The Cambridge Geek


This was an automatic watch, mainly because I'm still watching the Simpsons (29 seasons now, ludicrously), and this is basically that but with a fantasy coating on it. The question is, though, do I actually enjoy the Simpsons, or is it just habit?

Disenchantment seems like a good test of that, being the story of Bean, a runaway princess, Luci, her personal demon, and Elfo, an elf, in a fantasy world that runs on humour. Bean is desperate to escape from her arranged political marriage, and Elfo is simply out of step with the rest of the elves, who are mystically cheerful. The three of them go on various adventures, all of which are a bit silly. Luci is a curse placed upon Bean by a mysterious sorceress for plot reasons, and is constantly driving her to misbehave. Misbehave here mostly means drinking heavily and getting into bar fights.

The 3D landscapes are impressive.

I watched the entire season, which seemed fair to it, and I mostly discovered that I've seen it all before. The voice cast will be very familiar to any fans of the Simpsons and Futurama. In no particular order, Bender is the king, Agnes Skinner is a fairy prostitute, Kif is the prime minister and Fry is the wizard. The main three are a little less famous, which is nice, but the sheer number of familiar voices is distracting. But bloody hell I've had enough of Matt Berry for a while now.

I think Disenchantment managed to exist because Futurama exists. If Futurama was the science fiction version of the Simpsons, this is the fantasy version. Futurama was wildly successful, and at least to my mind exceeded the Simpsons both in terms of comedy and drama. It came up with a brilliant combination of short-form comedy in episode long plots, while still allowing its characters to grow over a range of seasons. It's one of those that was allowed to finish, and so can remain in the mind as a success, rather than running out of jokes and struggling (see criticism of the Simpsons).

So having succeeded at sci-fi, it makes sense for Groening to have a go at fantasy. Hence Disenchantment. And my god does it feel like the Simpsons with a fantasy veneer. It's got the same line in humour, with the casual cruelty to certain characters (Elfo is going to suffer a lot), matched with the protagonist centric morality, where Bean is going to get away with everything because she's the main character.

And Luci is a one note joke that doesn't get any funnier the more lines he gets.

There are hints. Little suggestions that this could have gone darker, which are almost entirely driven around Luci. Descents into his mind with quick twists of animation that are unexpectedly sharp. But they never manage to get beyond these brief moments.

Such an underused character.

But it still feels so familiar. I know it's a reference, but the existence in this of the joke "whores rouge, ladies leech" is a bit too on the nose. Hell, the idiot son is more or less Ralph Wiggum. And there's an exorcist who looks a surprising amount like Picard. If anything, it feels like they took a Treehouse of Horror show and turned it into a series. Partly that's the change in premise, but it's also the tone. This is a bloody series. The Treehouse Episodes still manage to be some of my favourites, but that's because they're the ones allowed to push the envelope. They can do unusual things, and don't have to stick around long enough to make them make sense. This did, and it didn't manage it.

I really wanted to like this. I've given it a fair shake, and I don't. It's honestly a bit underwhelming. It'd be nice to see it turn into a more plot heavy story, and again the climax of the series starts that going, but my god it should have got there quicker. It feels like they got to the end of the series, realised they didn't have a hook and decided to stick one in.

The hook helps, but it doesn't redeem a lackluster show in general. It will have to seriously up its game to match Futurama. If they'd used the climax of the show at the end of episode two and gone from there, I'd have been much more excited.

Just to end on a positive note - the backgrounds are exquisite. They've got an extravagant level of detail in them (and often include those sight gags weve come to expect), and have used the 3D approach again seen in Futurama to allow a more expansive feel, which does work really well. The opening credits are also rather delightful.

Score 3

Tagged: TV Comedy Epic fantasy Netflix