Review is one of those Comedy Central shows that has me telling everyone I know “The first episode’s fine, but stick with it! It’s gonna get amazing.” It’s rare for a comedy pilot to totally click on all cylinders from the get-go, but in the case of Review, it’s essential that audiences give it a real chance, because with every passing week it becomes clearer what an incredible arc star and creator Andy Daly has planned for the season.
The show is inspired by an Australian comedy, Review with Myles Barlow, about a man who will “review” any life experience suggested to him by viewers, be it stealing, paying for sex or murder. Daly’s character, renamed Forrest MacNeil, takes on topics like “addiction” in the first episode, and that’s where the genius of the show kicks in—you immediately realize that making this show is going to ruin this man’s life.
While the Australian version was apparently lighter on serialization, Daly and his fellow writers understand that the more we feel the consequences of Review, the better it is. While Forrest presents his show from a green-screen studio, he also has a confused wife (Jessica St. Clair of the dearly-departed Best Friends Forever), father-in-law (Fred Willard) and son along with an eager-if-severe producer (James Urbaniak) and an annoying intern. Clearly all will be alienated and horrified by the end of the season.
The first two episodes are funny, but they stick to a three-review formula without any huge impact on Forrest’s life outside of major embarrassment. But without spoiling too much, it’s the third episode where the consequences of this insane experiment he’s running become clear. Just look at the title: “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes.” Forrest faces both physical and emotional harm in a half-hour that has to be an early frontrunner for funniest TV episode of the year.
Daly has been floating around for a while in search of the right project. Some may remember him as the viciously repressed Principal Terrence Cutler in Eastbound & Down, others as the announcer from Semi-Pro, others as a noted UCB improviser who is one of the best guests (always as some demented character) on Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang Bang podcast and show. With Review, he’s managed to find the perfect vehicle for his comic persona—a buttoned-up guy who maintains a pained smile even as he’s subjected to unimaginable embarrassment and emotional torture.
In the past, these vehicles for somewhat-well-known comedians would get a barely-advertised six-episode run on Comedy Central followed by swift cancelation, but the network has done a better job recently of nurturing its shows. A few years ago, I couldn’t imagine the network with a lineup like Kroll Show, Key & Peele, Nathan For You, Inside Amy Schumer, and Broad City, but now there’s a clear commitment to quality that was once lacking. Review absolutely deserves to be part of that long-term plan.