Sometimes the bubbling cauldron of comedy creativity that is the Saturday Night Live writers room only boils over once the actual writers leave 30 Rockefeller Plaza. And while SNL could traditionally use a bit more conceptual weirdness in its mix of game show parodies, celebrity impressions, and Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump making fish faces, at least presumably thwarted sketch ambition bubbles up fruitfully elsewhere from time to time. Think Los Espookys, or pretty much everything Tim Robinson has ever done. And now add to that list Mapleworth Murders, the Murder She Wrote riff from co-creators, co-stars, and co-SNL writing veterans Paula Pell and John Lutz.
Premiering on Quibi, the series sees SNL, A.P. Bio, and Documentary Now! force of nature Pell playing one Abigail Mapleworth, a small town mystery writer who finds herself plunked down into a different small town murder investigation every time she takes a tea break. Born of Lutz’s own writer’s block in trying to come up with a project for himself (nice try, Lutz), the show became, instead, an ideal vehicle for friend Pell, at least once Lutz’s real-life wife and fellow 30 Rock scene-stealer Sue Galloway pointed out that Pell is “the funniest person we know,” and would slip perfectly into Angela Lansbury’s sensible, crime-solving shoes.
Telling old friend, fellow SNL veteran, and current boss Seth Meyers (Lutz writes for Late Night, while Meyers is E.P. on A.P. Bio) that working together again is a breeze of familiarity with each others’ comic sensibilities, the pair explained how their short-form comedy series’ parade of familiar SNL faces is similarly chummy and hilarious. Former SNL writer J.B. Smoove brings his inimitable improv skills to the town’s garrulous police chief (with Lutz as bumbling Deputy Gilbert Pewntz), while fans can look forward to seeing SNL all-stars like Tina Fey, Fred Armisen, Tim Meadows, Andy Samberg, Maya Rudolph, Chris Parnell, and more making appearances as guest suspects/victims. (On the non-SNL-but-still-hilarious side are other guests like Patton Oswalt, Ike Barinholtz, Nicole Byer, Wanda Sykes, Jack McBrayer, and seemingly every other funny person either Lutz or Pell have ever worked with.)
Speaking of indelible comic voices, Pell told Meyers that it was her idea to have so much “vibrator-adjacent” comedy built into her character’s spinsterly, clue-snooping existence. (Pell, as is her way, told about the recent mishap where her latest mail-order “artificial schlong in a box” purchase wound up on her elderly mother’s porch instead.) As her imperiously single Mapleworth seeks succor from her life of alternately fictional and actual murder with a drawer-full of handy and soothing “neck massagers,” Pell promises that comic relief will also come in the form of a late-series, Quibi-approved dual nude scene, with both her sleuth and Lutz’s Gilbert winding up topless in the cold. (No Pop-Tart-aided, NBC-mandated 30 Rock censorship for Pell this time.) Praising Lutz’s “nice pair pattern,” and explaining how the sight of it had the two of them “crying down into our bosoms laughing,” Pell teased viewers with the prospect of a whole lot of comically exposed flesh—and a coyote. It’s that sort of show.