The thing to keep in mind when settling in to watchDeath Comes to Town for the first time is that this series is not sketch comedy. In fact, it barely qualifies as comedy at all. The Kids in the Hall made their name peddling a brand of humor that was very much devoid of narrative structure; maybe there would be a recurring idea here or a consistent character there, but for the most part, the Kids leaned on their sly delivery, odd characterizations and utterly bizarre imaginations to deliver the laughs.
When the team tried to combine their comedic approach with a story – as they did with 1996’s Brain Candy – they failed pretty miserably. Yet, with Death Comes To Town, the focus is almost purely on the story. Hell, it’s a murder mystery, so they end up trying to drive a cohesive story arc for eight half-hour episodes. They don’t completely succeed.
Stocked to the brim with a baffling array of new and classic Kids characters, Death Comes to Town feels like a Canadian take on “The League of Gentlemen” or “Little Britain”: outlandish and occasionally grating characters orbit around a central plot that alternates between being on-the-nose (who killed the mayor?) and incomprehensible (why is the Grim Reaper hanging out in a hotel?). The astonishing number of characters that are poured into the eight episodes are, for the most part, all played by the five Kids (of course, the women are too), and while such role-switching works in five-minute comedy sketches, it winds up (especially during a DVD marathon of the episodes) muddling the viewer’s ability to play along. Which wouldn’t be too terrible if the jokes were flying, but it appears that the Kids have moved beyond punchy surrealism and into a sort of aggressively cynical weirdness that ends up subverting both the humor and the narrative.