My god, this is a weirdly conceptualized show. First, you have what has to be the world’s longest show title: The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window. We get it. Okay, at least we kind of get it. You’re creating a farcical mashup Hot Shots! version of Rear Window, The Girl on the Train and maybe something else in that genre. Which, in and of itself, essentially becomes a Lifetime “bad man” movie. Movies that are either meant to be bad, or are just so bad they’re good? But are definitely cheesy. Because, if you’ve ever seen a Lifetime movie, you just know that the first man to walk on screen is going to somehow – no matter how pleasant he seems — turn out to be the bad guy. The cheater. The abuser. The killer.
So, let’s assume here that the purpose of this movie is to parody a Lifetime movie, which are in turn just cheeseball copies of these “higher-end” movies mentioned above. Fine, that kind of makes sense. I’ve seen those movies and they are ridiculous and mostly bad. An odd thing to parody when they are essentially — most likely unintentionally — parodies themselves. But, hey, the idea is there. The main issue becomes that this series is either muddled, poorly executed or just plain too subtle in its approach to the subject matter. What ensues is a confusing show tonally, as it swings from almost goofy parody to dangerously close to the kind of show it seemingly seeks to mock. It’s weird as a viewer, as it’s unclear from minute to minute if things are meant to be funny, serious or are just pain stupid and/or bad on their own merit. Sorry to keep using that word, but it really fits the bill.
Even poor Kristen Bell seems a little confounded by the thing at times. Her character, Anna, is a lonely, divorced alcoholic and former painter of terrible paintings whose daughter is dead and whose husband has moved on. She lives in a nice house, but only seems to hang out on the couch in the living room, drinking very tall glasses of red wine and looking out the window at the neighbors. Along with the constant wine drinking, she takes pills and either hallucinates or really hears someone walking around in her attic. Along with this she obsessively cooks casseroles and has a crippling fear of rain. The first thing that stuck out to me was that Bell, at a stretch 4’11”, seems to not really be that affected by the constant goblets of wine she’s guzzling. Granted, she’s occasionally portrayed as drunk (when convenient), but I would imagine with her size and weight that chugging half a bottle at a time would keep her inebriated pretty much constantly. But, whatever.
So, the scenario. New hot dude, Neil (Tom Riley), moves in next door with his young daughter. Anna strikes up a friendship with him, with hopes it could be more. But, it turns out, he has a girlfriend! Then one night, watching out the window as usual, she sees said girlfriend get murdered. She tries to report it, but between her penchant for booze and pills and complete lack of evidence, the cops don’t take her seriously and neither does anyone else. Trigger her “investigation” to prove she saw what she saw. But can she even be sure she saw what she saw? You know, with the booze and pills and all. It’s basically Rear Window. Or, for the younger set, the Shia LaBeouf reimagining, Disturbia.
I mean, sure, it’s a classic setup. Fine. But all the stuff sandwiched between the beginning and end is just weird. The end being the weirdest part of all — but I won’t spoil it. And maybe it’s because I’ve only watched like ten of the hundreds of Lifetime movies like this ever produced, but some of the things they present as tropes in this show don’t make any sense to me. The fact that every time Anna tries to do anything of consequence, she only gets half way across her street when the rain comes and renders her unconscious. Or the fact that every time she walks out of her house the same handyman is working on putting up the same mailbox. For months. Or possibly years. Or the fact she keeps cooking these casseroles, burning her hands on them taking them out of the oven and then eventually dropping it or having it dumped out. I don’t believe anyone ever ends up eating any of her food. Not to mention the fact her daughter died as a result of her FBI profiler husband leaving her in an interrogation room with a cannibalistic serial killer on bring-your-daughter-to-work day. Yes, her daughter was eaten by a dude at dad’s workplace. Which, in the land of high-parody would kind of make sense. But that detail is not inline with the rest of the tone of the show. All of it is kind of just off.
And, look, maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe I’m the dummy and this was a brilliant piece of subversive parody that just went over my head. Lots of stuff does that. But, more than likely, it’s a series that started off with an idea of being this broad satirical commentary on bad television and, ultimately, just ended up hoisted by its own petard.