Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Wait, What Even Is This New Netflix Show Renee Zellweger Is Doing?

It's called What/If and Netflix won't tell us what it's about for some reason

Liam Mathews

Netflix announced Friday that Renee Zellweger is the latest movie star it's enlisted to star in a TV show. Last week it was Paul Rudd. It's not a big deal. This kind of casting news barely registers anymore.

The interesting part is that the premise of the show, called What/If, makes no sense as described.

"Social thriller What/If explores the ripple effects of what happens when acceptable people start doing unacceptable things," Netflix's press release says. "Each season will tackle a different morality tale inspired by culturally consequential source material, and the power of a single fateful decision to change the trajectory of an entire life."

This is not how you do a press release. A press release should pique your interest and make you say, "Oh, that's an interesting idea. I would hypothetically watch that someday." This does not do that. It tells us literally nothing about the show. Let's break this down:

    "Acceptable people doing unacceptable things."

    This could describe I Love Lucy or Breaking Bad.

    "A single fateful decision that changes the trajectory of an entire life."

    This is just an inciting incident. It's a fancy way of saying "a thing happens."

    "Each season will tackle a different morality tale inspired by culturally consequential source material."

    I have no idea what this means. Is it inspired by Trump? Is it a show about people who retweet news articles and say "THIS IS NOT NORMAL?" I have no idea, because this description is vague to the point of incomprehensibility. And they're telling us about future seasons before they've even told us what this one will be.

    ​Renee Zellweger, The Tonight Show

    Renee Zellweger, The Tonight Show

    Theo Wargo, Getty Images

    The show will be written and executive-produced by Revenge's Mike Kelley, whose pitch may have been "What if we got Renee Zellweger to do a show?" He might still be working out the details.

    I understand the desire for secrecy. You don't want to spoil anything. But if you're doing a concept-driven show, you have to tell potential viewers what the concept is. There are over 1500 shows on Netflix alone, and if your one-line sales pitch is ineffective, we viewers are going to watch something else. We're so overloaded with options that if you can't even tell us what something is, you'll never make us care.

    Obviously, there's still plenty of time to tell us what What/If is. It'll be awhile before we see it. And I hope they come up with an idea so compelling even Leonard Washington from Chappelle's Show who has no idea who Renee Zellweger is will want to watch it.