Disenchantment Season 1 Review

Story posted September 11, 2018 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by JonMichael Pereira

Produced from the creative mind behind both classics The Simpsons and Futurama, Matt Groening is no stranger to crafting sensational animated television. With almost a 20-year hiatus from originating any new series, Groening is back on the scene with the outlandish Disenchantment.

A story set in an “enchanting” form of the medieval times, Disenchantment follows the the main protagonist Bean (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), a drunkard princess who is conflicted with her ties to the throne and her two companions who both form to be dualistic versions of the other. We have the cheerful Elfo (he’s an elf, get it) played by Nat Faxon, whose main priority is to keep Beans heart and values pure, while the demented Luci, played by Eric Andre, tries to stray her away from a path of virtue. Though Disenchantment has all the components needed to make for some genius knockout television, it falls surprisingly flat in its first installment.

Disenchantment, much to its detriment, was faced with a considerable amount of media exposure following up to its release, due almost completely to the fact that Groening’s name had not been associated with any new series since Futurama, which was released way back in 1999. However, as the Groening’s fans sat in high hopes, finally appeased after 20 years of anticipation, they ended up receiving a finished product that seemed to lack the originality of his previous works.

It is not difficult to notice the parallels between Disenchantment and Groening’s other productions, which provides the viewer with an almost comforting sense of familiarity. The color palate and animation style utilized in Disenchanted is very much reminiscent of Futurama, and the similarities from Groening’s sophomore series don’t stop there. Many of the characters and even episodic plots are seemingly recycled from the Futurama series. Most notably, Futurama’s Leela, a strong willed, foulmouthed female lead is the exact mold from which Bean’s character was shaped.

The structure of this show also seems to be a problem for Groening, as much of his past work presents no overarching story, introducing each new episode as if it is a new adventure. Disenchantment, on the other hand, requires the viewer to watch each “chapter” linearly, so that they can understand the series as a whole. It is here that the show begins to lose its traction. When implementing this form of storytelling, even with a comedy such as this, the element of attraction must never falter. An animated comedy series that does this notably well is Gravity Falls, as it presents each episode with a purpose to uncovering its overarching secret mystery. Instead, Disenchantment introduces many of its secretes deep into the season after the viewers have noticeably lost their interest.

This perfectly introduces the next complication this series suffered from and that is a total lack of momentum. Considering Groening’s massive success in the realm of animated spoofs, there were high expectations that this newest installment wouldn’t suffer the same growing pains as his previous works had to endure. This was not the case. Characters such as Elfo and Luci that are deemed integral to the overriding plot are terribly underdeveloped, leaving the viewer with no emotional connection toward them when situations go array toward the end of the season. In this climate of television, especially with an episodic series, gripping the viewer is the first priority or audiences will simply find something else to watch.

With components such as an underlying plot and a setting reminiscent of the middle ages, it’s not difficult to associate Disenchanted with the likes of Game of Thrones, especially because they both share a similarity in fantasy. With both The Simpsons and Futurama establishing themselves as satiric on genres that are beloved by television audiences such as family sitcoms and sci-fi, this just seems to be Disenchantment’s “angle” so to speak. But, considering Game of Thrones’ long standing popularity, the subject has already been satirized in-depth, which makes Disenchanted feel somewhat late to the game. For example, shows such as Family Guy and South Park have devoted mere episodes to this concept, executing the adult parodic aspect of the genre as a whole far better than the entirety of the first season of Disenchantment.

The comedy in this show is not all bad though, the cast seems to perform well together which makes the experience more enjoyable than it very well may be. Most of the humor seems to be aimed for a more tween-based audience, which usually has been the target audience for Groening’s past pieces. The difference lies in the “follow through” portion of the jokes. Though it contains topics that, on the surface level, seem dark enough for a medieval-esque setting (prostitution, alcoholism, execution, etc.), they never really push the envelope, as they end up concluding jokes before they even go anywhere.

Disenchantment is exceedingly average. Its slow momentum and stale humor make the series hard to move from one episode to the next. Yet its talented cast and their compatibility with not only their characters, but also each other, gives this show a fair amount of heart that will draw in viewers looking for a new series to watch. Based on the past work of Groening, Disenchantment may be off to a slow start, but that by no means makes it a complete bust. 



JonMichael Pereira is a Sophomore majoring in Telecommunications. To contact him, email jqp5759@psu.edu.