Nine Perfect Strangers. Episodes 1-3 Review.

This viewer will admit to not being overly familiar with David E Kelly’s pre-Big Little Lies creative CV. It comes from an era before this watcher was viewing a lot of prestigious TV. Having covered a lot of his post-Big Little Lies work Kelly’s MO in 2021 has become staggeringly obvious. Take a basic airport potboiler narrative. Fuse it with a much starrier cast than the material deserves. Reserve a mandatory leading role for Nicole Kidman. Rinse and repeat. This viewer would not say he was a fan of either Big Little Lies or The Undoing. They seemed desperate to establish their prestigious status. Under the surface when much trashier than the exterior wanted viewers to believe. That’s not even touching what the first season of his recent ABC show Big Sky was. The hilarious awfulness of the first half all that season kept this Watches attention. The second half rolled around. The majority of the main case that was the driving force of the show until that point was wrapped up. The show became simply and derivatively dull. This viewer won’t be back for another season. This takes us on to Kelly’s most blatant star-powered effort thus far. Nine Perfect Strangers, based on a source novel from the author of Big Little Lies. The setup is unbelievably straightforward. Nine strangers book a retreat at a revered “wellness centre.” However, things may not be all as they seem. Of course, Nicole Kidman is here doing a Russian accent for no discernible reason. This ridiculously starry cast this time includes Melissa McCarthy Luke Evans, Michael Shannon, Bobby Carnevale, Samara Weaving and Regina Hall. Was the three-episode premiere any good?
To put it bluntly. No. There’s a mild element of intrigue in watching the events play out. Kelly’s previous shows in this lane might have been elevated trash but they at least had narrative momentum and committed performances. Or in the case of Big Sky entertaining in its atrocity. Nine Perfect Strangers fits neither of these categories but is nowhere near good in its own right. The narrative feels incredibly thin with the driving force only peeking its proverbial head in at the end of the third episode. Considering this is only an 8 episode season the lack of any true buildup is honestly astonishing. Most of the performances are inoffensive enough. It’s always nice to see Melissa McCarthy in a more dramatically inclined role ( given the right material she’s a better actress than some give her credit for.) The real sticking point here is Kidman and her mildly comedic Russian accent. She appears to be one of the main threats. That said but it’s hard to take her seriously when her delivery borders on pantomime. Her character is also getting random text messages for some unknown reason that I’m sure will be explained by the end of the season. Then there’s the casting of Manny Jacinto. Essentially playing a completely non-ironic and sincere version of the character archetype he so perfectly parodied as Jason on The Good Place. Viewers might expect him to go on a passionate defence of the Jacksonville Jaguars at any point. Even within the context of thin popcorn TV, the material here underserves everyone involved. Not to mention HBO’s The White Lotus just did this premise with a razor-sharp wit and genuine commentary on some vile central characters. In terms of mildly trashy TV one of the shows, this is directly competing against on Amazon UK is Freeforms Cruel Summer. An enthralling and surprisingly great teen mystery. Unless the season tanks in the last three episodes it is one of this reviewer’s big surprises for 2021. The latter show might not have the delusions of grandeur Nine Perfect Strangers possesses. You know what the duelling narratives of Jeanette Turner and Kate Wallis have over Nicole Kidman’s terrible accent under a bunch of stars that should know better. Genuinely great construction. Effective use of a central gimmick that enhances the narrative progression engagingly. Enough strengths to forgive the hard cringe when a character played by Harley Quinn Smith asks the heroine/ antihero if they want to watch Clerks. All these seemed entirely foreign to David E Kelly and his creative team across their recent output.
Based on the first three episodes Nine Perfect Strangers is a thin and pointless mystery Boasting an all-star cast all of whom should know better. Is this viewer likely to watch the whole season? Potentially but any chance this show had been close to good was torpedoed when the three-episode premiere has no momentum whatsoever. There’s no denying the strength of the cast will draw some viewers in. Whether they stick around for what seems to be an undercooked and generic mystery is another matter entirely.
Episodes 1-3 rating. 4.5/10

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