BASED ON A TRUE STORY Review: Dark Comedy Barks, Sometimes Bites
Kaley Cuoco, Chris Messina and Tom Bateman star in the dark comedy series, debuting on Peacock TV.
It's all in the tone.
Based on a True Story
All eight episodes debut Thursday, June 8, on Peacock TV . I've seen all eight episodes.
Dark comedy is a delicate balancing act. Make a show too gruesome, and it's not funny; make it too silly, and the darkness never seeps into the bones.
Born in Australia, Craig Rosenberg is known most recently as a writer/producer for The Boys and Preacher, two darkly comic series that always struck me as too gross and gruesome for my personal taste; I never saw the humor and stopped watching after a short time.
Rosenberg created Based on a True Story and wrote or co-wrote all eight episodes. The show tilts toward very sharp, biting humor in its first episode, before establishing a groove in its remaining seven episodes that veers unevenly between domestic comedy and something that is decidedly nasty.
Kaley Cuoco and Chris Messina play Ava and Nathan, a married couple who are expecting their first child together. They remain committed to each other and in love, though their financial anxieties are introducing cracks into their relationship.
Ava is a realtor who is struggling to break through and make her first home sale; Nathan is a former tennis pro and longtime club teacher who faces growing career challenges as he ages. Into their life strides Matt (Tom Bateman), a very friendly plumber who quickly sparks a friendship with the otherwise friend-less Nathan.
For her part, Ava counts on a tight circle of married friends who are married to rich husbands, notably her best friend Ruby (Priscilla Quintana). Ava's younger sister, Tory (Liana Liberato), lives with her and Nathan to round out their household.
As the story begins, Los Angeles is being stalked by yet another serial killer who has caught the popular imagination, including Ava, who has become obsessed with listening to true-crime podcasts. The series builds on what happens in the first episode, as the anxious Ava and Nathan become increasingly involved with friendly plumber Matt.
Most of the episodes run about 30 minutes, and are paced like a broadcast television show, which means that they are broken into segments that allow for ad breaks, for those of us who subscribe to the ad-supported version of Peacock TV. Watching without ads makes it easier to binge the show, which is not necessarily structured around cliffhangers, but still encourages binging to see how things turn out.
As with most such shows, the performances are what encouraged me to keep watching. Kaley Cuoco plays a character who is more down-to-earth and relatable than some of her other recent characters, and she meshes well with Chris Messina, an actor whose performances I've always enjoyed. (Recently, he also nailed his role as a spectacularly foul-mouthed sports agent in Ben Affleck's Air, and has received good notices as a grieving father in horror thriller The Boogeyman.)
Tom Bateman and Priscilla Quintana are pleasant surprises to me here, since I'm not as familiar with their past work. They each successfully capture the various layers of their characters to very good effect.
The show introduces certain elements that did not work for me at all, dipping far too deeply into unnecessarily unpleasant territory. On balance, though, Based on a True Story succeeds in creating an amiable comedy that hits most of its targets, even though it barks more than it bites.
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