One of The Best Shows You’re Not Watching
“A man, hell-bent on fulfilling a commitment to himself and others, jeopardizes his family and his life in order to follow through with it, becoming drunk on power in the process.”
If I asked you what TV show the above description matches, you would probably say Breaking Bad. It aptly fits the “man” in question, Walter White. But there’s another, more unlikely, TV show that this description suits: Comedy Central’s Review. During the final episode of the first season titled “Quitting, Last Day, Irish,” it dawned on me the similarities between the AMC drama and this absurdly brilliant half-hour series.
When Daly’s Forrest MacNeil lives like it’s his last day on earth and accidentally implies to his ex-wife Suzanne (Jessica St. Clair) that he is dying, the show suddenly takes on a grim, Breaking Bad-like persona. Suzanne believes her ex has an incurable brain tumor or similar disease, which explains his insane actions over the course of the previous weeks (creating a sex tape with a doll, getting addicted to cocaine, asking for a divorce). But Forrest is hiding a huge, bigger lie: that all of his actions are for the sake of reviewing life for a TV show.
Clearly, Suzanne is the Skyler, with Eric, their son, as the Walter Jr. Once Suzanne learns that he’s not dying and that he’s ruined their lives over a TV vanity project (that no one seems to watch since he’s rarely recognized in public), she splits with her son, moving to San Francisco to get away from her husband/monster/one who knocks.
As darkly hilarious as Review is, it’s also just as devastating to watch as Breaking Bad. When we first meet Forrest MacNeil, he is a happy-go-lucky family man, albeit an overt racist (“I was surprised to find like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense, spoiler alert, I had been a racist all along”) that’s exposed to the seedy underbelly of life like Kimmy Schmidt emerging from her mole hole. But soon, MacNeil becomes a part of the underbelly, engaging in hours-long orgies, becoming a part of the Mile High Club in front of his son, and catfishing his ex-wife. Like Walter White, Forrest seems to have little remorse for his actions because, ultimately, he is achieving his destiny. Each Review he makes is like a badge of honor.
The show is based on an Australian television series called Reviews with Myles Barlow and is pitch-perfect commentary on today’s review culture. You can audit anything, from dining to plumbing services, but there’s still no application that lets you critique life.
There has been some question as to what universe this show exists in. Vulture recently revealed 6 reasons why it takes place in purgatory. I’d like to believe the same with show producer Grant (James Urbaniak, aka Arthur from Difficult People) serving as Lucifer (although in a recent episode where Forrest is asked to review killing someone, Grant quickly intervenes and says he doesn’t have to do it, which is very un-Beezlebub-like).
Whatever universe this show exists in, I’m glad I live in one with it. Five stars.