Season 1 ended with Forrest quitting his life’s work and disappearing, an understandable course of action, given what Review had put him through. While simple request like “Quitting a Job” and “Having a Best Friend” were fitting arenas for Forrest’s enthusiasm to battle his dignity, the heights of his humiliation included orgies, hostage takings, and the accidental death of his father-in-law. “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes,” the third episode, was the perfect illustration of how Review’s simple setup allowed it to exploit Forrest’s masochism for not just laughs, but pathos and recognition. Forrest’s willingness to take on the world -even a world hell-bent on taking him down- was something to envy.
As the title of the Season 2 premiere, “Brawl; Blackmail; Gloryhole,” would suggest, this year’s batch of 10 episodes looks to be even darker than the last. Season 2 opens with Forrest once again hosting Review with Forrest MacNeil, his return inspired by fan outcry, and the promise that he’ll be allowed to skip two reviews this season. As before, A. J. Gibbs (Megan Stevenson) is on hand as Forrest’s indomitably chipper co-host, and the show’s producer, Grant (James Urbaniak), never misses an opportunity to enable Forrest’s obsession.
“Brawl; Blackmail; Gloryhole,” is a great episode to open the season on, not just because of how funny it is (the new title sequence alone will make you chuckle more than the entirety of other shows), but because of how it reveals the very thin line Review has to walk. Forrest’s commitment to the show has already made him leave his wife (Jessica St. Clair), get hooked on cocaine, and experience a lifetime’s worth of embarrassment; by the second episode of Season 2, he’s picking up a prostitute in a car occupied by his son and ex-girlfriend. Shamelessly hilarious as his dedication is, Forrest’s self-abuse can risk turning him into a caricature, or Review’s world into one too unlike our own.
The second segment of the premiere (featuring Fargo’s Allison Tolman) sees Forrest doing maybe the worst thing he’s ever done in the name of his show, but Daly always demonstrates a clear understanding of just how far he can push his persona’s naiveté. The third segment has the potential for a much nastier resolution than it provides, and stops short of invoking a “Rule of three” bit setup by the previous two reviews. Unlike the mind behind Review With Forrest MacNeil, Daly and company have clearly thought their actions through. Review and Daly make for such a terrific pairing not just because they’re both unpredictable, but because their tame exteriors belie one of the slyest and considered senses of humor on TV.
Review Season 2 gives plenty of evidence to suggest that the best days of the show, and the worst experiences for Forrest MacNeil, are still ahead.