For two seasons now, Review has quietly been making a case for being one of the best shows on television. If the first few of episodes of its third (and final) season are anything to go by, it’s absolutely got it in the bag.
The premise of the show is fairly simple, and almost boring at face value. Forrest MacNeil (Andy Daly) has viewers write in with life experiences they want him to review, which he then does, and rates on a five-star scale. It seems innocuous enough — especially when Forrest himself is the very picture of sunny obliviousness — but as soon as the pilot kicks off (“Stealing; Addiction; Porn”), it becomes obvious that something is rotten in the state of Review. Over the course of the show thus far, Forrest has gotten a divorce, fallen into a coma, committed a murder, started a cult, and gone missing, among other things. His disposition, once simply sunny, now seems sociopathic. That’s not because it’s changed — it’s because it hasn’t.
Review is difficult to watch. Forrest’s actions and delusions cause a truly macabre (and easily preventable) amount of suffering, to the point that the show is less a comedy — though it certainly gets some hysterical laughs, mostly because I couldn’t believe what was happening — and more a tragedy of gothic proportions. The writing’s on the wall: Review has cost Forrest to the point that the life that he’s so intent on reviewing is all that he has. If he gives up on the show, he has nothing. But if he doesn’t, it’s probably going to cost him his life. As such, we want him to stop (and there are countless mechanisms in place to allow him a way out, from vetoes to simply quitting), but has anybody ever wanted their favorite show to end just as it was really getting good?
To its credit, the show takes care to remind us of exactly how much damage Forrest has wrought. As the third season begins, Forrest is undergoing trial for murder (in a near-cruel bit of reiteration, we’re shown the footage of the murder in question each time it’s brought up), and he keeps forcing himself back into his ex-wife’s (Jessica St. Clair) life despite the fact that, because of his devotion to the show, he asked for a divorce, got her father killed, catfished and humiliated her, and on and on. Every single review, as disparate as they all might seem, is tied together through Forrest, as each has had a destructive influence on his life and on everyone around him. They’re microcosms the likes of which other shows would generally get through in a season, or at least a multi-episode arc. Even the first episode of the third season, “Locorito; Pet Euthanasia; Dream,” is a rollercoaster.
In one of the show’s most remarkable devices, as Forrest’s life starts to break apart, so too does the show itself. For the most part, it’s stuck to its structure as a review show. Even the worst of Forrest’s experiences have still ended in the studio as he rates what he’s just gone through, but the straws have begun to break the camel’s back. Season two ended with “Conspiracy Theory,” in which Forrest seemingly lost his mind and threw both himself and his producer (James Urbaniak, brilliant, and even more so this season) off of a bridge. It was the first time in which the show seemed truly other, as the sequence was long and unbroken in a way the show hadn’t been before, and ended with just his co-host, A.J. (Megan Stevenson), in the studio. I won’t spoil how Forrest makes it back; what I want to address is one of season three’s early reviews: “Co-host.” Forrest cedes (reluctantly) to A.J., and it’s a jarring transition, as it’s made unavoidably clear just how abnormal Forrest’s behavior is (he always wears the same clothes, he doesn’t have any life outside of the show), and how we’ve accepted it until now as part of the program.
It’s been impossible to predict Review‘s trajectory over the course of its first two seasons, and the third is just as impossible to guess. (I imagine it won’t end happily, but at this point, who knows?) The only thing that’s absolutely certain is that there isn’t a single other show like it. It’ll be tough to say goodbye; hopefully there’ll be enough of Forrest left to say goodbye to. Review: five out of five stars.