Renée Zellweger acts rings around everyone else in this oddity of an anthology series.
Sometimes bad television happens to good actors. There’s no other way to rationalize what’s happening in What/If, a show in which Renée Zellweger is biting off chunks of scenery, shredding them with her dainty white teeth, and digesting them on camera while everyone else sits limply in her shadow. It’s not fair, really. There’s Zellweger—one Oscar, three Golden Globes, and three SAG Awards to her name—reaching the highest echelons of glorious diva-dom in her portrayal of Anne Montgomery, a superstar venture capitalist/amateur archer/revenge-plot architect. Then there’s the rest of the cast, drably saying their lines out loud with all the effervescence of powdered whey.
What/If, whose 10 episodes arrive on Netflix Friday, is a perplexing thing to think about, or to try to synopsize. In its heart it’s an ABC drama from a decade ago, splashy and soapy and steeped in pathetic fallacy. (Mike Kelley, who created What/If, was last seen on TV spearheading the 2011 ABC show Revenge, a loose, Hamptons-set update of The Count of Monte Cristo.) Jane Levy plays Lisa, the head of a struggling start-up that wants to revolutionize “molecular sequencing” in drug protocols for cancer patients. Blake Jenner is Sean, Lisa’s inanimate lunk of a husband, a former baseball player with secrets. Sean is tending bar one rainy evening when Anne Montgomery makes him an offer he can’t refuse: If he spends the night with her, she’ll fully fund Lisa’s company.