Explaining Review — really, truly explaining it — is impossible. Here’s my best crack anyway: Review is a Comedy Central series that stars Andy Daly as Forrest MacNeil, a TV show host who reviews life experiences the way a critic reviews art, on a scale from one to five stars. The topics for his reviews come from the show-within-show’s viewers, and include things like traveling to space and public speaking. Things get very funny. Unfortunately for Forrest, the suggested topics also include things like leading a cult and catfishing someone and taking a human life. So things get very dark, too. Even the simple reviews usually go terribly awry, almost always in a way that you couldn’t have possibly seen coming. It’s a remarkable television program.
To date, the show has aired two seasons. The third, final, abbreviated season debuts on Thursday, March 16. Comedy Central has made every episode of the show available on its website, and you really should consider taking some time to watch some or all of them, whether you’ve seen them before or not. Below, I’ve made a list of some of my favorite reviews from the show (along with abbreviated YouTube clips of each), to give you a starting point if you’re just jumping in, or so you can yell at me for forgetting your favorite if you’re a devoted viewer. I’m fine either way as long as it means we’re discussing the show.
The brilliant thing Review does, almost all of the time (more on this later), is structure its two or three reviews in an episode so they become pieces of a whole, and then structure all those episodes together to tell one ongoing story. It’s like doing one puzzle every week and then taking those individual completed puzzles and placing them together to create one huge Voltron puzzle. So this review, from episode one of season one, introduces us to Forrest’s commitment to his show (by having him get addicted to cocaine), but the payoff of it all actually comes in another review from the episode about attending a prom. Still, there’s a soft spot in my heart for a deranged, coke-fueled Forrest shouting “COCAINE IS AMAZING. I GIVE IT A MILLION STARS,” so I think this is the proper place to start.
Being a little person
Everything about this is wrong. Forrest is asked to review what it’s like to be a little person and… oh God, it’s so wrong. But it’s also so perfect, because Andy Daly plays Forrest with this naive can-do cheer that makes it clear that he’s an idiot, and that the jokes are on him, not the group he’s portraying. This is an important theme in the show, as it’s what keeps it fun instead of making things mean. At one point Forrest lets a house burn down because he is too committed to reviewing the experience of being a little person to stand up and prevent it. That sentence becomes much funnier when you see it happen, I promise.
One of my very favorite bits from the show, and one the show can only pull off because of all the foundation it puts down about Forrest’s devotion to both his job and the structure of the show. A viewer asks him to review what it’s like to give something six stars, chaos ensues, and threatens to tear the entire show apart at the seams, and it all ends with him creating a sub-show within the regular show to skirt the rules and getting kicked in the jimmies twice by his co-host, A.J. Gibbs (Megan Stevenson). That’s the thing about Review: a lot of times, the tasks that seems the simplest cause the most wreckage.
The review of space travel contains one of the funniest and most shocking sight gags I’ve ever seen. I’ll link to it here. The short version: Forrest goes on a short civilian trip to space with his former father-in-law, played by Fred Willard. It does not go well.
Yup, Forrest goes to orgy. And shockingly little goes wrong. I mean, for Review. The joy here is in watching Daly taking this innocent, exceedingly polite character and turning him into a nude masked “f*ck beast.” Again, this show really only works the way it does because of his performance. Please note the thumbs up to the camera in this clip.
- Forrest is in jail as a result of another review
- Forrest is asked to review having an imaginary friend
- Forrest creates a friend named “Clovers”
- Another inmate “steals” Clovers and causes him to turn on Forrest
- I promise this makes sense within the context of the review
- Kind of
- Clovers meets a tragic fate
- It made me sadder than anything that has ever happened on Game of Thrones.
Perfect body/Leading a cult
I’m cheating here by combining two reviews. There’s no way around it. They’re so intertwined and they lead to one of the craziest and most hilarious scenes you’ll ever see. It’s embedded above. In it, a huge, steroid-riddled Forrest (who is also orange and has a giant deformed penis, as a result of a review of having a “perfect body”) storms a cult compound (that he created for a review of “leading a cult” and is now run by his former schoolteacher ex-girlfriend, who kicked him out and turned it into a heavily-armed militia) in a rage, at which point the police and FBI arrive and a firefight breaks out, leaving dozens dead and his father’s cabin destroyed via rocket launcher.
Review is a good show.
“Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes,” the third episode of the first season, is the moment this show went from funny to profound. This is a clip of Forrest’s review of getting divorced, which he does to his unsuspecting wife Suzanne (Jessica St. Clair). It is so awful and hard to watch, and it’s one of many horrible things he puts her through for the cause of reviewing life. But it’s also so important and vital to everything that comes after it, because it shows you exactly how far he is willing to go for his show, consequences be damned. Again, this could be so mean if not for Daly’s portrayal of Forrest, which makes it clear that he thinks he’s doing these things as an obligation to the greater good, and has to follow through even though it devastates him. One of the best episodes of television I’ve ever seen, comedy or drama.
Eating 30 pancakes
The culmination of “Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes.” After suffering through eating 15 pancakes in one sitting and, uh, divorcing his wife, Forrest is tasked with eating 30 pancakes. I think you should just go watch this episode. It’ll be better than me trying to explain it.
There all is aching
The rare standalone review. Forrest gets a request that contains only the phrase “there all is aching” and it leads him on a disastrous philosophical journey that devolves into madness. Then, there’s a reveal at the end that still blows me away to this day. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder at a TV show. As hard? Maybe. But definitely not harder.