I think at least a few of you know my opinion on how underappreciated voice actors are and this show is a solid example of why.
Disenchantment follows the adventures of Princess Tiabeanie (or “Bean”)(Abbi Jacobson), her elf friend Elfo (Nat Faxon), and her personal demon Luci (Eric Andre) as they mostly get drunk and do stupid crap around the fairy tale kingdom of Dreamland. Bean just wants control over her own life, being a princess doomed to arranged political marriage. Elfo is an exile from the elf village because he slept with the leader’s daughter (although, apparently so has everyone). Luci was gifted to Bean so that he can slowly encourage all of her worst behaviors and corrupt her spirit.
For the first few episodes, they mostly deal with Bean’s drunken antics pissing off her father, King Zøg (John “I AM BENDER, HEAR ME ROAR” DiMaggio), but a plot does actually slowly start to build, culminating in the final three episodes forming an arc leading into the second half of the season.
I was a little worried about this show from some of the preliminary reviews. However, the show’s by Matt Groening, which guaranteed I was going to see it. I think The Simpsons was the greatest show on TV for the better part of a decade and I love Futurama so much I’m reviewing the entire series. So, why not take a look at his third series? (For those of you bringing up The Critic, that was Al Jean’s show, not Groening’s)
It starts off slow and, I’m sad to say, a little too predictable. The first few episodes’ jokes mostly are the obvious ones. As I was watching it, I did have to remark that the only reason this doesn’t feel original is because I already saw The Simpsons and Futurama do the same kind of jokes and I saw Shrek and other films do the “modern stuff but in Fairy Tale land” jokes. The difference is that it isn’t pushing the envelope like The Simpsons did (because The Simpsons did it) and it didn’t have the quiet, emotional moments that Futurama used to nail. They weren’t bad jokes, but I was already saying the punchlines before they were out.
So, what kept me in the show through those episodes? The fact that the voice actors were all nailing their parts. They were giving their characters just enough of a twist to at least keep me interested, even though the characters were (intentionally) generic at first. Bean is a hard-drinking sex-positive “anti-princess,” which basically means she’s Sheridan Smith’s character from Galavant. She’d have been original in the 90s, but we’ve seen it a bunch since then. However, with Broad City‘s amazing Abbi Jacobson behind her, she still felt unique, even before she managed to get some real development. Same with Elfo, whose constant upbeat attitude is not undercut, but actually overplayed hilariously, by Nat Faxon. And Eric Andre is just a comic genius, though, to be fair, Luci is the most inherently humorous of the three leads, since he’s just an evil snarker. Then, there’s the supporting cast.
The rest of this show is basically the cast of Futurama without Katey Sagal. It’s got Billy West, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, and Maurice LaMarche. Look up roles they’ve voiced and I guarantee you’ll see your adolescence. Matt Berry plays a recurring role as an idiotic chauvinist prince, basically reprising his role as Douglas Reynholm from The IT Crowd and almost everything he says is hilarious, even the obvious things. And that’s really what helps the show at the beginning when it’s going a little slow, that the characters are all saying predictable things but at least they’re saying them in funny ways. The art is Groening’s creative and distinct style, which also really helps, as do some of the great background gags.
However, after a few episodes, the show actually starts to find its rhythm and manages to really start landing some solid jokes. The main thing is that it does actually reveal a story arc and some character arcs, something that really is kind of necessary for a streaming show. At that point, you start to realize that some of the things that seemed unnecessary at the start of the series do actually start to pay off a little. It reminds me a bit of the first season of BoJack Horseman where a lot of the goofy, stupid things that happened at the beginning were just to set up the world of the show, which ends up helping them play the long game. I’m not saying that this will be BoJack level, but the last few episodes actually set up the show to take a series of pretty strong turns during the next half of the season, with the characters changing accordingly.
So, it’s not really “great” yet, but it’s definitely “good” and seems to be ready to build to something much better. I’m definitely going to give it a chance. Look, it’s the first time that Groening’s really developed a series that actually has a continuity and an arc, aside from the one or two in Futurama, so it stands to reason that it took a little adjustment.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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