“In the Dark” isn’t subtle about wanting to be, as the CW would put it, daring and defiant. Corinne Kingsbury’s new drama brands its heroine so aggressively as an anti-heroine that hardly a scene goes by without a reminder that Murphy (Perry Mattfeld) is a surly alcoholic with a taste for one-night stands and crippling emotional immaturity. She is also blind, a fact that the show alternately treats with respect and as an extra winking twist on TV’s default sighted protagonists. (Mattfeld herself, it should be noted, is not blind.) What’s more, Murphy embarks on a potentially dangerous mission to find out what happened to her friend Tyson (Thamela Mpumlwana), a teenager who once saved her from a horrific mugging.
Mattfeld does her best to cut through Murphy’s stubborn disaffection in order to find the stung woman underneath, even though the scripts barely give her any room to do it in between scowling cigarette breaks. Of course, Murphy has her concerned friends and family to point as much out, including her long suffering roommate Jess (Brooke Markham) who has to act as her “bar eyes” when Murphy’s itching for a new guy to dump within hours. (She barely needs to, really; a handy “In the Dark” rule of thumb is that any man onscreen who isn’t related to Murphy will end up wanting to sleep with her sooner rather than later.) Before long, a guy the show pushes hard as a worthy contender shows up (Casey Diedrick), insisting that Murphy let down her walls and just commit to him already like they didn’t just meet. He, like the show itself, tries so hard to win us over that he more often ends up inspiring the opposite reaction.
Every so often, though, “In the Dark” does find the groove it’s looking for. This happens most often when Murphy’s paired with Chloe (Calle Walton), a blind teenager whose well-meaning father (a perplexing, stranded Rich Sommer) isn’t sure how to acknowledge her disability without accidentally condescending to it. Chloe brings out another storytelling gear for the show and a (slightly) softer side of Murphy that, given how hard the show goes in proving her anti-heroine bona fides otherwise, often comes as a relief.
Overall, “In the Dark” is a clear attempt on the CW’s part to lock into the “adult dramedy” genre in order to fill the vacuum that “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” will leave behind as they come to a close this spring. But those shows had specific identities of their own from their very beginnings. “In the Dark,” to its detriment, is so determined to mash up several cliches into one series that it has real trouble coming together as its own entity.
“In the Dark” premieres Thursday April 4 at 9 pm EST on the CW.