Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Cable has treated writers, directors, and actors kindly for a good long time now, but in terms of volume, no group may have benefited more from the shift toward small-scale television than comedians. From Lucy, to Cosby, to Seinfeld, having your own show used to mean committing half of your year to a network’s schedule. Now, bite-sized season orders and fracturing markets mean that the spoils of cable can be shared by more comedic voices than ever. Comedy Central’s Review was one of last year’s best, laugh-out-loud funniest surprises, and Thursday’s premiere gives little reason to expect anything less than an equally hysterical Season 2.
The secret to Review’s success (which also helps distinguish the show from the Australian series on which it is based) is that it’s the purest delivery system for the mad genius of comedian Andy Daly. With a background as both educated dramatist and member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Daly is flexible as Silly Putty: pull him in whatever direction you like, and he’ll adapt.
Daly’s slightly mussed, sandy hair and utterly unassuming features have made him a fine straight man in bit parts. But even in these small roles, it’s the hints of derangement percolating under the milquetoast mien that compel you to keep an eye on him. That hidden madness was once best harnessed via podcasts, where Daly developed a seemingly endless parade of ridiculous characters on shows like Comedy Bang! Bang!, and his own Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project. It takes unhinged inspiration to come up with characters like Dalton Wilcox, the foulmouthed Poet Laureate of the West, or Byron Denniston, a British royal watcher and practicing Satanist; it takes unparalleled improvisational dexterity to play both, and another dozen other characters, all at the same time.
What made Review such a treat in 2014 was its nine-episode exploration of perhaps Daly’s greatest creation, Forrest MacNeil. Review’s premise proved an ingenious situation comedy generator for what proved to be the ultimate Daly character. The star of show-within-the-show Review with Forrest MacNeil, Forrest’s job was simple and absurd: experience, then rate, whatever task his viewers would set him to. Forrest, with his tan, two-button jacket and math teacher spectacles, would always go into his reviews a dope, and come out the other end having attained a bit of insight for himself, while providing plenty of opportunities to laugh at how gamely Forrest would destroy his life for the sake of his show.