Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Review and Last Comic Standing!
Dominic Griffin is Watching…
Season 2, Episode 1: “Bare Knuckle Brawl; Blackmail; Gloryholes”
Thursdays at 10pm on Comedy Central
You’ve seen Andy Daly in the background of any number of comedies, but in “life critic” Forrest MacNeil, he has found the role of a lifetime. Adapted from a similarly titled Australian series, Review is a mockumentary-style black comedy (shot perfectly by The Office vet Jeffrey Blitz) that follows Daly’s MacNeil as he critiques pieces of life. Instead of examining a novel or seeing a film, he might explore the intricacies of divorce or drug addiction, as he did in the first season, destroying his own life in the process.
MacNeil represents every white, milquetoast intellectual who takes themselves entirely too seriously. His dogged dedication to his “craft” is a double-edged sword, inviting the necessary amount of derision to give the show’s satire some bite, all the while engendering enough sympathetic kinship so as not to make his exploits feel laborious. It’s a dark comedy to be sure, and the show’s camera work serves to reinvigorate what’s become a very blasé style, but the stomach churning disturbia of MacNeil’s tone deaf video essays really make the best jokes pop. When there’s a really good belly laugh lined up, it shatters the otherwise queasy tension in a way few similarly Brit-inspired shows ever manage.
The season premiere sets up a new fail-safe for MacNeil, a “veto booth” where he can avoid any dangerous topics, but the episode’s title clearly foreshadows his inability to use it. Review goes out of its way to take a simple, threadbare premise and keep it fresh to the point of horror. Even though you know they’re going to push MacNeil in crazy directions, events unfold at an unpredictable clip. Entwining his personal life with his subject matter and maintaining a strong continuity means no experimental flight of fancy will go off without serious consequences. When we met MacNeil he was married with a family. Now his show is still going strong, but he’s sleeping alone at his father’s house in his childhood bedroom. Half of the fun is seeing what kind of ridiculous shit Daly’s weaponized pretension will bring to the fore, but the nagging sense of dread regarding McNeil’s future tugs at the heart strings to create a real emotional roller coaster.
Episode Highlight: The “Bare-Knuckle Brawl” segment takes such a drastic left turn so early on, you will immediately decide to follow this show anywhere it chooses to go.
David Lebovitz is watching…
Last Comic Standing
Season 9, Episode 2: “The Invitationals, Part 2”
Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC
Last Comic Standing is squarely in the “I occasionally forget that this show is still running” phase of its existence. I can’t say I ever followed it regularly, but I always liked what I saw, and younger me occasionally fantasized about how cool it would be to be a contestant. (This is obviously before I came to understand concepts such as “health insurance” and “this is pointless.”) Two episodes in, we can see what the show is like now. The answer, for everything from writing to production values to enjoyability, is “very, very, very bad.”
Host Anthony Jeselnik, normally one of the more vicious comics out there, feels absolutely neutered in his role. He barely speaks more than two lines at a time, and when he does speak it feels like Corporate Standardized Joketelling, a far cry from the straight-for-the-jugular style that made him a Comedy Central Roast favorite.
The judges are somehow even less useful than the American Idol judges, because despite being three comic legends—Keenan Ivory Wayans, Rosanne Barr, and Norm MacDonald—they offer nothing outside a few words of nondescript praise to each contestant, though they switch that up occasionally by going on tangents that have nothing to do with the act at hand. I know Norm specializes is being meandering, but he usually has the decency to have a joke at the end.
The production quality of the show is horrendous for something on at such a prime slot. The red curtain is on a greenscreen, which makes me wonder why they couldn’t spring for a brick wall like an actual operation. The Last Comic Standing logo is the first thing on the greenscreen and gets changed to the red curtain so fast that my retinas are still recovering from the whiplash. The editors are clearly trimming sets, which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t feel so forced and cause continuity errors in the middle of individual jokes. Some of the best acts were shown in a montage and never mentioned again. One of the most egregious sins is the fact that particularly few contestants are given lower thirds, and we typically only see their names at the start and end of the act. I remember a slew of good jokes (is the collective noun for jokes “a slew?”) but I don’t remember the names of most of the comics telling them. I’m not sure if this show has gotten new directors recently, but they sure as hell aren’t good ones.
Much like American Idol, Eurovision, and that aunt you only see at Thanksgiving each year, the judges openly state they are looking for comics with that “right in the middle, All-American thing.” I suppose that makes sense, given the fact that this show has become a pipeline for sending upcoming acts to host third string game shows, but it’s taken away the show’s edge. Last Comic Standing feels like a tame show that your mom would bring you to as a fourteenth birthday present.
Episode Highlight: Comic David Tviete saying that he hates when people talk about white privilege and male privilege—he acknowledges they exist, it just “bums me out I’m losing at life on its lowest difficulty level.”