Life — it’s literally all we have. But is it any good? I’m a reviewer, but I don’t review food, books nor movies; I review life itself.
– Forrest MacNeil
So begins every episode of Review, a show-within-a-show that allows us a look at life through the lenses of the intrepid reviewer Forrest MacNeil. Throughout the two seasons, Forrest (played by Andy Daly) reviewed life experiences that ranged from the silly yet harmless kind (Eating 15 Pancakes, Being at a Sex Party) to the silly AND harmful (Bare-Knuckled Brawl, Killing a Person), rating them between zero to five stars each. He didn’t get to choose what to review (more on that later), and as you can probably tell, he is relentlessly committed to the show.
Forrest stops at nothing to ensure he fulfils his review. He divorces his long-married wife just because he had to review getting a divorce. He gets his father’s house burned down simply because he could not abandon his review of Being a Little Person to reach up and grab a fire extinguisher when a fire breaks out in the kitchen. He blackmails his new girlfriend, checks himself into a mental hospital, gets shot by an arrow, gets stabbed, gets shot, undergoes massive plastic surgery, and yes, kills someone, all in the name of his job.
It’s a slow dissolution of Forrest’s once-happy life, and he simply cannot stop himself from razing it further.
Review is presented in a mockumentary format, and what you and I see is supposed to be the actual show airing, complete with voiceovers from Forrest. However, as Forrest makes his way through the increasingly-dangerous reviews (more on that later, I promise), he finds himself in deepening misery and finds comfort in the one remaining constant in his life – Review itself.
How does Forrest review life when his own life is in shambles? He doesn’t consider that question at all. His pride, and more importantly his conviction, decrees that he continue reviewing everything. He is on a sacred mission to educate people about life experiences foreign to them.
However, in the season finale “Conspiracy Theory”, Forrest is forced to confront the sad aftermath of his stint as reviewer. Having to review the experience of having a conspiracy theory makes Forrest look back at the various life-threatening situations that his past reviews have put him through. He puts it all on a whiteboard and realises that he has almost died 11 times through the course of his reviews. Forrest thus hatches a conspiracy theory of his own: what if his producer Grant has been deliberately selecting dangerous requests for Forrest to review in order to kill him?
It’s a valid conspiracy, as Grant has certainly been portrayed as having motivations that are shady at best throughout the show. Grant has been egging Forrest on to perform the increasingly-dangerous reviews, at one point even convincing Forrest to continue his reviews when in prison. Yet at the same time, Grant is an easy scapegoat for Forrest to blame. We’ve seen instances in the show when Forrest chooses to destroy his life in order to accomplish a review, time and again justifying them as necessary.
Having a conspiracy theory requires you have so much faith and dedication to your theory that your reality is shaped to accommodate that theory. Review is Forrest’s version of a conspiracy theory — a anti-conspiracy theory. He denies his complicity in creating his ruined life, pointing to the reviews asked of him. He does not realise that while reviewing life experiences for other people, he has given up his life for them. Giving his life for the same people? He has come very, very close. 11 times, in fact. And after seeing the ending of “Conspiracy Theory”, with a third season of Review yet to be confirmed, I can safely say that Forrest is possibly in the best place he can be.
After all, if you’re feeling at sea, life has a way of taking you places.
I’ve said my piece — what do you think about Forrest MacNeil and Review?