2:00pm PT by Joel Keller
Andy Daly on How Forrest MacNeil Will Ruin His Life in 'Review' Season 2
The first season of Comedy Central's Review surprised viewers and critics alike, not just because it was one of the funnier new shows of the year. It was praised because Andy Daly and his writers were able to weave a season-long story arc out of what seemed like a limited premise: a critic named Forrest MacNeil (played by Daly) reviews life, whether it be getting a divorce, developing a cocaine addiction or getting into a bare-knuckled brawl. What ended up happening is that MacNeil slowly destroyed his life as he continued to be loyal to the show that was ruining it.
After punching out his producer (James Urbaniak), getting dumped for the final time by his wife (Jessica St. Clair) and quitting his job, MacNeil is back for another season of life reviews, and has even found a new mate, played by Fargo breakout Allison Tolman. Daly talked with The Hollywood Reporter about how they weaved the story of the first season, why MacNeil is so dedicated to these reviews and what horrors might await him in season two.
During the first season, did you build the story first and then pick things for Forrest to review or vice versa?
Season one was a little bit more of a hodgepodge. We stumbled into things a little bit more. We knew we were going to do the divorce segment, but when we first convened in the writing room and started talking about it, in our imagination, he was going to divorce his wife and then that was going to free him up to have all of these sexually transgressive experiences. We imagined he’d move into a household of young people and live a very reckless, crazy lifestyle after that, but we also wanted to keep the show and to keep Forrest so grounded in the real world that there was just kind of this realization that, "He loves her and would love to continue to be with her, and he’s just divorcing her for the television show."
Once we said that, it meant that for the rest of the season after he divorces her, he’s trying to get her back. He’s focused on her and all this stuff and that helped a lot of the rest of the narrative fall in place, so we didn’t have it from the beginning, we developed it as we went. The way that the season ended was something that we actually came to very late. We had a completely different ending for the season in mind and Comedy Central didn’t love it. We changed it up very late in the game.
What were you going to have Forrest do in your first draft of that finale?
I can’t reveal it because we decided to end season two that way. I am the patron saint of lost ideas. I never believe that anything is gone forever.
How are you able to pull off connecting the review segments within each episode?
It’s a hard thing for us to expect of ourselves to do and I don’t think we necessarily always pull it off in every episode. There are some episodes in season one I don’t think necessarily connects like that and sometimes we do it better than other times. The first episode of season one it is the ultimate example of that because Forrest learned how to pickpocket in the first segment and then brings that back in the last segment in a climactic and important way and once he’s pick pocketed somebody in the last segment, he uses that money to buy cocaine, which is what the second segment was all about, so those three tied together in a very kind of magical way.
As the episodes play out, did people come up to you and say took a couple episodes to realize that that you’ve actually got a real continuing story going on here?
Absolutely. It takes a little while before you realize that these things are all accumulating on this guy and that it keeps happening because part of it is it’s very hard to promote that. It’s easy from a promotional and marketing point of view to say, "Nerdy guy does extreme things." We told people in the first episode that we’re not hitting the reset button at the end of each one of these, but I don’t think it became apparent until episode three that things are really sticking around for him, the full impact of not hitting the reset button.
What do you think people think about Forrest now as the season goes on and he keeps begrudgingly doing these reviews because he feels he has to?
It makes people feel sorry for Forrest. People can say, "Poor Forrest," which is funny to me because it could go the other way. You could feel like, "This f—ing idiot and psychopath," but we’ve intentionally tried to build in enough of a sense of this guy would not be doing any of this except for this show. He doesn’t want to do terrible things to himself or other people, but he has this sense of duty toward the show that is complete and is in every bone of his body. I’m sure people wonder and will wonder even more over the course of the season what’s wrong with him that he has this unshakable sense of duty, but that’s an interesting conversation.
What network would you imagine a show like this in real life would be on?
It’s hard to imagine, but I guess probably PBS is where Forrest thinks he’s making his show for or you know what Discovery used to be. Channels like that or the BBC. It’s a public service is really what the show is.
What kind of back story do you imagine Forrest has?
I've always seen him as somebody who vastly overestimates his intelligence. He has probably imagined himself to be something of an academic but if you look at his résumé it doesn’t bear that out. We imagined that he has been a film reviewer maybe on a local level in a small way, but someone who really thinks of himself as an intellectual film reviewer, but the body of work doesn’t bear that out.
Will you be making a little bit tighter of a narrative for Forrest in season two?
We did. We start off saying what is going to happen this season. On a big bulletin board, those were sort of yellow index cards, the sort of big benchmark moments for Forrest in his life and then it was a matter of lining up reviews to help us get there. We were able to start this season with more in the sense of what we wanted to do to Forrest. There’s the full wide range of human experiences. We do ask ourselves what would people ask Forrest to do. They would ask him big things. They would ask him small things. They would ask him things that are f—ing with him. A lot of the people are f—ing with him.
But he has veto power now?
Yes. That’s very important this season. Forrest has gotten the concession out of Grant, his producer, that he can veto two reviews and it’s not something to be taken lightly. You know he is able to toss two of them back.
Are we going to see more of Jessica St. Clair as the Forrest's ex Suzanne?
She will be back. Forrest is not quite done with Suzanne.
What was it like having Max Gail playing Forrest's father?
We had this role in mind for the dad and our casting director suggested a bunch of people, and I watched some stuff from Max Gail — particularly his performance in 42 — and just thought he’s so sweet and he’s so funny. I was a huge Barney Miller fan, so we brought him in. He has a big moment in an episode later in our season, which is fascinating when viewed alongside his big scene in Mad Men.
Will we see Allison Tolman in multiple episodes?
[No.] We have the same casting director as Fargo, Rachel Tenner, who won the Emmy for casting Fargo. She suggested Allison for this part in our premiere episode, and she is so amazing in it. People can be screamingly hilarious in dramas and yet people don’t walk away going, "Wow, she’s funny." She was great to work with. She found the tone of our show absolutely perfectly and that’s a delight.
Review returns Thursday, July 30 at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.