes the ridiculous comedic payoffs (how her daughter dies, what was inside Neil’s bag, and of course, who the killer was…) all the funnier.
And yes, the punchlines are often unbelievably dark, and that type of humor isn’t for everyone, but I didn’t ever get the sense that it was a mean-spirited parody. Maybe it’s because I have a real appreciation for jokes that take forever to build up to one big punchline. And while it could have been more consistently funny, I don’t think they dropped the ball on the big jokes, and that’s where it matters at the end of the day…