‘Dispatches from Elsewhere’ reviews: AMC anthology series is inspired by a true story, but has a ‘Twin Peaks’ vibe

Fiction may be stranger than truth in “Dispatches from Elsewhere,” the new anthology series inspired by a true story that premiered on March 1 on AMC. It was created by “How I Met Your Mother” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” star Jason Segel, who wrote and directed the pilot episode and stars as a man who becomes entangled in a mysterious game that may just be a prank, but may be more than it seems. Does this dramatic turn from the usually comedic actor and writer appeal to critics?

Reviewers got the first four episodes, and as of this writing it has a MetaCritic score of 69 based on 10 reviews counted thus far: six positive and four somewhat mixed, but none outright negative. On Rotten Tomatoes, which rates reviews as simply positive or negative, the series is 75% fresh, but that’s based on only eight reviews, two of which are classified as negative. That’s too few reviews for RT to determine its critics’ consensus.

The first four episodes follow four different characters who become involved in the mysterious game: in addition to Segel as Peter, there’s musician/actor Andre Benjamin (also known as Andre 3000) as Fredwynn, Eve Lindley as Simone, and Oscar winner Sally Field as Janice. Also among the main cast members is recent Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?“) as the man behind the mysterious adventure.

The series is based on the documentary “The Institute,” which explored the real-life game that drew in 10,000 San Francisco residents over the course of three years starting in 2008. Critics say this fictionalized version has a “‘Twin Peaks‘ vibe” that’s “daring and different, but not dark.” The actors show “skill and charisma,” especially Field, who is an “absolute spitfire,” and Grant, who is “ominous” and “expertly calibrated.” The underlying mystery, however, can be “frustrating” and “the stakes become increasingly muddled.”

Are you excited for the series? Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow TV fans.

Rob Owen (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): “With a pilot episode written, directed by and starring series creator Jason Segel (‘How I Met Your Mother’), ‘Dispatches’ comes with a hint of a ‘Twin Peaks’ vibe but it’s more whimsical as it follows the ‘Wizard Of Oz’-like trajectory of four Philadelphia strangers brought together by a real-world alternate reality game … [It’s] daring and different, but not dark. It’s a rare feel-good contemporary series that’s not dumbed-down.”

Gwen Ihnat (The A.V. Club): “Does ‘Dispatches From Elsewhere’ arouse enough interest to keep us as hooked as the game’s players are? … Thanks to the skill and charisma of these players, ‘Dispatches’’ human moments resonate even in the midst of a murky swamp of absurdity. At this point, we should all just be happy enough to see Field do anything on the small screen: Her Janice is an absolute spitfire … [The series] not only offers a break from our own day-to-day world — it can also bring some new perspective with it.”

Caroline Framke (Variety): “The new AMC drama can be frustrating in its deliberate obfuscation; it’s a mystery that seems more concerned with crafting the trail of bread crumbs than with revealing where they lead. It devotes considerable time and energy to switching up its format, playing with dreamscapes, animated interludes, fantastical production design and an expertly calibrated performance from Richard E. Grant as the ominous and dapper puppetmaster.”

Inkoo Kang (Hollywood Reporter): “‘Dispatches From Elsewhere’ hopes to immerse viewers in the same sense of wonder and possibility that the game offers its characters. Even with its initial centering on airless, ersatz Peter, the pilot manages to arouse fierce curiosity about where the show could go and what it could do next. That energy gradually dissipates, though, as the stakes become increasingly muddled.”

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