Aside from offering a field day in terms of puns – how does one review a show titled “Review?” – Comedy Central’s latest pre-“Daily Show” series nibbles around the edges of something really interesting, but doesn’t quite get there. Ostensibly about a critic who reviews “life itself,” the semi-serialized program stars Andy Daly as Forrest MacNeil, a TV personality who agrees to engage in any activity suggested by viewers, then “review” it on a 1-to-5-star scale. Alas, the nature of the tasks – from stealing to racism, drug addiction to divorce – risk ruining his life. Daly’s cheerful naivete makes “Review” watchable, but its lack of focus puts it more in the 2.5-star range.
There’s an underlying social commentary in the fundamental premise, but it’s one that never gets even remotely explained. So the meta aspects of a series that could provide a not-so-subtle indictment of reality TV and the hunger for fame instead functions as a medley of “Jackass”-inspired gags and grossout moments, which include yelling racial ADD epithets at his neighbor, dallying with an anatomically correct doll or eating pancakes until he becomes violently ill.
Daly (whose credits include “Eastbound & Down”) is flanked by Jessica St. Clair as Forrest’s confused wife and Fred Willard as his father-in-law, but the show sort of cries out for more backstory – including the host’s claim that he endures these trials “for the sake of human understanding.” Frankly, it’s not hard to think the whole exercise might have turned out differently had another cable network committed to it and developed those aspects into something with a bit more ambition, as opposed to settling for more crass and obvious exchanges.
Admittedly, one normally shouldn’t review something for what it isn’t, but there’s a nagging sense that “Review” represents a squandered opportunity – something that could have approximated “The Truman Show” and instead settled for “EdTV.”
For all that, the series isn’t bad, but it would have been so much more interesting if instead of just watching Forrest run, we had a better grasp of what makes him tick.