Star Rating:

The Watcher 16+

Streaming On: Watch The Watcher on Netflix

Actors: Naomi Watts, Bobby Cannavale, Jennifer Coolidge, Margo Martindale, Mia Farrow, Richard Kind

Release Date: Friday 14th October 2022

How do you know you're watching a Ryan Murphy series? It's when an overqualified actor is able to deliver the most overwritten dialogue while still managing to keep a straight face.

The premise of 'The Watcher' concerns your typical well-to-do city family who move to a gorgeous house in a quiet town, only to be greeted with a series of threatening letters and spooky goings-on that threaten to undermine their new fortress.

With horror, the premise of having your home being unsafe is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and Ryan Murphy and his team of writers manage to put their own spin on the trope of horror taking place in the familiar.

For fans of 'American Horror Story', 'The Watcher' may seem eerily reminiscent of the first season, 'Murder House'.

Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton have been subbed out for Bobby Cannavale and Naomi Watts, Jessica Lange has been swapped out for Margo Martindale and Mia Farrow, and the main plot beats concern the spooky goings-on at a beautiful house.

The driving force of 'The Watcher' is the Brannock family starting to receive strange letters from someone who calls themself "The Watcher", and soon, the terror starts to ramp up inside the house and ruining the lives of the occupants within.

If you ever wanted to see an 8-part series of that one Simpsons 'Treehouse of Horror' episode where the Simpson family do a spoof of 'The Amityville Horror', then 'The Watcher' answers your incredibly specific prayers.

The call is coming from inside the house

'The Watcher' succeeds in large part because of its brilliant cast, with Cannavale, in particular, selling the madness incredibly well while Naomi Watts puts in another solid shift in a project that doesn't necessarily deserve her talents.

Cannavale and Watts are actors who could make reading the phone book interesting, and the pair walk a very fine line between camp and high brow.

The fabulous Margo Martindale and a brilliantly dotty Mia Farrow inject the series with some pazzazz, and there is no better working actor today than Margo Martindale for being able to sell the most ridiculous lines of dialogue and making you totally believe every word she's saying.

Mia Farrow has been off our screens for the best part of a decade now apart from the odd television appearance, and Farrow has lost none of her spark, with her odd little asides some of the best parts of the series.

We are going to recommend 'The Watcher' off the back of the fantastic cast and performances, because we wouldn't recommend watching it for the story.

In typical Ryan Murphy fashion, the cast is overqualified to be spouting the same nonsense he usually makes his characters spout, and the story does the absolute most to tie itself in knots.

Doing the absolute most is the Ryan Murphy calling card, but this approach would stretch the patience of even the most ardent television viewer.

'The Watcher' tries to keep so many plot lines going, with some being dropped altogether and others given a disproportionate amount of focus and attention, and soon the viewer is reaching for the red string and notice board like the characters in the show.

The Netflix binge model works to the advantage of 'The Watcher', because you'll want to see what insanity happens next.

To the credit of 'The Watcher', just when you think you have a handle on the overarching mystery it totally throws you off the scent, and in a lot of ways, 'The Watcher' feels like a modern successor to 'Twin Peaks'.

And just like the original run of 'Twin Peaks', you are left with more questions than answers.

With the series having a dull as dishwater ending, it would have been mighty disappointing if viewers watched the show week by week and were greeted by the whiplash-inducing ending.

'The Watcher' is limited by it being a loose adaptation of a real-life case, but this begs the question - if you knew the real-life case had an unsatisfying ending, why make a television series out of it?

Not every show or film has to end with all of the plot points wrapped up in a nice bow, the films of David Fincher are incredibly good at leaving you wanting more, but Ryan Murphy is no David Fincher.

'Zodiac' managed to overcome the hurdle of people knowing that the real case was never solved, but it still managed to wrangle every last bit of juice out of the story, and still scare the pants off you.

In truth, 'The Watcher' runs out of road well before the final episodes.

There are a surprising amount of half-baked or underdeveloped plotlines in 'The Watcher', and it is strange that a showrunner at the level of Murphy would forget the very basic concepts of television writing.

If you leave too many dangling threads, the viewer is going to get frustrated at best, and call bullshit on the whole thing at worse.

'The Watcher' is what happens if 'The Staircase' was made by an AI - sure, all the basic storytelling tools are there, but it's missing the final push or TLC to cut out all the superfluous elements.

'The Watcher' had the potential to be a yuppie nightmare classic like 'Fatal Attraction' or 'Pacific Heights' where a rich upper-class couple endures terror from within their comfortable houses while wearing comfortable clothes, but that would demand a level of subtlety and nuance that is totally lost on Murphy.

The show may or may not get a second season - with Netflix, they may claim the show was viewed by more people than the moon landing and promptly cancel it mere weeks later - but there is enough manic energy to keep you watching, and we wouldn't say no to a second season.

At the very least, we will settle for a spin-off about Margo Martindale and Mia Farrow's characters.