'The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window' Isn't Funny Enough to Register as Parody

Directed by Michael Lehmann

Starring Kristen Bell, Tom Riley, Mary Holland, Shelley Hennig, Christina Anthony, Samsara Yett, Cameron Britton, Benjamin Levy Aguilar, Michael Ealy

Photo: Colleen E. Hayes / Netflix

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jan 26, 2022

Just as Austin Powers was to spy flicks and Scary Movie was to teen horror, Kristen Bell's The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is to all those pulpy thrillers like The Woman in the Window and The Girl on the Train. You know the ones — a woman grieves a family tragedy, mixes alcohol with pharmaceutical medications, witnesses a murder, and then gets gaslit into questioning what she saw.

TWITHATSFTGITW hits all those familiar beats, but it's barely slapstick enough to count as a spoof. Bell stars as Anna, a woman whose marriage has fallen apart following the death of her young daughter. Now, she spends her days glugging huge glasses of wine and developing a fear of the rain while obsessing about the man across the street (Tom Riley) and his beautiful girlfriend (Shelley Hennig).

If that elevator pitch doesn't sound very funny, that's because it's not. The only joke that really lands is the running tragicomic gag about Anna's fishbowl-sized glasses of wine (which she fills right to the tippy-top of the glass every time — see the photo at the top of this review). But even though the show is poking fun at psychological thrillers, it's still impossible not to feel bad for the grieving, possibly delusional Anna.

The show exaggerates the clichés of the genre, like when Anna talks to her dead daughter so much that she forgets she died, but Bell plays it so straight that it's genuinely quite sad. TWITHATSFTGITW sometimes feels less like a spoof and more like a hokey, straight-to-cable version of the real thing.

This eight-episode run needs to be half as long and twice as silly. Take, for example, the way Anna is repeatedly described as a brilliant artist; her flower paintings are a little bland and certainly not deserving of the praise they're given, but they're also not nearly bad enough to register as a joke. As I write this, I'm still not sure if I was supposed to find it funny that everyone was fawning over her fairly average artwork.

The show's greatest strength is that, even if it doesn't work as a comedy, it's almost passable as an actual murder mystery. After Anna witnesses a murder in the second episode (and is subsequently ignored by police), I found myself genuinely wanting her to get to the bottom of the case. With a couple fewer bait-and-switch twists, it might have been a pretty decent payoff. It makes the eight episodes pass by quite quickly, even if there is about enough comedic material to fill up one SNL sketch.

This show was originally known simply as The Woman in the House, before Netflix announced its new mouthful of a title back in December. Thank God they did rename it, because without that silly title — which is probably the funniest joke here — it would be hard to tell that this is supposed to be funny.

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