Editor’s Note: We’re diving into best comedies currently on television this week. To see all of our coverage from Den of Geek’s Comedy Week, click here. This article was originally published in May, but is being repromoted ahead of Review’s season two premiere.
You’ve likely seen Andy Daly before. Frequently even, whether you’re aware of who he is or not.
Daly has been a constant presence in the comedy world, appearing in shows like Delocated, Eastbound & Down, and The Life and Times of Tim. He has gained quite the reputation for himself, thanks to the multitude of characters he’s created and a series of inspired podcast appearances, nearly giving Paul F. Tompkins (the king of podcast appearances) a run for his money.
This season alone, Andy Daly has been on Modern Family, Silicon Valley, Bob’s Burgers, Adventure Time, and much more. It seems like Daly is finally piercing the bubble into the mainstream.
The sharpest needle for this bursting came in the form of his Comedy Central series, Review. A surrealist program with a grounded attitude, it centers on a man (Daly) who forgoes reviewing regular things like movies or a restaurant, and instead takes on esoteric concepts such as “stealing,” “road rage,” and “divorce.”
Review, which returns July 30th, seems to have finally learned how to perfectly use Daly to his greatest potential. Daly is the quintessential nebbish, appearing to convey his entire essence in his by-the-book attire. The show manages to effortlessly capture Daly’s unassuming pathetic nature, while also adeptly putting him as the hapless authority figure that is always a razor’s edge away from completely imploding on himself. This volatile combination is what makes Review such a beautiful experience.
It’s not just the absurdist stories and plots you’re receiving, but the journey and metamorphosis Forrest goes through. I’m truly unsure if anyone other than Daly could tie this unconventional series together, which is why it was so enlightening to hear his thoughts on the mechanics of Review and where the series is headed…
DEN OF GEEK: So Review is actually adapted from the structure of the Australian series, Review With Myles Barlow. How closely have you felt the need to use that show as the backbone to yours? Are you still interested in servicing it up, or have you fully grown into your own entity at this point?
ANDY DALY: Yeah, when I think we first set out to adapt the show, we took an attitude of let’s take from it the things that we like and then generally try to make our own show. We never felt any obligation–partly because people in the States weren’t really familiar with that show [Review With Myles Barlow]. We tried to be faithful to it in ways that were entirely in our interest. So we definitely took the shooting style, and we took the groundedness of it, and really admired so many aspects of the show. Their characterization of Myles, for example. We borrowed a lot of elements of Myles when forming Forrest. And just the reality of their entire world. I mean we would just marvel at how grounded some of the performances are and really tried to emulate that. And then, certain topics that they did, we said, “Of course! We’ve got to do that.” And we borrowed a lot of specific themes–stealing and addiction come to mind. Pieces where we really directly took themes from them.
In season two, we’re doing some of that, but I would say less. There’s only one segment in season two that comes to mind as something that they also did. So we borrowed more of their statement ideas in season one, and then in season two we went back and watched what they did a lot less than we did in season one. But we did a little bit. There’s one segment in particular in season two that is quite close to something they did.
Very interesting. In the inception of Review, was this a project that you had been trying to get moving but were struggling to? Were there other places that you went before Comedy Central? Or did you just happen to arrive at the right time and Comedy Central was into it from the start?
Well, the Australian show first came to the attention of Comedy Central before it came to my attention, actually. So they thought of me to adapt it.
They contacted me and said, “We’ve got this property that we’re interested in adapting that you’d be perfect for.” Then it didn’t take long until it started moving. It wasn’t a long process where I was taking this around town or anything.
Okay. Were there any topics of review that Comedy Central refused or told you to reconsider, or have you pretty much been given free reign here? Are there any topics that you’ve maybe wanted to get into but haven’t been able to figure out the right angle for them? Something like terrorism or necrophilia?
Well there have been so many topics. For example, we literally have a wall from floor to ceiling of topics written on cards that have all been something that somebody in the room thought were promising. For so many of them we’ll take them off the back wall and move them to the front wall to just help with brainstorming. But there are lots of times where we just can’t crack one. So that’s an extremely long list…There have been handfuls that we’ve just sort of banished forever. One component of our social media campaign is “rejected reviews.” They’ve been posting some of our cards on Facebook or rejected reviews. Those have been some where we’ve said, “Yeah go ahead and call it a ‘rejected review’ publicly because there’s no way we could ever crack it.” For instance, I think they put up “giving birth.”
Because we talked about. We really did and thought it’d be funny if Forrest has to review giving birth and he has to figure out a way…but there’s just no scientifically plausible way. We couldn’t make it work.
Yeah, kind of roadblocked…
But as far as the network goes, yeah in season one, there were a handful of reviews that they didn’t like when they read them in their finished form. So there were some that we abandoned. But we’ve actually gone back to some of them–at least one of them, no two of them in season two that they rejected in season one. In season two they’ve [Comedy Central] really been hands off. They see what the show is and are happy with how we’re executing it. They’re just kind of letting us do what we want to do and how we want to do it.
That’s fantastic. Do you guys still have Jeffrey Blitz directing this season? Was he someone that you consciously fought to get, or was he Comedy Central’s suggestion?
No, Jeff Blitz was my idea. I went to high school with Jeff Blitz and graduated with his younger brother, Andy Blitz, a great comedy writer from Conan O’Brien and other places.
So I followed Jeff’s career and knew that he had that incredible documentary, Spellbound, and that he had gone on to win an Emmy for directing The Office, so I knew that he knew the world of documentary and comedy mockumentary. So I thought of him to direct the pilot and then he was such an incredible asset and helped me shape the script of the pilot while directing it, that when it came time to do the series I thought he should come on as a full executive producer and direct all episodes. And that’s been great.
And he’s directing the second season?
Yep. Every one, yeah.
Perfect. So kind of in response to that, do you consider ourselves to be in a particular golden age for sitcoms where creativity is seen as king and unprecedented chances are being taken. I mean, you have a fake review show which is a pretty niche topic, and Comedy Central also has Nathan For You which is exploring a similar angle but completely differently. Do you think that sitcoms need this new element or twist to survive now, or can something traditional still work?
Well I do think that traditional things seem to be working to some extent. On the networks, stuff like that. If you have an excellent execution of a traditional sitcom premise, I think that can work just fine, but what’s exciting now is that places like Comedy Central are willing to say, “Yeah, this is a totally different, insane idea. And maybe it won’t get mass appeal, but it’ll generate enough excitement and get enough people watching–and enough people realizing that this is a quality show that it’s worth having on our airs…” So yeah! I do kind of think we’re in a golden age, and if there’s a reason I think it’s because people are just saying, “Hey, two creative, hilarious people! What is your passion project? What do you want to do?” Knowing that if you let someone do their passion project and you leave them alone to do it, they will work so hard to make it great. It’s just going and connecting with people.
Awesome, and speaking of unbridled passion, with the tumultuous way that the first season of Review ended–which very much could have acted as the end of the series. I mean, Forrest has gone through this clear transformation over the course of the season. Do you plan on continuing with AJ Gibbs as a host for an episode or two before Forrest crashes back onto the scene?
Ha! Well the answer to that would be a spoiler, but I feel comfortable spoiling it. Haha! So no, at the beginning of the season, Forrest has–he has had his beliefs in the importance of the show reinforced.
He comes back solely believing in the show and apologetic in his lapse in beliefs that he underwent. And he is back for more life!
That’s great. Do you see this as a show that someone else could be hosting? Or would you like to keep it strictly as Forrest’s journey through it all?
I don’t know. I personally enjoy doing it. I love playing Forrest. And it’s a little hard to believe that anyone else in the world would be stupid enough to take this job.
That’s a good point…
I don’t think there could possibly be two people so naive, but theoretically, yes, someone else could host.
Alright, so “Pancakes” feels like not only an incredible benchmark for comedy in general to surpass, but how does your own show do that? Have you consciously thought of surpassing “Pancakes” in some way and is it held as your standard?
We definitely do see it as a high point of season one, but I don’t think we got too much in our heads about recreating that magic…
Do you feel you’ve topped it this year?
Yeah, I think we probably did. There are a couple places this season where we actually put Forrest through more extraordinary things than we did in “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes.” There’s one episode in particular that I’m thinking of where, yeah, I think will rival “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes” for hilarity and profundity.
In the first season you ended up having an extra episode due to how the footage was cut together. Did something similar happen this year?
I don’t think this season we could have possibly cut an extra episode out of all the extra stuff we shot. Not really. But we did shoot an enormous amount of extra, fun stuff. I don’t know if we’ll ever get a DVD, but if we do we have so many insane extra bloopers. We improvised an enormous amount on the set, and we really hit it hard this season. I mean the rough assembly of episodes have been between 30 and 33 minutes, so to get them down to under 22 minutes has been rough. In season one one of our editors decided to shuffle things around and we gained an extra episode but I don’t think we can achieve that this season.
Okay, well I think that’s everything, Andy. Thanks again for talking, and can’t wait for the second season!
Thank you so much! Thanks for caring! It’s gonna be good.
Review’s second season is set to premiere Thursday, July 30th at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.
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