Disenchantment, The latest Netflix series by way of Matt Groening is copping a lot of flack for not being “funny”, but I’m not seeing that.
What follow is a spoiler-free review. Mostly because it’s more opinion than review anyway…
So, I just finished watching the first 10 episodes of Matt Groening’s Disenchantment on Netflix.
Yeah, I’m a little slower than most. Remember, folks, I don’t binge watch Netflix. Frankly, watching two episodes a night, as I’ve done with Disenchantment is about as heavy as I’m willing to go.
Still, I can’t ignore the fact that Disenchantment has, generally, reviewed badly. Lots of reviews suggest it’s not terribly watchable, or that you have to wait too long for it to “get good”, or simply that it’s not very funny at all.
That hasn’t been my experience.
I’ve laughed at its jokes, both the obvious and the subtle as I’ve watched through it. I’m pretty certain that it’s not entirely helped by being “obviously” Groening, and folks bringing their Simpsons and Futurama expectations to bear towards it, but then I do think those folks are also looking at both of Groening’s previous series through slightly rose-tinted glasses.
The Simpsons has its classic seasons, but the first isn’t really one of them. Look past the shaky animation, because of course that got better. Even the concepts aren’t quite there yet, and I’d strongly argue it took a season or two to work out the right way to balance those characters. It’s a trick that the latter seasons have rather obviously lost, too.
Futurama’s the same; while the first episode is used as a plank to rest some very good material later on, it’s not going to top the all-time episodes list. Shows, even animated ones take their time to get their feet.
It also probably doesn’t help for some folks that fantasy tropes are something that The Simpsons, and especially Futurama have already mined for jokes.
Without wanting to spoil anything, the continuing narrative of Disenchantment does pick up the pace towards the tail end of its current 10 episodes. So not only was I having fun watching it, I was also nicely drawn into its plot.
Is it the most original idea ever? No, it’s not, but that’s OK as long as the audience is enjoying it.
And then I’m reminded that comedy enjoyment is entirely subjective anyway.
My example for this is another show that’s in the headlines, namely The Big Bang Theory.
It’s set to end after 12 seasons, which, if you asked me, is about 12 seasons too many. This won’t be news to any regular listeners of Vertical Hold, as I’ve often tussled with my co-host Adam Turner over whether it even counts as a comedy at all.
I’ve never, ever found The Big Bang Theory funny.
I’ve found it tired, I’ve found it annoying, I’ve found it mean in spirit and very, very obvious. But funny? No, I can’t say that I’ve found it funny.
To put it in some context, not that long ago, I was on an international flight with about an hour to go until landing time. The airline I was on had an incredibly limited TV selection, and for comedy, all it had was (you guessed it) episodes of The Big Bang Theory.
So instead of watching that, I stared at the flight map for 59 solid minutes until we landed. Got more laughs that way.
But that’s just me. Clearly The Big Bang Theory appeals to somebody, and for them, it’s comedy. I don’t like it, but they do. Subjective, you see?
So how do you solve for that? Well, the real way is to give it a try and see if its comedy tickles your particular funny bone.
I like a wide church of comic tastes, ranging from the very obvious to the subtle through to the surreal. I can view Spike Milligan as a comic genius (because he was) while entirely recognising that much of his material is very problematic on racist and sexist grounds.
I can enjoy a simple crude joke or pun, and still recognise a cleverly set up situation is also ripe comic fodder. And I can (and did) enjoy Disenchantment.
So will you enjoy it? I’d like to think so, but it’s really only a question you can answer by giving it a shot.
As long as you don’t try to sell me on The Big Bang Theory as a comedy. Then we can no longer be friends.
It’s some kind of social experiment in suffering, right?