Matt Groening’s first series since Futurama is an interesting ride. The question is: Is Disenchantment worth watching?
Disenchantment, the latest series from Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons and Futurama), is now available on Netflix.
If you haven’t seen it yet, then you’re probably expecting Disenchantment to be a fantasy satire/parody, and that’s true to a certain degree.
To me, Disenchantment is a mystery.
Not in the sense that there are any underlying plots (although that’s certainly true too) but in the sense that it doesn’t seem that interesting, and yet keeps you coming back for more – possibly because ‘fantasy/comedy’ is still a fairly untapped market.
Perhaps that’s part of the issue: With no real frame of reference apart from The Simpsons or Futurama, Disenchantment will be unfairly judged against those classics.
And I say ‘unfairly’ because, by the end of the season, I found myself appreciating the series for what it was and not as ‘Simpsons/Futurama set in a fantasy universe’.
Of course, it’s hard to break away from the whole Groening-universe vibe when the voice cast reads like a who’s who of voice actors from Groening’s previous creations – but we can’t really fault the showmakers for working with professional and reliable talent, can we?
What’s Disenchatment about?
Bean (a.k.a Her Royal Highness Princess Tiabeanie Mariabeanie De La Rochambeaux Drunkowitz, and no I’m not joking) is a princess who doesn’t want to be a princess and spends her time goofing off with her friend ‘Elfo’, an Elf, and her literally-spellbound companion Luci, a demon.
The dialogue itself, while not always on the mark – not all the jokes landed with me – is delivered perfectly (see above: professional and reliable talent).
Anyway, the story itself revolves around Bean and her crew as they engage in various hijinks, just as you’d expect. It starts off as an ‘arranged marriages are bad’ tale, but soon branches out into storylines involving at least two magic curses (are there any other kind?) and the king’s quest to find a certain item and fill it with a certain thing.
What are the main characters like?
Bean is a bit, shall we say, problematic. I genuinely hope that she was written to exemplify privilege because if she wasn’t then the writers should probably take a long hard look at themselves. She doesn’t seem to value the quality of life of anyone but her friends and is more than happy to make others clean up her messes, often literally.
Her very first scene, shown above, shows her stealing money from one of her subjects via cheating at cards by saying that she counts as a third ‘Princess’ card. I’m all for comedy, but that’s a bit too on the nose for me.
I will say that she’s a great lead to watch, though. Her buck-toothed face isn’t the typical fare even for cartoons, and she has a kind heart even if she’s quite selfish.
I mean, hey – she is a princess after all.
Elfo is essentially little more than a running cuck gag, and the less I can say about him the happier I’ll be.
Not because of spoilers, but because I just hate him so very very much.
If you can imagine why a thirsty Smurf (and I don’t mean one who needs water) would be annoying in a parody of Lord Of The Rings, then you can understand my hatred for Elfo.
Luci is kind of fun because he’s a demon who acts like a 12-year-old edgelord.
Unfortunately, this is also the same reason why I couldn’t enjoy his character – he gets the most predictable lines in the whole series, which in turn kind of ruined my enjoyment of his character.
If I can imagine that he’ll say something and then he says it, I feel ripped off because I think that someone who’s paid money to write gags for a living should be able to write FAR better gags than I can imagine. Perhaps that’s unrealistic of me, but a good portion of his dialogue reeks of ‘insert edge HERE’ nonetheless.
My 12-year-old daughter loves him though: “He’s like Salem from Sabrina, but actually funny.”
Horses for courses, as they say.
There are many other interesting characters as well. The eternally grumpy King Zøg, his lizardesque wife (a satire of the reptilian overlord meme, perhaps?), and the executioner spring to mind.
But I must admit, I expected so much more from the characters.
However there’s another perspective to take, too: Perhaps all of this is a good sign – the characters do need room to grow if they’re going to grow, don’t they?
If this was all we ever saw of Disenchantment, if it was only one series long, then there’s been basically no growth, character-wise.
But Groening creations seem to do better when given room to breathe. Am I, perhaps, judging a book by the first few pages (as the old saying almost goes)?
When viewed not as a complete series but as the building blocks of what the series will eventually become, Disenchantment shows us a wonderful starting-off point for what could very well become the most popular fantasy/comedy series ever made.
Oh, and one last thing – if you’re a Mighty Boosh fan, you might recognise the voices of Rich Fulcher, Matt Berry, and Noel Fielding.
So if you’re a Groening fan or a Mighty Boosh fan then you could do a lot worse than to watch Disenchantment.
Heck, watch it even if you don’t like those shows, I say – it’s a unique thing if nothing else.
For all of my little quibbles here, I still enjoyed the show immensely on many levels and will definitely be watching season 2.
Is there a higher accolade than that, really?