After the first season of Disenchantment didn’t win me over, this one gave me more entertainment, but still falls short of its premise.
At the end of last season, Princess Tiabeanie “Bean” (Abbi Jacobson) revived her mother Dagmar (Sharon Horgan) from her stone curse, only for her to be revealed as an evil witch who poisoned herself. Dagmar then imprisons Bean’s personal demon Luci (Eric Andre) and turns everyone in Dreamland into stone except for King Zog (John DiMaggio) and his second wife Oona (Tress MacNeille). Elfo (Nat Faxon) continues to be dead for like 2 episodes.
This season, Bean travels to Hell in order to revive Elfo, saves Dreamland, helps her dad bang a bear, delivers a spoken word poem about her life, and some other stuff.
So, the reason why I started watching this is that it’s the third series by Matt Groening. The first one, The Simpsons, is the longest running prime-time show and, for at least 7 years, was probably the single funniest thing on TV. The second, Futurama, is so good that I am reviewing it episode by episode every Friday from now until eternity (or until 2021). So, it stood to reason that this show kind of had to be at least pretty good. Unfortunately, while it’s not bad, it is firmly seated at “only average.”
Part of it is that this is the team’s first foray into serial television and they clearly haven’t quite figured out how to balance that with episodic plots. The episodes of this show tend to have difficulty with pacing because they want to advance the series along with the A and B plots of the episode. Admittedly, that’s been a challenge to more than a few screenwriters in the past, but it’s a little more pronounced in this series. The little things should build into the big things; they shouldn’t build separately.
I do like the main characters, but it’s shocking how little growth they’ve been given, despite how much the plot would seem to demand it. I think this, too, is a vestige of the episodic writing that Groening is used to, because we don’t really want TV characters to grow outside of a serial. Hell, we want them to get simpler so that we can keep adding more without having to keep track. That’s why the term for a character becoming more one-dimensional over time is “Flanderization,” from Ned Flanders. What’s more frustrating is that, at the beginning of the season, all three of the leads seemed inevitably headed towards major character-shaping changes, then… nope. We quickly reset the series pretty much back to the status quo.
The supporting characters are amusing, but due to the propagation of their kind of humor and archetypal variance has been pretty vast over the last 20 years, mostly due to the fact that The Simpsons and Futurama already did them so well. We’ve seen plenty of characters similar to King Zog or the Executioner or even Sorcerio (Billy West), because they’re just fantasy versions of the people of Springfield or Quahog (which is just North Springfield 10 years later). Without that element of originality, we get too familiar with them to feel any surprise at their actions or their words. Humor requires some element of the unexpected or the unusual, and these aren’t really either.
I will say this season was still a step up from the last one. The episode with Zog and the Bear Selkie was pretty funny and the episode with Bean doing a spoken-word account of her life because she isn’t allowed to put on a play as a woman does actually have a little bit of the heart that I’d expect from this kind of show… and that’s the problem.
This show doesn’t have the humor of its older siblings, but nor does it have the heart. The Simpsons was hilarious in its heyday, but it also had moments of sincere emotion. Futurama had wacky antics, but it also had some of the most tear-jerking and heart-breaking moments in television. This doesn’t have the laughing face or the sad face to the extreme it needs. That said, on its own merit, the show isn’t bad, but it’s not what I was hoping.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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