‘Review’ Joins Comedy Central’s Winning Streak
Allie Tollaksen | Sunday, March 23, 2014
Comedy Central has done it again.
After introducing a string of quality new shows (“Broad City,” “@midnight”) and renewing series that have noticeably improved in recent seasons (“Kroll Show,” “Key and Peele”), the network has found another gem with new series “Review.”
Starring the tragically underrated Andy Daly, “Review” features Daly as “life critic” Forrest MacNeil. MacNeil is the hilariously ignorant host of a TV show in which he tries out and rates life experiences rather than books or restaurants. He tries everything from prom and hunting to addiction and divorce. As expected, these attempts at “reviewing life” go horribly awry, but always close with an earnest rating on a scale of five stars.
“Review” is adapted from an Australian comedy “Review with Myles Barlow,” and plays out largely as Forrest’s television show, “Review,” itself (think “Check it Out! With Dr. Steve Brule”). But while each episode begins and concludes with MacNeil and his co-host sitting in a beautifully gaudy, “Entertainment Tonight”-style green-screened room, we get behind the scenes looks into the making of the show-within-the-show as well as Forrest’s personal life. Forrest’s overly enthusiastic producer shows the chaos happening behind the scenes while his wife, who suffers through her husband’s twisted experiments, reveals Forrest as a wonderfully clueless family man.
Daly shows off his improv chops as Forrest, and it seems that the actor, who has been featured in small roles on television since the late 1990s (“Mad TV,” “Eastbound & Down”), has finally found a time and place where his smart satirical humor, improv skills and khaki-wearing-dad-aesthetic come together in harmony.
Each episode features three to-be-reviewed experiences sent in as suggestions from fans. After introducing the experience to review, the show cuts to segments in which Forrest fully submerges himself in the challenge. The greatest part about the show is the integrity and sincerity of idiot Forrest. Devoted to trying out anything thrown at him, Forrest goes all-out in each segment. He becomes a criminal and ruins relationships, but all with an admirable dedication to his craft. His unwillingness to turn down any challenge shows that Forrest actually cares about trying out life experiences, though he chooses those that should never be just tried out. Each segment is simultaneously offensive and heroic, then hilarious as it spins into absurdity with Forrest’s chipper voice narrating all the while.
Reviews of life range from silly, like being Batman or eating 15 pancakes, to downright grave and wildly inappropriate, including racism and drug addiction. But the juxtaposition of the dramatically different topics of review only up the humor. Already in the series’ three-episode run, “Review” has dabbled in topics that could easily turn horribly unfunny, but instead play out with only Forrest at the expense of the humor, a testament to Daly as a comedian.
The laughs lie not in the experiences themselves, but with the horrible repercussions felt by the foolish, privileged Forrest when attempting to dabble in them. Forrest is lovable in his steadfast attempt to qualify life experiences that aren’t his own, always with a smile on his face, but his blatant stupidity and arrogance makes his demise undeniably funny. This balance is struck expertly in the show’s first two episodes, making the third episode an incredibly funny and dark look at the unraveling of Forrest MacNeil. As the show moves from episodic bits characterized by funny segments to behind-the-scenes story lines that carry over from week to week, it’s clear that the excellent “Review” is just getting started — and is something you won’t want to miss.
“Review” is available to watch online at cc.com or on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.