TV: Review - Reviewed

Liam reviews Review. Yeah, that's what I said. A review of Review. 

The great English theatre critic and writer Kenneth Tynan once said, “A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.” When I read this quote, I couldn’t help but think of two people. The first person I thought of was myself because I think I know the way and I can’t drive a car. The second person I thought of was a critic by the name of Forrest Macneil. If you don’t know who Forrest Macneil is, that’s okay. Forrest Macneil is the protagonist of one of my favorite TV shows on right now, Review. Review is a comedy mockumentary series that airs on Comedy Central. It is a remake of an Australian show of the same name, although I would argue that the American version is far superior. 

Don't ever fear the fist. 

Review is about Forrest Macneil, a critic who doesn’t review books, movies, or television. He reviews life itself. Viewers request Forrest to review the things that they haven’t experienced. Whatever life experience you want Forrest to review, he will do it. No matter how hard it is.  He rates this reviews on a scale from one to five. His reviews range from subjects including drug addiction, racism, divorce, eating a lot of pancakes, glory holes, starting a cult, and much more. As expected, these reviews do not go well and end up hurting Forrest and his family and friends, both professionally and personally.  

As a show, there is a lot to like about Review.  The show is well written with every joke not only being funny, but also serving the story. The jokes in the show are often gut bustlingly funny and there have been at least three episodes were I have had to rewind to catch dialogue from laughing so hard.

The other thing that is great about the writing of the show is the balance of comedy and drama in the show without having one over power the other. The life of Forrest Macneil is not a happy life and the show does a great job of showing the consequences of Forrest’s actions.  The third episode entitled Divorce is a great example of this. This episode is not just heartbreakingly sad, it finds away to make the character’s sadness into a joke that is both funny and cruel.  A lot of show struggle with this balance as sometimes you don’t want to make your viewers to sad but Review does a great job of making sure that both elements get their time in the sun.

My nips are super sensitive!
The performances in the show are hilarious and poignant. Comedian and creator of the show Andy Daly plays Forrest Macneil as a tragically comedic man of principle, dedicated to finding truth in a senseless and chaotic universe. To him, every Review must be authentic, even if it ends up destroying him. He is overly dedicated to his job and has a tendency to take things way too far.  Forrest is a man of constant sorrow, sacrificing his happiness for a show that no one else besides him seems to be all that invested in. It is such a great performance and it carries the show. Daly does a great job of making such a broad character archetype (the pretentious doofus) feel like a real human being while also being hilariously funny.

The rest of the cast of this show is great too. His eager co-host AJ Gibbs (Megan Stevenson) doesn’t seem to care all that much about what happens to Forrest. She secretly seems to even enjoy watching Forrest tear his life apart. His sleazy producer Grant Grunderschmidt (James Urbaniak) wants Forrest to keep going farther and farther in his reviews.  He takes advantage of Forrest’s willingness to be a trendsetter and uses it for the network’s and his own financial gain. 

The only people who really care about Forrest and his well-being are his long-suffering wife Suzanne (Jessica St. Clair) and his father (Max Gail).  Both Suzanne and Forrest’s father add humanity to the show and are the voice of reason. They beg Forrest to abandon his show and to stop destroying himself. Unfortunately for them, Forrest is committed to the bitter end.  St. Clair gives a heart wrenchingly sad performance in the Divorce episode I mentioned earlier. It is the most deeply uncomfortable and sad scene in the show and St. Clair and Daly do a great job of making it feel real and portraying the sadness of a relationship fall apart, even if it is for something as dumb as a review on a TV show. All of these characters and their excellent performances add to the authenticity and comedy of the show while also grounding the more absurd bits in some semblance of reality.

Someone made a mess in here!

There are two brilliant seasons of the show that you can stream right now on Hulu and it can be bought on iTunes. There is a third and final season on the way later this year. It is a shame that not many people have seen this show as I think it is genuinely one of the best comedy shows of the last decade.   I would chalk that up to the poor marketing and the fact the marketing made this look superficial and one dimensional as the show itself is the complete opposite of that. The jokes are hilarious and the characters are interesting and funny. It is smartly written and smartly made. Review is absurd, sad, and most importantly: funny as hell.  I would recommend it to anybody who wants to laugh at some comedy that it is not afraid to go into places that other comedies won’t go into.

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-Liam S. O'Connor