April 14, 2017 by Devan Suber
How does one begin to describe “Review”? The premise is rather simple: the show follows Forrest MacNeil, the bookish, rather ordinary man played to perfection by Andy Daly, who hosts a show called “Review. You may know him from his numerous side gigs in television and film or from his numerous podcast appearances on shows like “Comedy Bang! Bang!” or “Superego.”
“Review” is no ordinary show, as Forrest explains in its opening: “I don’t review food, books or movies, I review life itself!” Indeed, Forrest has dedicated himself to the task of reviewing life experiences submitted by viewers and grading them on a scale from one to five stars. An impossible task, to be certain, and it’s this very dedication that has made the show (which recently finished up its final and surprisingly short season) one of the darkest, tragic and cringeworthy shows on television. It’s also the funniest thing you’ll watch this decade.
“Review” could’ve easily been an ordinary sketch show and still come out as one of the best comedies on television, with Forrest taking on topics like stealing (two stars!), going hunting (three-and-a-half stars) and being a racist (half a star). The turn towards genius came around its third episode “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes,” in which Forrest divorces his wife as part of a review (after which he proceeds to eat 30 pancakes) and slowly began to reveal that we would be seeing this all the way through.
The rest of that season became a glimpse into the downward spiral of Forrest’s life as he blundered through review after review, from the simple (road rage) to the oddly profound (There All Is Aching), the damage of each disastrous moment becoming fixed to him and everyone in his orbit.
Season 2 only ramped up the darkness, with Forrest’s stubbornness and dedication to a job that has almost killed him several times taking a toll on his family and everything he holds dear. Suffice to say, three had a high bar to clear.
It cannot be overstated just how funny this show is, especially after reading the preceding paragraph. The key to it all is Daly, effortlessly portraying Forrest’s likeable naivete and an enthusiastic attitude to the most questionable of tasks, as well as utilizing some truly great wails. Daly’s podcasting work has always been normal, somewhat nebbish characters who eventually reveal a dark, blackly comic background and Forrest is no different.
As season 3 reveals, Forrest is truly his own worst enemy, unable to see the destruction the show is clearly wreaking on his life. He’s alienated everyone who cares about him, yet he still hosts the one thing that’s causing it. The big joke of the series is that Forrest needs “Review;” it gives his life meaning. The final episode punctuates this in what is certainly the darkest joke an American television show has ever told.
Of course, one could argue that reviewing a show like “Review” is pretty much impossible, given how it pokes fun at the nature of criticism itself. The show heavily critiques Forrest’s own biases that he brings into every review, especially since almost every segment ends in extreme disaster for everyone involved.
Everyone is biased in some way when they review something, and no one will have the same experience as another person. “Review” takes this to a more existential place, and the result is often times brutal and unsparing in its depiction of its main character. But the result is truly the most insane and funniest television you may witness all decade. Five stars!