Not even Renee Zellweger could save this disaster.
When Netflix released To All The Boys I Loved Before, the internet categorised it as your latest “guilty pleasure that’s so bad it’s good”. Now, this made me very angry at the time, because To All The Boys is an objectively good film, it takes everything I love from the 1980 romantic comedies of John Hughes and applied it to modern day which doesn’t require people to feel ‘guilty’ for enjoying.
I bring this otherwise irrelevant point up because the same cannot be said for Netflix’s latest series What/If. What/If is very bad. In fact, in my honest opinion, it’s so bad it’s not even 'so bad it's good'.
However, the whole reason I even chose to watch the show in the first place was down to the glowing reviews I read online. People were kind to the show, insisting that it is a guilt pleasure and comparing it to the likes of Dirty John and Dead to Me. But after completing the series, I have two things to say.
1. You should be feeling very, very, very guilty if you enjoyed this show
2. Never have I wished to be a quitter quite so much in my entire life.
It wants to be a chicer, more thrilling version of Revenge (they were both created by Mike Kelley) but instead of knowing how ridiculous it is and leaning into that, What/If is clearly trying very hard to be taken seriously.
Some people have gone so far as to justify how bad it is by questioning whether it’s bad on purpose...I do not buy these arguments. If it were that – they would have told us that by now. Instead, this is just a show that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever and seems like it was written by a first-year secondary school student in English class.
In short, the premise for the show is this: Anne Montgomery (played by Renee Zellweger) is an extremely rich venture capitalist who operates by her own rulebook. She believes in taking control of your own fate and advises against "believing that all your efforts - personal, professional, carnal - are utter and absolute slaves to some cosmically predetermined set of outcomes." We learn this from the opening monologue. Red flags anyone?
We also have Lisa (played by Jane Levy), who has sacrificed everything she has for her biotech company which essentially wants to cure cancer (!). Lisa is married to Sean (played by Blake Jenner), your typical American 'dude' who is a former baseball player turned paramedic/bartender (not sure either) who dreams of being a firefighter.
Sadly for Lisa, she still needs a lot more money to see her company survive. Cue Anne Montgomery. Anne overhears Lisa complaining about her issues with funding one night at the bar Sean works in. So, naturally, Anne approaches Sean saying she’d be interested in helping out.
Cut to a scene where Anne offers Lisa her start-up $80 million in funding, in return for being able to spend a night alone with Sean. At this point, the show tries to be self-aware by having Lisa dismiss the offer and say; "This whole idea was ripped right out of a bad 90s movie." To which Anne responds; "I thought that film was actually quite decent". Spoiler: it wasn't and neither is this.
The show then goes onto to follow the fallout from Lisa and Sean’s decision to accept the offer as well as weaving in many other dramatic plots involving secondary characters that, to be frank, are simply unnecessary.
If that wasn't enough, it also features low-budget shots of thunder and lightning because how else would you know something dramatic is happening? Oh, and there's more. The script treats us to cracking lines such as "The tree's suffering proved its opportunity". I wish I was joking.
The single redeeming feature of the show is Zellweger. Who makes a question for a secondary question: why on earth did she sign up for this? She makes some of Anne's most bizarre lines seem somewhat compelling, and swans about the mansion in some rather spectacular outfits as if this was the role she was preparing for her whole life.
The plot, the cast, the forward slash in the tile - it's all so confusing. But the one question I have after binging What/If is why on earth did Netflix buy this?
Oh and as for these season 2 rumours? Kill it before it lays eggs.