Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
The upcoming television calendar is crowded with exciting series returning for their third seasons after long-bemoaned hiatuses, but Andy Daly’s Review is jumping the gun with its three-episode conclusion beginning March 16th on Comedy Central.
The masterful season 2, which concluded with the future of the series uncertain, had a closed yet somehow open ending with the beloved Forrest MacNeil (and his fans) puzzling over just how far the conspiracy governing the show’s entire nature went. The third and final season appears set to bring things to a conclusion that looks a little more like Return of the Jedi after last season’s wicked Empire Strikes Back, but the meta-confusion at the heart of Review can still be heard loud and clear.
While Forrest’s success in peering into life’s quandaries grew, he saw himself increasingly marginalized by co-workers, family, and friends (online or otherwise) in the show’s hilarious series of “randomly” guided tasks that he commits himself to with full force — and full lungs. The third season’s central cast of characters are mainly Forrest’s bizarre office co-workers, who seem as gleeful about the show’s conclusion as are Comedy Central and all the fans watching. Forrest’s intern Josh (Michael Croner) has grown even closer to his stay-scheming partner in crime Tina (Hayley Huntley), and the games they play with him are more and more difficult to understand.
Since Forrest’s external bonds have weakened, he’s more reliant than ever on this pair to aid him in the life tasks he’s “assigned” to review on a 1-5 star scale. And given where his tasks seem headed, that’s a dangerous combination. Thankfully, his roguish producer Grant (played with masterful progression over three seasons by James Urbaniak) has also been found after the unexpected descent of season 2’s conclusion and has further plans to meddle with Forrest’s psyche.
When Urbaniak first appeared as Grant in the archetype-shattering third episode of the series, there was no way of knowing how far his silent hand went in manipulating the sequence of seemingly pointless tasks that now make up Forrest’s entire life.
Watching these twisted characters play games with Forrest will educate and entertain audiences in the uniquely charming fashion that’s made Review the gold standard for self-philosophizing comedies while so many others compete for the crown in the peakest television age. But just as before, it’s Forrest’s reviews themselves that deliver the strongest laughs. There’s no reprieve from the downward spiral that’s had him sinking further since his murder arrest. Forrest will have to navigate the repercussions while his self-assigned burden of reviewing everything life has to offer keeps getting in his way. Any other show’s central character would be taking the final season as an opportunity to bring their journey to a close, but instead, Forrest pushes harder on what makes him unique.
It wouldn’t be a satisfying conclusion for Review though without a strong send-off for co-host A.J. Gibbs (Megan Stevenson). For two seasons, as Forrest’s barely-appreciated partner in presenting the show-within-the-show, Stevenson has excelled in grounding Forrest’s less easily tethered experiences and keeping the (real life) audience from getting sucked into the show’s puzzling logic too deeply. Her pitch-perfect satirical performance comes full circle in season 3 in one of the series’ best sequences to date.
Most of all, Review’s swan song bids a fond farewell to Andy Daly’s unforgettable creation in Forrest MacNeil. Though superficially adapted from an Australian series, this edition of Review sits at the top of the pile of great comedies thanks to the keenly observant performance of Daly in the lead role. A simpler, more bankable version of Review’s difficult-to-comprehend concept would resort to Homer Simpson-lite antics and constant innuendo to make each half hour a fully contained and separately appreciable episode of comedy television. But the arc of Forrest MacNeil and the surprising highs and lows of his journey are what makes the series one worth rewatching for the ages.
You don’t need to be a life — or television — reviewer to see some of yourself in Forrest. Anyone who’s taken a wild chance on such an indecipherable task has likely bothered friends or family in the same oblivious ways as Forrest does. But by embracing failures as part of an ever-evolving process, Forrest and his followers have a method of persevering through their mountainous challenge.
Ambitious as Review is, the three-episode arc (two of which were screened for critics) is inevitably somewhat hurried, but the meta-weirdness and direct thrills alike both remain. Forrest will sadly be missed, but may never be forgotten.
A golden comedy for the “peakest” television age, Review defies the odds and comes back to tie a meaningful bow on its unbeatable first two seasons.