Critical Condition: What/If

What/If | Netflix, from Friday

☆☆☆☆ “It’s tricky to explain Renee Zellweger’s new Netflix show What/If to somebody who hasn’t seen it, because it’s an exercise in diametrically opposed contradictions. It’s a sexy thriller, even though it’s about as sexy as slow-transit constipation. Its unique selling point is that it follows the consequences of actions, even though that also describes every single story ever told by anyone in the entire history of humankind. It’s a television series, even though its title is punctuated like a sub-tier early noughties boyband.And most importantly, I can’t stop watching it, even though I hate it.” — The Guardian.

☆☆☆What/If occupies a curious place on Netflix, a streaming service built on programming appealing to slivers of its audience. The niche What/If serves is people nostalgic for the non-niche: Big-tent, unsubtle soap storytelling. Creator Mike Kelley previously made ABC’s Revenge, and similarly, this is a programme whose broadness seems designed for broadcast. On Netflix, its sense of giddy, unashamed fun buoys it even as the seams show … A What/If that was 10% better would be immeasurably worse; as it stands, it’s a captivating bit of cheese, anchored by a star making the most of a very strange moment.” — Variety.

☆☆☆ “What/If shares much of Revenge’s glossy DNA — it, too, pits a dastardly diva against a sharp-minded underdog (Suburgatory’s Jane Levy) — but this time Kelley wisely chose to contain his soapy operatics to an anthology format. And as it turns out, limitations can be liberating. Based on the first half of the season, Kelley’s drama plans to burn hot, bright and crazy for 10 episodes before flaming out — if not spectacularly, at least on its own overblown terms.” — Entertainment Weekly.

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