April 5, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere TV Review: “In the Dark”


IN THE DARK:  Thursday 9PM on CW

The protagonist of CW’s new drama IN THE DARK is blind, but the show wants it to be very clear that Murphy (Perry Mattfeld) isn’t TV’s typical high-functioning disabled role model.  Murphy is disaffected, sarcastic and often downright rude (she’s even dismissive to her adorable guide dog, Pretzel), apt to sleep with available men whether or not they’re married, and more than happy to use her cane and condition to cut lines and otherwise take advantage of the sentimentality of the sighted.  The trouble with In the Dark, at least as of its pilot, is that this isn’t enough to justify a series on its own, and the show doesn’t have much more to offer.

In the Dark, which was created by Corinne Kingsbury (also creator of CBS’s Fam, a distinctly inferior piece of work) is nominally a murder mystery, of the Amateur Detective type.  The only person in the world for whom Murphy has a soft spot is Tyson, the teen who once saved her from muggers.  He deals drugs for his cousin Darnell (Keston John), and when Murphy goes looking for Tyson after a particularly bad night, she finds what she believes to be his corpse.  However, when the cops show up, there’s no body to be found, so of course Murphy decides to investigate on her own, with the help of her roommate Jess (Brooke Markham), a sweet homicide cop (Rich Sommer) with a blind daughter of his own, and probably Darnell in later episodes.

There isn’t much in the episode to suggest that this presumed murder will be all that interesting, so much of the hour is spent presenting Murphy’s grumbling relationships, including those with her adoptive parents Joy (Kathleen York) and Hank (Derek Webster), who run a guide dog service where Murphy desultorily works, along with co-employee Felix (Morgan Krantz).  On paper, Michael Showalter of The Big Sick should have been the right director for this material, since that film expertly balanced snappy laughs with serious drama, but here he doesn’t find the right space between light and dark.  (He’s also unable to convincingly create the illusion that the Toronto-shot series is taking place in Chicago.)  Kingsbury’s script is full of people telling others exactly what they think of them, which leaves little room for nuance, and it seems all too clear that Murphy’s commitment to solving the crime will Make Her A Better Person.  In addition, although Kingsbury is also a comedy writer, the supposed comic set-pieces, like Murphy hiding from a lover’s wife beneath what she doesn’t realize is a glass table, are rather weak.

It’s possible that with the central plot and characters introduced, In the Dark will take a breath in later episodes and let things play out with less attention to the marks they have to hit, and it does have a capable lead in Mattfeld.  But In the Dark runs the risk of seeming like a script Sandra Bullock was right not to accept 15 years ago, lacking enough grit or wit to make a lasting impression.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."