The Mirror, Crack’d
The unique comic persona of Andy Daly is underemployed in Comedy Central vehicle, “Review.”
By Michael Shashoua / Editor-in-chief; Photo by Michael Yarish
The new Comedy Central series “Review” which began airing March 6, begins with the premise that Andy Daly, as professional reviewer Forrest MacNeil, doesn’t review works of art, pop culture or restaurants, but life experiences.
Daly, a UCB alumnus, infuses the series as it unfolds with demonstrations of what a weird sad sack his character is. In segments from the second and third episodes, “Sex Tape,” “Racist” and “Divorce,” MacNeil’s flaws are revealed as he is forced to pursue or go through these life experiences so he can review them.
Trying to suggest to his wife, played by fellow UCB performer Jessica St. Clair (see review of her past show with Jason Mantzoukas, 11/18/05), that they make a sex tape, she’s of course horrified. So in bold pursuit of his job, MacNeil orders a sex doll to carry out his mission, and even that doesn’t go as you might expect.
In “Racist,” MacNeil’s true prejudicial feelings come to the surface after he assumes he has none before trying to act like a racist for the show. Both these scenarios do play out in the way UCB long-form improv tackling these topics might. And in a similar twist, in “Divorce,” MacNeil tells St. Clair, out of the blue, that he wants a divorce, to pursue that experience – only to find that might be what she wanted all along.
The way “Review,” conceived by Daly with a writing staff that includes Leo Allen (see interview, 3/4/08), plays out is often as dry as can be. The quirks of the main character, and even those of supporting players such as St. Clair and Megan Stevenson as the co-host of MacNeil’s show within the show, reveal themselves, but don’t pack the comedic resonance that they have in other TV series and live shows by UCB-spawned performers.
The concluding conceit of most segments or episodes, in which MacNeil gives the experience a rating on a five-star scale, also comes off a little dry and flat. “Review” is more successful when it tackles less weighty bits, such as MacNeil’s attempt to successfully gorge on pancakes – first 15 then double that. It is quite priceless when he returns to the same diner as a man on a mission the second time.
If “Review” makes it beyond its first season, it will probably do so more on the strength of bits like those, rather than the backstory-heavy segments. Daly is a great performer in the right contexts (a signature stand-up piece where he makes fun of the form itself, captured on the “Comedy Death Ray” compilation, and his role on “Eastbound & Down”), but “Review” needs to do a bit more to earn him five stars.
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