Alibi V.28 No.15 • April 11-17, 2019 

Idiot Box

Blind Ambition

“In the Dark” on The CW

The CW’s new dramedy-cum-mystery “In the Dark” goes to great lengths to prove its protagonist is a messy, defiant and (dare we say) controversial antiheroine. The show reminds us of it in nearly every scene. Our gal Murphy (Perry Mattfeld, who had a short run on Showtime’s “Shameless”) is a bitter and cynical drunk. She’s sexually promiscuous, sleeping with random strangers and married men. She’s a misanthrope, who hates people almost as much as she hates herself. She’s also hot and young and—did we mention?—blind.

TV is doing a better job these days (certainly better than the movie industry) of representing diversity. And it’s encouraging to see a series, particularly on the teen soap-oriented CW network, with a blind woman as the main character (although Mattfeld herself is sighted). But “In the Dark” tries too hard. Instead of presenting us with a believable, well rounded character who happens to be blind, the show goes all “edgy” on us, giving us someone who’s basically an annoying jerk. A differently abled person who’s not a saint? That’s progressive, isn’t it? Admittedly, anyone can be a jerk. But “In the Dark” spends too much of its time pointing out how blind (totally) and how jerky (really) its main character is—all the while, patting itself on the back for coming up with such a politically incorrect premise.

The plot of the show is equally overworked. Murphy’s one and only friend is a 15-year-old drug dealer named Tyson (Thamela Mpumlwana). He once saved her from a brutal mugging, so he’s actually a nice kid (drug dealing notwithstanding). One night Murphy wanders into Tyson’s back alley hangout and stumbles across his cold, dead body. She reports it to the police, but they don’t believe her because she’s blind (and also because the body does a quick vanishing act).

So naturally, Murphy decides to turn Sherlock and solve Tyson’s murder herself—with the occasional help of her nervously protective roommate (Brooke Markham), her seeing eye dog and an ineffectual cop (Rich Sommer from “Mad Men”). This puts “In the Dark” in roughly the same orbit as other “millennials solve a mystery” (aka “hipster noir”) shows such as “Search Party.”

Mattfeld is a charismatic performer and does her best to fill out the strong-but-scared woman hiding underneath her character’s hard exterior. But the show doesn’t give her much to do other than smoke and scowl and be lusted after by every male in Chicago. The mystery stuff is mostly back burner, and the show spends far more time on Murphy’s personal life. Her kindly adoptive parents, for example, run a charity for guide dogs—mostly to provide their troubled daughter with a stable job. Of course, in perfectly scripted irony, Murphy hates dogs as much as she hates people.

“In the Dark” is the brainchild of Corinne Kingsbury (who worked on “Fam” and “The Newsroom”). Michael Showalter (a member of comedy troupe The State, writer of Wet Hot American Summer and—unsurprisingly—co-creator “Search Party”) serves as executive producer and director of the show’s pilot. There’s no lack of talent here. A few tweaks and a bit of time, and this could be a watchable dramedy for adults. But as it sits, the show is too desperate to mash up disparate genres and to impress us with its dark humor and prickly characters.

“In the Dark” airs Thursdays at 8pm on KWBQ-19.