Review has come to an end, which is news that’s worth a half star. But the fact that this weird, sad, painfully hilarious comedy was in our lives for three seasons (even if the final one only lasted three episodes) is worth five stars. I spoke with Review star Andy Daly about the series’ conclusion, reviews they never got to do (and reviews he wishes they had never done), how they decided on the right way to end poor Forrest MacNeil’s story, and more, coming up just as soon as I’m suspended in the ice for centuries…
So, as you just saw, Forrest was given the perfect opportunity to leave the show forever when ex-wife Suzanne asked him what it’s like to stop being a life reviewer and be with his family again, only for evil producer Grant to talk him out of it (with a guilt trip about the crippling injury he suffered at Forrest’s hands). So Forrest vetoes the review, keeps going, and right after he’s been asked — by an Australian man played by Phil Lloyd, creator and star of the original Review with Myles Barlow — what it’s like to be pranked, the show gets canceled out from under him, even as Forrest is convinced this is all part of the prank review.
While Forrest may be stuck in that studio forever, convinced that Grant will eventually pop out and yell, “Surprise!,” Andy Daly is very much aware of his own show’s end, and we talked about it here.
How close did it come to there not being this season?
I don’t know. The second season was done and it had aired and I wasn’t hearing anything. Then I finally, we got a call to go in and talk at Comedy Central. I really don’t know, but what I think happened was that Kent Alterman, who has always been the greatest champion of our show, didn’t want to let it go out at the end of season two like that. Really, really wanted to give us the best possible end to the show that we wanted to do. So I doubt there was ever a moment where Kent gave up on that.
So the deal was finally finalized and you’re going to have three episodes, which is not a long season. What did you and Jeff and Andy and everybody else put your heads together about what you wanted to accomplish over these three episodes?
At that point, we spent the first week throwing out every great idea that we could possibly wanna do in this amount of time. Crazy guest characters who would come in and interact with Forrest, all kinds of story lines. We started out week two saying, “Look. This actually translates to about 63 minutes, 66 minutes. We need to have a really streamlined, focused story about Forrest versus this show. And to just know where we’re ending and have everything feel like it’s servicing this story, which is a very basic story about the same conflict that it’s been from the beginning between Forrest reviewing life and Forrest living a life.” That moment of focusing on that and the conflict between the show versus Suzanne was very helpful to us in just cutting out all the chaff and just being left with the wheat, if you will.
Did you have from the previous two seasons, a list of unexplored review ideas you hadn’t gotten to yet?
Absolutely. There’s an accumulating giant box of them that is probably somewhere here in my office: Reviews we’ll never get to. There are so many cards. I don’t understand what all the cards are. Some of them are inexplicable, like one of them just says “What does Dr. Conrad Murray think?”
I don’t know. I don’t know what that means. One of the cards just says that. “What does Dr. Conrad Murray think?” Another one says “Pillow fight/blow job.” I don’t know what that means. We did end up doing pillow fights.
Is there one you were frustrated that you were never able to figure out how to actually put it into an episode of the show?
Yeah. I had this very vague notion that it would be fun to see Forrest take on a human project: that Forrest was just going to find somebody whose life to improve, and it would be horrible what he would do to this person’s life in the effort to try and turn this guy’s life around. But that was one. We talked about it a bunch, and I don’t know why we never did that one.
Are any of these ones in the final season ones that had been on the bucket list? Or were they all newly dreamed up for this?
Putting a pet to sleep was, actually, that was, for sure, a card that was just kind of on the wall for a while. What else? I’ll bet you there’s been a card lyin’ around for a long time that said “Helen Keller” on it. That one doesn’t sound brand new. And actually “cryogenic freezing” as well. I think, ’cause we started off the season by breaking open the box of old reviews and just pinning them up on the walls and then talking about the story we wanted to tell, staring at these cards on the wall and saying, “Well, maybe this review segment goes into this spot of the story like this.”
I’ll tell you one that was on the board for a long time this season and, thankfully, fell off the board at some point was “bestiality.” We were close to doing it.
What would that have involved, exactly?
Weirdly enough, I can’t really explain why, but this season we didn’t want to rent offices to write the show in. We rented an Airbnb in a neighborhood in Burbank that’s an equestrian neighborhood, where people are allowed to essentially keep horses in their backyards. So this was a house that was surrounded on both sides by horse houses and there were just horses running around while we were writing it. So it definitely would’ve involved horses. That’s where the idea came from, and God, we were stuck on that for a while because we were looking — it was in the spot that is currently occupied by “being struck by lightning” — for something horrible for Forrest to have to do in that moment. There were a few horrible things that were in there. “Getting hit by a car” was in there. Bestiality.
“Co-Host” felt, to me, like a little Easter egg or reward for the fans who’ve always wondered what AJ’s life is like. Forrest gets to experience that and she gets to go off and do the review.
That’s right. As a matter of fact, we had a segment fully written that we were gonna shoot in season one where Forrest was gonna quit the show at the end of the second-to-last episode and then the last episode was going to begin as “Review starring AJ Gibbs” because she was going to have taken over the show. Her first review was going to be “What’s it like to be a hip-hop mogul?” And, within the space of two weeks, she was going to become a billionaire and just have this extraordinary success of the show, where for Forrest every review is failure and she was, the first one out of the box, going to have a glorious success. Then she was gonna leave the show at which point Forrest begged to come back. But Comedy Central had what I think was a fair note, which was that, in a show this young, to mess that much with the format, seemed like pushing it a little too far, too early. So we changed things around season one, but we always did have this feeling that we wanna follow AJ. We wanna take her out of this room and see what she’s about and find out more about her. So this was our last opportunity to do it and it’s hard to do it when you really, because it’s a show in which Forrest reviews life experiences. So how do you learn more about AJ in that context? So the “Co-Host” review seemed like a way to do it.
She turns out to be a bad reviewer. She doesn’t do it.
Well, a bad reviewer but a good citizen of Earth.
This is true.
Because you can’t be both. You can’t be both a committed life reviewer and a conscientious citizen of the world.
It’s interesting to see her this season: She’s trying so hard to help out Forrest and point him to the vetoes or give him an interpretation of a review that would be less awful than the one he inevitably chooses, and he’s not having it.
I think she was probably affected by seeing him fall of that bridge like that. You can imagine her getting the call, “They have found Forrest, hurray! And he’s coming back to do the show.” “Really?” So I think from the beginning, her mindset is like, “What are we doing here? You nearly died yet again.” I think that feeling, for her, gets all the more reinforced after her own experience with ass-slapping where she just goes, “Oh, you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to do any of this.”
The co-hosting episode also made me wonder: Why is there a full men’s wardrobe backstage at Review?
In an early draft of that piece, they were sharing studio space with a Japanese game show, so there was a wardrobe in there for the host of this Japanese game show. So that was also going to be an excuse for having more and more ridiculous outfits that Forrest was gonna have to be trying on. In the effort to streamline the script and pack as much in as we could we just kinda decided, “Eh. Who cares why there’s suits backstage?”
Plus you were gonna be dressed as Helen Keller later in the episode anyway.
That’s true, yes. You don’t wanna see Forrest in AJ’s wardrobe, period. And to see him in AJ’s wardrobe the moment before we’re about to see him in a 19th century, frilly Helen Keller dress seems like a bit much.
When Forrest goes to talk to Grant about forgiveness in the next-to-last episode, we see Grant’s leg move a bit under the bed sheet. Is he running an elaborate con on Forrest about his paralysis?
We’d discussed in the room whether Grant was conning Forrest, or whether he began paralyzed and slowly recovered without revealing his recovery, or not that at all, that Grant’s condition is in fact permanent. Then we learned that paralysis victims often have muscle spasms or twitches anyway so when we saw this in the take, we decided it was an interesting thing to leave in — something that might signify something huge or might signify nothing at all. We loved the idea that the audience is in the same position as Forrest: never quite sure of what’s what in his world. Anyway, the bigger picture is: Forrest is his only true enemy anyway.
As you’re working on the season and you’re trying to figure out how to end it, were other ideas pitched beyond this awful, ironic, terrible ending that he has? Was there a happier one? Were there any worse ones? Did Forrest die? What else was pitched?
Everything was pitched but I will tell you how this idea started. One day on the set while we were shooting season two, we had had so many involved discussions about Forrest and Suzanne and what kind of a relationship they could possibly have at this point after Forrest has done so many terrible things to her and could Forrest and Suzanne ever be together while he is reviewing life? This was a major question that we kept asking in the course of season two. Jeff pitched the idea that the series should end with Suzanne hijacking the system and telling Forrest to review “What’s it like to live happily ever after?” or “What’s it like to stop reviewing things?” and then Forrest would go off and do that with her and that that is the way that the show would end.
As of midway through season two we knew that that is how we wanted to end the show. Then we got into a room together to make season three happen and suddenly that seemed wrong. It seemed too sweet. It just seemed off. So we did it but then we kept going. One ending, which was a very exciting ending, was that Forrest’s last review was gonna be “What’s it like to fly?” and he was gonna put on one of those flying squirrel suits and jump off of a cliff and simply never be heard from again. Which is a fun one. I think that’s death. Yeah. That was partly inspired by that documentary The Source Family, the notion of somebody just jumping off a cliff and it all being over. Those are the main endings that I can remember that we threw around before settling on this one.
Poor Forrest. Poor, poor Forrest. Just in that studio, alone, oblivious.
I know. How long do you think it takes him to figure out it was a prank? I think it could be up to a year.
Isn’t, eventually, that studio space gonna be given to another show?
Yeah, but he’s gonna assume that that’s part of the prank and that it’s becoming more and more elaborate and, at some point, “You gotta call off the joke, guys.” How long can he stay in that mode of denial? I think a long time.
How did you decide what Grant’s fate would be after the fall off the bridge?
I think the original idea of having Grant be terribly injured came about as a way to justify why they were gone so long, believe it or not. That it seemed like it would be easier to understand why they were living in the wilderness for months if one of them was paralyzed, which really is the beginning of that idea. Then it just seemed like fun to have Grant be punished and have all the more reason to take some kind of revenge against Forrest. That was sort of the idea. Actually for quite a while we talked about Grant being brain-damaged and Grant not having the power of speech. There was a little while there where we were thinking that Grant was going to be in an almost vegetative state and that Forrest was going to go have conversations with Grant where Forrest would then do the Grant part of the conversation. In other words he had taken Grant’s point of view into his own consciousness by then. That was something we were fooling around with but, like a lot of things in the planning stages of season three, it just felt like this is a little too complicated for the amount of time that we have. Let’s simplify. Plus you can’t take away from James Urbaniak the ability to speak ’cause he’s so great.
I know this is like asking about your favorite child, but do you have a favorite review across these three seasons?
That is like asking my favorite child. Of course the “Divorce” review is a hugely meaningful one to me because it is the moment when the show changed from more of a sketch show into more of a narrative show with real stakes and real repercussions and shooting that felt like shooting a Cassavetes movie. It was crazy and editing that was fun, so that one is very special to me. As is “Public Speaking” from season two, because that was an opportunity to stand in front of a room full of extras with the task of delivering an embarrassing disaster of a drunken speech. So that was wonderfully fun. I also loved “What is it Like to Give Something Six Stars?” I love where that goes. I love the pacing of that one is so fun to me. Of course “There All is Aching” is also a favorite one. Then I love “Pranks,” our final review of the series. I think that was such a great move. Our writer, Gavin Steckler, had that idea of that specific way of having Forrest find out his show has been cancelled. Prior to that, I think we were going to have him find out in the middle of a highly unpleasant task, getting hit by a car or having an unnecessary surgery. But having him learn it in the context of “being pranked” gives him the chance to not believe it and that was so much fun.
What was the most physically difficult review you had to do as Andy Daly?
No doubt, it was the rubber suit for “Perfect Body.” That was miserable. Getting fitted for the suit was a nightmare. It was like a latex rubber onesie that snapped down at the crotch and has long sleeves down to the wrist, which were then covered with latex rubber. The day that we shot the cult shootout was, of course, incredibly hot, and I’ve got these ridiculous teeth in that are hard on my mouth. I don’t think anything could compare to that as a misery index. Weirdly enough, shooting “Buried Alive” was delightful. I actually greatly enjoyed being put in a coffin underground in complete darkness. I got a kick out of it.
There’s a reference in the last episode to the fact that the ratings weren’t very good for the show-within-the show. This was unfortunately the case for the real show, too. What do you feel the show’s legacy ultimately is?
I think we have made such an intricate show full of so many jokes and plot points and real moments and large and small stories and interesting points that I feel like it’s an evergreen show. I think it will reward repeat viewers and binge-watchers for years to come. I hope that our performances will stand the test of time, as a good combination between grounded and real performances and comedy performances. I’m just incredibly proud of it and hope it will continue to have a long life.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org