This Year’s Best TV: Comedy – Review With Forrest Macneil
Spoilers Follow, I bet you can’t manage these spoilers. You couldn’t even manage a ham sandwich.
I’ve spoken before about how it’s hard to review straight comedy without it becoming just a list of what was and wasn’t funny. Especially as describing or explaining the joke stops it being so. It’s even harder to review something when it’s so close to perfect, that you can’t even think of much to say wasn’t funny, or at least not to me. It’s another problem, I can tell you how much this show made me laugh, you might not once, so I have to try and convince you that my opinion is such that you can trust me when I say Review w/ Forrest Macneil is the damn pure comedy of the year, that I am not kidding, I am not exaggerating and that I have not been paid to say so (I haven’t, though if anyone would like to…).
The premise of Review is that Forrest Macneil (as played to absolute perfection by Andy Daly) is a critic but of life experiences which he rates out of five stars (except for when he is asked to give a six star rating but to say anything more about that would be too great a spoiler even for this). Ably assisted by his… assistant A.J Gibbs (Megan Stevenson), he traverses people’s desires to do all sorts of interesting events so that we don’t have to. Whereas season one pushed Forrest into some dark places, I can recommend checking out the episode Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes to see not only what the show is about but the most structurally perfect piece of comedic escalation in years, season 2 takes its mantle and manages to somehow top itself at every turn. Building on Season One, we find a newly revitalised (after a brief dissappearance) Forrest taking up reviewing life again. The only real difference this time is that he now has the ability to veto two reviews over the season. It’s hard for me to explain in text how brilliant the Veto Booth is as a running gag but boy, it is brilliant.
What makes Review work is that at its heart, Daly has captured the essence of a man in Forrest Macneil. Forrest at times can come off as abrasive, cowardly and plain dislikable but there’s a certain sunny optimism, an undefeatable will to go on that endears the man to the audience. It doesn’t matter how much into the myre we are dragged in, somehow the programme manages to finely skirt the divide of making us want him to go further down as recompense and just to see how low he can sink but also hoping he will eventually win. Everything that goes wrong for him is ultimately his own causing but that doesn’t stop it still feeling like the world (or at least his producer, as played to hilariously terrifying fashion by James Urbaniak) is constantly dealing him bum hand after bum hand but he keeps on acting on his worst impulses because that’s what people want him to do. Then again, some times the nicest assignments turn out horrically so maybe he is actually just an awful human being. The fact I’m not sure is testament to Daly and Director/Co-Creator Jeffrey Blitz.
The saddest thing about the programme is that hidden away between re-runs of Two and a Half Men, it’s not going to get the attention it properly deserves on Comedy Central (though really you should be watching CC, between this, Nathan for You, and the triple holy grail of sketch comedy that was Inside Amy Schumer, Key and Peele and Kroll Show, the channel has some real comedic voltage at the moment). But it deserves a wider audience, then again I don’t know what a curio like this would do with on. Part of its charm is its very niche ability to somehow show cringe humour without being too uncomfortable, dark humour without trying to be ‘edgy’, even slapstick without being vaudeville. Almost what I’m saying is its too good for the, well the Two and a Half Men crowd, this is a show with emotional depth that chooses not to plum it too frequently as that’s not very funny. I tried telling you to begin with, I don’t really know how to sell this show beyond trust me it’s and trying to explain why would ruin it. So just go watch it, it would save me a lot of effort.
Last Week Tonight W/John Oliver
Parks and Recreation
Fresh off the Boat
Nathan For You