Naming your show The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is a very bold move.
Such a title suggests a parody akin to Airplane!, The Naked Gun, or Scary Movie. One where The Woman in the House would constantly poke fun at recent thrillers like The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and Netflix’s own The Woman in the Window.
Which makes it all the more bizarre then that it’s severely lacking when it comes to actual jokes. At times, it doesn’t even seem like it’s trying to make its audience laugh. Or, perhaps, the attempts at humour are so bad they’re not even noticeable. Either way, The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is, plain and simply, not funny enough.
Over the course of its opening episode, we learn that Anna Whittaker's (Kristen Bell) daughter died in a gruesome fashion, which caused her marriage to forensic psychiatrist Douglas (Michael Ealy) to disintegrate. Three years later, Anna is alone in her huge house, drinking endless glasses of wine, popping prescription pills and staring out of the window at her neighbours, most of whom are now bored by her irrational antics.
But when Neil (Tom Riley), a handsome British widower, moves in across the street with his adorable daughter, Emma (Samsara Leela Yett), Anna slowly starts to build a relationship with the pair. She even dreams of them becoming a family. That’s until she sees a murder in Neil’s house. While those close to Anna insist that it was just a hallucination, she can’t resist starting her own investigation into the death, even though she’s increasingly unstable and doing so immediately puts her in danger.
To be fair to Bell, who sometimes fails to make her mark in comedies that are actually amusing, you can really see that she’s giving it her all as Anna. She does a good job of making you invest in her plight, you’re constantly torn over whether or not she did actually see the murder, and her enthusiastic presence means that spending each 30-minute instalment with her makes for a pleasant enough watch. The problem is that its writers, Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf and Rachel Ramras, don’t give her the material to actually do anything worthwhile over the show’s eight-episode run.
It’s actually a puzzle why The Woman in the House is a series at all. It never comes close to justifying its four-hour-long running time. Instead it seems much more suitable as a 90-minute movie. Although it arguably doesn’t have enough jokes even for that.
By proceeding as a series, each episode seemingly meanders around, either missing opportunities for gags, or telling the most obvious ones and expecting a pat on the back for doing so, before ending on a cliffhanger designed to keep audiences binging.
There are one or two moments where The Woman in the House actually looks like it’s about to become as outlandish as it should be. In particular, the revelation of how Anna’s daughter died. Ultimately, it’s just too focused on playing safe, and never comes close to being wacky or bizarre enough to warrant such a title.
All eight episodes of The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window will debut on Netflix on January 28