Friends, if you’re a friend of mine you know that I’ve been a big, big fan of Andy Daly for years now, so when I found out two years ago that Comedy Central was going to give him his very own show I started doing that thing where I am too excited to function, but don’t want anybody to know about it. Then a funny thing happened: the show didn’t come out last year like it was supposed to and it didn’t come out later last year like it might have. I started to doubt that it was going to happen. I started to think that Review with Forrest MacNeil was just some kind of fever dream I manifested into my conscious mind through the sheer power of wanting it to exist.
Then, not too long ago, Comedy Central announced that Review would have a premier date (for real this time) and that day was March 6th, 2014. If you’re the type of person that knows what day it is you’ll realize that today is March 7th, 2014; which means that last night the world at large finally got to take a look at Andy Daly in the role of life-experience reviewer Forrest MacNeil. And, between you, me and the wind, it was… it was… well let’s just dive into it.
When you admire the work of somebody as much I do Andy Daly’s, the expectations for something like Review go through the roof the second it is announced. Those expectations become almost precipitously high when you, the mega-fan, has to wait 2 years before you get to take a look at the thing. By the time I settled in to watch last night’s premier episode I was humming with expectation and energy, and for a brief moment it crossed my mind that there was no way in hell Review would meet my lofty goals.
Guys, it totally did. Like, holy shit did it ever take my expectations, put them in a bunch of heavy coats and walked them into the ocean until they were too tired to swim back to shore.
The premise of the show is simple, Daly, as Forrest MacNeil, is a typical, straight-faced and khaki-clad newsman that is tasked with reviewing different life experiences. The only way for MacNeil to honestly review the experiences is to get out there and actually do them. If he’s reviewing cannibalism he’s got to go out and eat a human. It’s simple and effective.
In the first episode he took on stealing, addiction and prom; which all seem to be disconnected on the surface of things, but Review went and did something I was in no way expecting: it had continuity between the segments. If the show had put Andy Daly in a series of weird circumstances that resulted in him slowly unspooling until things became super dark I would have been happy enough, but Review did more than that. It wasn’t much, just some nods to what had happened earlier in the show, but it was enough and I fully expect they’re going to keep it up with the remaining episodes. That’s just exciting, because Andy Daly is the type of performer that commits so fully to his characters and is so incredibly capable of building complicated worlds for them to exist in that Review would be a far less fitting vehicle for its star if it didn’t take advantage of all those abilities.
Speaking of Andy Daly, I’ve been indulging in a little hero worship as of late. I cannot honestly tell you how much I love that man’s comedy. His first album, Nine Sweaters is one of the most amazing pieces of character-based comedy that I’ve ever, ever listened to. His multiple pop-ins on the Comedy Bang Bang podcast are masterclasses in how to stay in character while making everybody around you look good. His new podcast, The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project; which features an all-star lineup of improvisers jumping into the worlds of some of Daly’s most famous (and fucked up) creations is stunning in its ability to go to dark places while remaining hilarious at all times. That’s the thing about Andy Daly that sticks out to me the most: he can take insane, preposterous dark turns in his comedy, but it is never “dark for the sake of being dark” it is always in the service of the scene and the base reality it is taking place in. Boy, that’s just some great stuff, and it is always, always awe inspiring to me to see somebody working at the top of their intelligence. Andy Daly is always working that way, and comedy fans are better for it.
Back to Review…
The show is smart, funny and has ingeniously put a lot of talent around Daly to level the playing field and to pull focus from him as needed. Even though Jessica St. Clair and Fred Willard have very little screen time in the first episode, the impact they make when they are on camera is immediate and refreshing. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the supporting characters in Forrest MacNeil’s life fleshed out more and more as the series continues, because to really know what’s going on Forrest’s head and why he’s doing what he’s doing, we’re going to need to see the people he spends his free time with. Review seems to be willing to do that, even if it is just a little bit, and that is exciting.
As much as I love weird, dark humor for the sake of weird, dark humor, I enjoy world-building and character creation all that much more. It allows for the comedy to land on a much deeper level for the given viewer, and while there are plenty of gags that a casual watcher can tune into and giggle at, I’d advise that you commit to this show the same way Andy Daly commits to all of his various character creations. If you do, the experience is going to take your breath away and you’ll find yourself laughing at things you didn’t think you’d ever find funny.
That’s why Andy Daly and Review with Forrest MacNeil exist: to lead us into a dark night of the soul that we spend giggling like jackasses, because when all is said and done, if we’re not laughing at the dark we’re lost in it.