All of the stars for All-Star Andy Daly, who shines in Review with Forrest MacNeil

Forrest MacNeil doesn’t review food, books or movies. “I review life itself,” he declares.

Which, in tonight’s debut episode of Review with Forrest MacNeil on Comedy Central, means reviewing stealing, addiction and prom. In that order.

It’s the first starring vehicle for Andrew “Andy” Daly, whom you may have seen in supporting roles on Eastbound & Down, Modern Family, Reno 911! or two seasons of MADtv.  Podcast fans already have come to know and love his voice whenever it appears on any of the various Earwolf podcasts (perhaps particularly Comedy Bang! Bang!, where he also popped up on the IFC TV edition) — Daly also debuted his own mini-series “The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project” — to coincide with the release of Review. But if you go back far enough, perhaps Daly’s earlier experiences with Comedy Central, portraying a motley crew of crazy talking heads on Crossballs, might prepare you for the ridiculous reviews to come in 2014.

As Forrest MacNeil, Daly plays host to a TV show in which he fields online requests to experience life on their terms, and then give it a review of zero to five stars. A.J. Gibbs (Megan Stevenson) is his on-air assistant. At home, however, MacNeil’s wife Suzanne (Jessica St. Clair, who’ll be starring in her own new sitcom, Playing House, later this year on USA) doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo. She merely thinks the cameras are doing a report on her husband. Fred Willard plays Forrest’s similarly aloof father-in-law.

Aloof is just an anagram of a fool.

Daly plays Forrest MacNeil as such a stiff. Actually, he’s more like a blank slate. Born yesterday, or the day before Review premieres, as if he’s a man who has experienced so little before now, so each review adds new colors to the canvas of his character.

If MacNeil’s relatives are misinformed as to his motives, everyone else outside of the TV studios is just plain clueless. That conceit, combined with MacNeil’s thirst to throw himself into each review, allows things to quickly escalate out of control. Or at least out of his control.

Here, for example, is how MacNeil learns about himself and addiction.

The series also continues to build upon itself. Nothing is self-contained. No tidy endings.

MacNeil’s intern suffers consequences in the first review that carries over into the second, and MacNeil hearkens back to his previous life lessons as he’s encountering new experiences. In next week’s second episode, he attempts to convince his wife into making a sex tape, without informing her that it’s for the TV show. Things necessarily go awry. Though somehow not as awry as when he tries to become a racist, or goes hunting. In the third episode — “Pancakes. Divorce. Pancakes.” — MacNeil asks his wife for a divorce. By request.

As Daly told The A.V. Club about the “Divorce” review, and adapting Review from an earlier Australian series:

“In the Australian version, my favorite segment that they do was the divorce segment. When I saw that, I was like, “So that’s what this show is about. This is a show about a guy who says, ‘You can ask me to do anything and I will go and do it because it’s important. Because I can offer unique insights into life experiences because I am uniquely qualified [Laughs.] through my incredible intellect and insight into humanity.’” So whatever it is, he will do it. But of course that’s such a stupid idea [Laughs.] for one guy to take on all of life’s most extreme experiences. Things that people themselves are either too scared or don’t have the means to experience and ask him to do it, they’re going to be extreme events.

To me, it’s not enough to just see him go through something extreme and then return back to normal at the end of it. To me, the funnier thing is to see his life for real get degraded and impacted from review to review. Let’s see the real impact on this guy’s life.”

Not daring to spoil how the “Divorce” goes or doesn’t, let’s instead sneak a peek at his pancake review, which actually just misses out on National Pancake Day (March 4). Flip the clip!

Review comes from Abso Lutely Productions, who so cleverly also brought Nathan To You to us in 2013 (note: Review also wrapped its first nine episodes in February 2013, but Comedy Central held it until now). Daly wrote the series with producers/writers Jeffrey and Andy Blitz, Leo Allen, Kevin Dorff, Carol Kolb, Charlie Siskel and Gavin Steckler.

REVIEW of Review: ALL THE STARS! This show proves just what a comedy all-star Andy Daly is. God bless us, everyone!

Watch the debut of Review with Forrest MacNeil online now (or tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, 9 p.m. Central) on Comedy Central.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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