Review was one of last year’s pleasant surprises in its inaugural season. It became a cult hit and a critical darling, based on the fact, one assumes, that it rises above its trappings. It looked, on the surface, like a sketch show about a guy having various crazy adventures every week. However, Review ended up telling an ongoing story, one that saw its lead character, Forrest MacNeil, completely unravel. It was well-crafted and very sharp, paying off quite well in the end. Of course, it also had Andy Daly for a lead, and he was amazing, giving one of the funniest performances on TV. However, could they capture that magic again for a second season? The first season tied together so neatly, that tacking on to it almost feels like a shame, even if it is great to see Forrest back in action one again in “Bare-Knuckled Brawl; Blackmail; Glory Holes.” The one tough thing about reviewing Review is those lengthy episode titles.
Despite the turmoil that ended season 1, season 2 basically just jumps right back into the action, with Forrest and A.J. in that weird netherworld of a studio Forrest gets his assignments in. We also find out that Forrest gets two vetoes this year, but he does not use one on his first review topic, getting in a bare-knuckled brawl. It’s a short bit, but it still encompasses the heart of Review. We see Forrest, looking bland as ever in his tan suit, walking around with his fists cocked, waiting to punch somebody, which Daly wrings every ounce of humor from. Then, he does punch somebody, and for his troubles he gets shot repeatedly.
This leaves Forrest in a coma, which gives the show the chance to have everybody stop by to see him, including a couple new characters such as intern Josh’s girlfriend. Also, Forrest falls in love with his nurse, played by Allison Tolman. In classic Forrest style, he refuses to regret not vetoing this topic, finding it to be an important service he has done, giving it two and a half stars.
Tolman sticks around for the second topic, which is blackmail. Like most things, Forrest is bad at blackmailing, but when he realizes he could blackmail his now girlfriend, who takes pills from the hospital, he reluctantly decides to go through with it. It’s the crux of the piece. Daly keeps showing the anguish Forrest feels, but he also blithely keeps wanting to date Tolman, who, naturally, plays up her character’s incredulity. Eventually, Forrest goes through with the blackmail, feeling compelled to do it, and then she shows up at his house with a gun and tries to shoot him. Forrest does not like blackmail.
This section has some great stuff, but some real issues as well. Namely, Forrest could have easily just continued looking for somebody else to blackmail, and he easily could have stopped after he got his first couple of payments. Blackmail doesn’t have to go on forever. He had technically achieved his goal. Now, the show has established that Forrest is a bit of an idiot, so it’s not entirely unbelievable. It still just feels like a bit much even for Forrest. On the other hand, so much funny stuff happens, and Daly and Tolman are both great.
The third bit is about glory holes. It’s basically just Forrest looking for a glory hole, finding one, and being the only one not to realize the person on the other end is a man. It’s OK.
It’s a strong return for Review here. They get right back into the swing of things like nothing has changed, but they also change things just enough to keep them fresh. Daly is great as always, and the show’s insane world continues to be a wonderfully strange place to hang out in. These aren’t the best reviews the show has ever done, but they still make for a delightful half-hour of television.
Chris Morgan is an Internet gadabout who writes on a variety of topics and in a variety of mediums. If he had to select one thing to promote, however, it would be his ’90s blog/podcast, Existential Parachute Pants. (You can also follow him on Twitter.)