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Josh Reviews Disenchantment Season Three

I’m continuing to enjoy Matt Groening’s Netflix animated series Disenchantment!  Overseen by Mr. Groening and Josh Weinstein (a writer of many wonderful episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama), Disenchantment is an adventure comedy series set in a fantasy world.  Matt Groening has described the show as being “about life and death, love and sex, and how to keep laughing in a world full of suffering and idiots, despite what the elders and wizards and other jerks tell you.”  That’s a pretty solid description!

The series focuses on Bean, the tough, smart, hard-living princess of Dreamland, voiced by Abbi Jacobson.  Bean’s two closest friends are a demon Luci (Eric Andre) and an Elf named Elfo (Nat Faxon).  Over the course of the three seasons so far, I’ve quite enjoyed the rich, weird fantasy world that has been developed on the show!  This series isn’t on the level of The Simpsons or Futurama (the former a pop-culture juggernaut and the latter an overlooked comedic masterpiece), but it’s a great deal of fun and I recommend it.

While each episode tells a complete story, I’ve quite enjoyed the tight continuity between episodes.  This gives Disenchantment a different feeling than either The Simpsons or Futurama, which were more episodic.  (Futurama had more continuity than The Simpsons ever did, but Disenchantment is several steps beyond.)  Each season of the show feels like a chapter in a larger story.  I’ve been impressed with how the writers have been able to balance their storytelling, far better than so many other streaming shows.  Each episode has a distinct identity and tells a complete story.  At the same time, the episodes lead smoothly one into the next in a way that makes it hard to stop watching when an episode’s credits roll!  By the end of each ten episode season, I’ve felt satisfied and also eager for the next season.  The show’s penchant for season-ending cliffhangers (something never done on The Simpsons or Futurama) makes the wait between seasons difficult!

Speaking of balance, I’ve also been pleased by the show’s balance between plot and comedy.  This is a densely plotted show.  A lot happens in each episode, and after each ten episode season I’ve felt like the characters and the story have moved on to the new stage.   (I love that the series isn’t stuck in the same status quo from year to year.)  At the same time, the show is very funny!  Perhaps not at the level of the very best comedies on TV these days, but the series is consistently a lot of fun, filled with gags and wordplay that make me smile.

I’ve enjoyed the development of the characters on this show, particularly Bean, who is … [continued]

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I’m excited to begin my look back at 2020 with this list of my favorite TV series of 2020!

While I usually like to restrict my lists to TV series that aired new episodes during the previous year, this year I’d like to begin with some Honorable Mentions that didn’t.

The Leftovers — One of my very favorite shows that I watched this year was The Leftovers, which aired on HBO from 2014-2017.  I’d avoided the show previously, because I’d been burned by Damon Lindelof’s previous show, Lost, and because the heavy subject matter of this series felt so dour I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through watching it.  But after being cajoled for years by friends and family to give this show a try, I finally did.  I am so glad I did!!  The Leftovers, overseen by Mr. Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (who wrote the novel upon which the first season of the show was based), is a masterpiece.  This three season show is nearly perfect in almost every respect.  It’s breathtakingly original, filled with adventurous storytelling and twists and turns I could never in a million years have predicted, and that left me exhilarated as a viewer.  It’s a deeply moving character piece, filled with incredible characters — so many of whom I quickly grew extremely attached to — played by extraordinary actors.  The series is heartbreaking and emotionally wrenching, but also funny and joyous as well.  It’s dazzlingly original.  I’m so glad to have seen it.  I can’t wait to watch it all through again.  (Click here for my review of The Leftovers season one.)

For the first several months of 2020, I found myself watching quite a number of terrific 2019 shows that I hadn’t gotten to by the time I wrote my 2019 lists.  Here are some of my favorites:

Russian Doll — This Groundhog Day remix was gloriously terrific.  It was emotional and moving and also riotously funny.  It featured a dazzlingly compelling lead performance by Natasha Lyonne (who co-created the series with Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler).  I loved the complex, twisty-turny narrative, and I was delighted by how well all the pieces fit together in the end.  I loved how uplifting this often-times dark show was, in the end.  This was one of the very best shows I watched in 2020.  (Click here for my full review.)

Undone — This deliriously fun and weird animated series, created by Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, is a beautiful, complex character study of a deeply broken young woman, and at the same time it is a gloriously mind-bending sci-fi tale.  Like Russian Doll, I found Undone to be both deeply … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Disenchantment Season Two

Matt Groening’s animated Netflix series, Disenchantment, doesn’t seem to me to have made much of an impact on the pop-culture scene.  And, let’s be honest, Disenchantment isn’t The Simpsons.  It doesn’t come near to approaching that series’ transcendent heights.  And it’s not even Futurama, Mr. Groening’s sci-fi comedy that, while it hasn’t made a hundredth of the cultural impact of The Simpsons, might just be even more beloved by its true fans — including me.  So, OK, Disenchantment isn’t as good as two of the greatest animated TV shows ever made.  I still think it’s quite good!  If you’ve previously enjoyed either The Simpsons or Futurama, Disenchantment is worth a look.  (It was one of my favorite TV shows of 2019!)

Disenchantment is set in a medieval fantasy world, and the writers have fun playing with the tropes that fans of anything from Game of Thrones to Dungeons & Dragons might expect.  As was the case on both The Simpsons and Futurama, Mr. Groening and his team have done a great job at developing the reality of this universe.  I enjoyed the many nooks and crannies that were developed and explored here in season two.  It’s fun to feel like you’re getting to see a fully-realized new world, one that has been carefully thought about and designed.

The Simpsons has always been very episodic.  Futurama was too, though that series gradually developed a very enjoyable continuity.  The characters were able to stay in their archetypical status quo, but at the same time, their personalities and relationships developed.  Meanwhile, as Futurama continued, viewers discovered that there were all sorts of fun mysteries built into the world, which were gradually revealed.  Disenchantment has been designed to move even further into serialization.  It’s a choice that makes sense, both as a reflection of the modern television landscape and also as a way to bring momentum to these short (10-episode) Netflix seasons.  Disenchantment is more about the series larger story-lines than Futurama was.  There are times when the show seems to value these unfolding storylines above the need to have a funny joke every few seconds.  Disenchantment is a very funny show, but I’ve never found it to be fall-off-your-seat funny the way The Simpsons and Futurama were at their best.  That’s not a criticism at all, just an explanation that the show has a different “vibe” than either The Simpsons or Futurama.  I like the choice.  There are hundred and hundreds of hours of those two previous shows.  It’s nice for Disenchantment to be able to be its own thing.  At the same time as the show has embraced serialization, it never falls into the trap of being a movie chopped … [continued]

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I am excited to begin my Best of 2019 lists!  Let’s kick things off with my list of my favorite TV series of 2019.  What a year this was for TV!!!  I watched SO MUCH great TV, and even so, there were still so many shows I wanted to see but didn’t get to, including but not limited to: the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Russian Doll, Barry, Living With Yourself, Undone, The Expanse, Fosse/Verdon, Chernobyl, Unbelievable, Ramy, Modern Love, Sex Education, and so many more shows.

Despite that, I had no trouble coming up with a whopping TWENTY-FIVE shows from 2019 that I absolutely loved.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Before we dive in, though, please allow me to make a request for you to support my work here by clicking through to Amazon from any of the links on this site.  If you do, I’ll get a tiny percentage of the price of any purchase you make on Amazon for the next 24 hours.  You can use the Amazon banner ad at the top of the page, or any specific Amazon link within one of my blogs.  You don’t have to purchase the specific item I linked to!  Just use one of my links to get to Amazon, and then purchase whatever you normally would.  If all the readers of this site would just click through to Amazon through one of my links, whenever you do your shopping, it’d be a huge help towards keeping the lights on here.

OK, here we go:

25. From the Earth to the Moon OK, I’m starting the list off with a cheat.  This HBO mini-series came out back in 1998!  But this year, the series was released on blu-ray.  It was extraordinary to see the show in HD, and I was delighted that they took the time to redo the series’ visual effects, which were originally created in Standard Definition!  That was very cool and not anything I’d ever expected.  (The series would be even higher on my list if they hadn’t made the boneheaded decision to crop the original 4×3 full-screen presentation to a 16×9 image.  Growing up, I hated when widescreen films were cropped for 4×3 TVs, and the reverse is no better!!)  I adore this mini-series, executive-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, which charts the Apollo missions that first put a man on the moon.  It’s as entertaining, and vitally relevant, as it ever was.  If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out.  Each one of the series’ twelve episodes is magnificent.

24. Jessica Jones The biggest disappointment of the inglorious end of Marvel’s Netflix shows … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Disenchantment Season One!

Disenchantment is the new Netflix animated series created by Matt Groening.  Mr. Groening, of course, created The Simpsons, as well as Futurama (a criminally undrappreciated sci-fi comedy that is one of my all time favorite shows).

Disenchantment is set in a medieval fantasy kingdom called Dreamland, and tells the story of a young princess named Bean.  Feisty and rebellious, Bean would far prefer to go out and have fun drinking with her pals than act like a respectable princess.  In the first episode, she befriends a runaway elf named Elfo, as well as a Luci, a tiny demon.  The three get up to a number of misadventures in these first ten episodes.

I really enjoyed this show!  Disenchantment represents Matt Groening’s first project with Netflix, but Disenchantment looks and feels like a classic Groening project.  The character design reflects the familiar Groening overbite look, and the show combines heavy joke density with a strong eye for characters — the familiar magic balance that made The Simpsons and Futurama so great.

I used the word familiar a few times in the previous paragraph, and for me there is a comfort in the way that Disenchantment embodies a tone and feel that is familiar to fans of Mr. Groening’s previous shows.  If it ain’t broke…!  But there is enough that is new and different in Disenchantment that this doesn’t feel to me like just more of the same.

I enjoyed the show’s fantasy setting.  Mr. Groening & Josh Weinstein (who co-developed the show) and their team mines a lot of comedy out of the way they play with the settings and character-types that one might expect in fantasy stories.  If you love Game of Thrones and other fantasy sagas, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in Disenchantment.  but I think this show’s appeal can stretch far beyond the fantasy audience.  Any fans of comedy (and who isn’t?) will easily love this show.

The show looks gorgeous,  As I mentioned above, the character designs fit into the Groening oeuvre, but it’s fun seeing these Groening-style characters in a fantasy world.  The backgrounds have a lush, painted look.  The artwork is gorgeous, and the level of detail on the backgrounds and characters is impressive, beautifully fleshing out this world.

As one might expect from a Groening-led production, the cast is terrific.  Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson is perfect as Bean.  She’s so funny, with perfect comic timing, and she’s also able to bring a lot of warmth to Bean.  This is a character who misbehaves a lot, but Ms. Jacobson’s gentleness makes sure that the audience cares and roots for Bean.  That’s critical.  The secret of Mr. Groening’s shows have always been that, … [continued]