Netflix Review – Disenchantment (Season 2): It Got Better, But Not Quite Enough

After the first season of Disenchantment didn’t win me over, this one gave me more entertainment, but still falls short of its premise.

SUMMARY

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. 

Disenchantment - 2Leads
He gets better.

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. 

END SUMMARY

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.” 

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I’d say “not so hot,” but that requires the fire joke.

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. 

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Like maybe don’t have Bean’s mom’s importance change constantly.

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.

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They go through literal hell and… mostly go back to normal.

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 TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Disenchantment: Part 1 – Voice Actors Deserve More Credit

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.

SpoilerFree

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

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.

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No Evil Dead jokes will be made here.

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.

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And a sugar-filled explosion.

END SUMMARY

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)

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We owe him the benefit of the doubt, people.

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.

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You only forget the other moments in Futurama because sometimes they went for the throat.

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.

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This is a ton of comedic talent packed in one image.

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.

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I mean, the Griffin’s beak is just his big nose. I wouldn’t have drawn that.

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

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.