Andy Daly’s Review ended its run last night after a way too brief third season of three beautiful episodes, allowing the low-rated series the ability to wrap-up on its own terms. It has really and truly been one of the great under-the-radar series of the Peak TV era, a show that will undoubtedly continue to build a cult audience years after its cancellation. In fact, if there’s one silver lining to its brief 22-episode run, it’s that its brevity will encourage binge watchers to take up the series knowing that it can be watched in its entirety in a little over eight hours. I could hardly imagine a better eight-hour television experience than watching a hapless Forrest MacNeil hilariously, frustratingly, and heartbreakingly sacrifice himself, his family, and everyone else in his orbit in his pursuit of reviewing “life,” whether it be reviewing “what it’s like to get a divorce?” “what it’s like to put a pet to sleep?” or “what it’s like to murder someone?”
The series finale felt like a bait and switch: The first two reviews — “what it’s like to be cryogenically frozen?” and “what it’s like to be struck by lightning?” — led many of us to believe that poor Forrest MacNeil would finally give his life to the show. MacNeil, however, managed to survive both experiences, the former of which led him to an epiphany: There was nothing about being frozen that he could share with the world that would have been worth never seeing his ex-wife and son again. Forrest, it seemed, had turned a corner: He would no longer risk certain death for the benefit of Review.
But apparently, he would risk the 10 percent chance of death for the benefit of the show, because his next review was “what it’s like to be struck by lightning?” That experience, too, he survived, although he may have permanently lost his sense of smell.
For his third review of the night, it looked like Review would end on a hopeful note. His ex-wife — knowing that Forrest never turns down a review — asked him to review “what it’s like to no longer review anything ever?” but Grant — Forrest’s producer — managed to take away his happy ending by manipulating him into vetoing the review, impressing upon MacNeil the importance of his work and suggesting to him that he still had unfinished business.
The final review seemed initially benign: “What’s it like to be pranked?” MacNeil enthusiastically accepted the review, only to find out minutes later that his show had been cancelled. He thought the announcement was the prank, and continued to think it was an overly elaborate ruse as his offices were cleared, his co-workers left, and his co-host abandoned him. Alas, it was no joke, although MacNeil will likely believe it is for weeks, if not months.
The star and creator of the show, Andy Daly, gave Alan Sepinwall a fantastic wrap-up interview, a post worth reading in its entirety. In it, he explained that they had come up with the idea of his ex-wife, Suzanne, asking him to review quitting the show during the second season, and they had planned to end the show that way. However, when they sat down to write the third season, they (correctly) surmised that it was too “sweet.”
Daly also spoke to Sepinwall about other ideas they had for ending the show:
One ending, which was a very exciting ending, was that Forrest’s last review was gonna be “What’s it like to fly?” and he was gonna put on one of those flying squirrel suits and jump off of a cliff and simply never be heard from again. Which is a fun one. I think that’s death. Yeah. That was partly inspired by that documentary The Source Family, the notion of somebody just jumping off a cliff and it all being over. Those are the main endings that I can remember that we threw around before settling on this one.
Prior to that, I think we were going to have him find out in the middle of a highly unpleasant task, getting hit by a car or having an unnecessary surgery. But having him learn it in the context of “being pranked” gives him the chance to not believe it and that was so much fun.
I might be partial to the idea of MacNeil abruptly ending the show by leaping to his death, but it’s hard to argue with the decision Daly and his writing team ultimately made. I’m sad to see it go. Review was an almost perfect, bleakly dark comedy that managed to carve out a new twist on schadenfreude: We found both joy and sadness in another person’s suffering.