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Somewhat Enchanting: Disenchantment Full First Season Review (Netflix)

In 1989, Americans everywhere were introduced to Homer Simpson and Springfield in the
television series The Simpsons. Since then, the show—currently about to start its 30 th season—has
become the longest running scripted show in television history and has earned a spot as one of the most
iconic representations of American entertainment. Once could argue that it was the Simpsons that
blazed a trail for future adult-oriented animated shows such as Family Guy, King of the Hill, South Park,
and many more. The creators of those shows like Seth MacFarlane and Mike Judge, will all go down in
television history for creating great animated shows, but Matt Groening is the one who started it all. His
next series after the Simpsons, Futurama, wasn’t as big of a hit as The Simpsons, but it slowly gained a
huge cult following and today, is regarded as one of televisions best sitcoms. Now, Groening has a new
animated series out on Netflix called Disenchantment. With a team of writers and producers who have
worked on many successful animated and half-hour sitcoms before, Disenchantment seems like a
product that has all the components to work; however, developing a series for a streaming service, in
binge-fashion, just might prove to be a challenge for this new comedy title. The question to ask here
isn’t simply whether Disenchantment is good or not, but whether Groening’s familiar approach we’ve
grown to love can withstand the test of time and survive on a completely different kind of platform such
as Netflix.

The show, similar to The Simpsons and Futurama, features an ensemble of characters set in a
fictional setting. However, instead of modern, middle-class America like in The Simpsons, or New New
York in the year 3000 like in Futurama, Disenchantment takes place in a medieval fantasy setting—in the
Kingdom of Dreamland to be specific. While the aforementioned ensemble boasts a colorful and
humorous cast of fantasy-troupe characters, the series’ star is Princess Tiabeanie “Bean,” who is voiced
by Abbi Jacobson from Comedy Central’s Broad City. With fellow comedians Eric Andre and Nat Faxon
playing the supporting characters, Luci the Demon and Elfo (an Elf) respectively, the show has a
potentially funny cast that should draw in some laughs.
Probably owing to Netflix’s larger budget, and it being 2018, there seems to be a lot more
emphasis on the show’s animation style than in Groening’s previous shows, which added a fresh and
invigorating tone to the show. The artwork does, at times, feel like a point-and-click video game or a Dr.
Seuss book, but you get used to it in time. The show’s setting as whole, looks like a well thought out and
detailed fantasy world that’s crafted with the right balance of lore and satire. Along with the artwork,
and the show’s fairytale-like soundtrack, the writers obviously spent a significant amount of time and
care in making sure that the show was historically accurate—within reason of course; it’s still a comedy
in the end.

While the show is unique, Disenchantment is still a Matt Groening production. As is the case
with any two or more shows produced by the same person, any fan of either The Simpsons or Futurama
will be able to quickly point out Groening’s tone in his new series. The social norms and mores that were
ever present in the middle ages are mercilessly satirized in his typical sarcastic fashion. For example, the
show briefly poked fun at the logical fallacies found in certain religious sects during the Middle Ages.
While sarcasm aimed at conservative values was expected going into the viewing of the show, the show
didn’t even come close to appearing as arrogant or pretentious—a reputation that The Simpsons has
garnered over the years.
As stated before, this is a Netflix original series, meaning that while Matt Groening and his team
of writers created the show, it was paid for and distributed by Netflix. That being said, this is Groening’s
first show aired on a streaming platform, and therefore, the signature comedy style that worked so well
in The Simpsons and Futurama may not bode so well with Disenchantment. In a show that has aired
hundreds of episodes, and airs more than 20 episodes a season like The Simpsons for instance, there is a
little bit of leeway or wiggle room to not quite hit the mark, when it comes to comedy. Unfortunately,
for a streaming service where binging is the norm, and your seasons are roughly 10-13 episodes in
length, it’s a much tougher game. If a comedy fails to deliver enough laughs, that can easily make a show
forgettable. Disenchantment—whose first season contains 10 episodes, each running roughly 30
minutes—comes very close; but quickly staggers back to form after the first episode and by the tenth
episode, does adequately reward its audience.
Pilots are tricky I admit. For obvious reasons, the first episode of your show is arguably the most
important episode of your entire show’s run. A show’s pilot needs to have the perfect balance of plot,
exposition, and in the case of comedies, humor. Disenchantment’s first episode is a decent story to
watch, but unfortunately, they spend too much time on exposition. The show’s pilot is strictly an
introduction of the main characters, with an average narrative, and not many jokes/gags. However, the
second episode is a welcoming improvement, and pretty much makes up for the slow and unremarkable

Among Disenchantment’s flaws, the most pressing issue is one that may just very well fix itself
with time. Throughout the first season—much more noticeable in the first few episodes—the show
seems to have trouble distinguishing itself from a serialized show (such as Game of Thrones, Breaking
Bad, Lost) and a standalone-episode show (The Simpsons, Law and Order, Big Bang Theory). As stated
before, the pilot episode didn’t find the right balance between plot and exposition, and that stumbling
seemed to leave a mark throughout the rest of the season. The finale did tie up the season’s loose ends
and gave us a nice little cliffhanger, but the show’s writers will have to work harder to blend their two
narrative styles into a funny and coherent episodic story. Few shows have done it well, but it is possible;
and the way the writers handled the whole season, it does look like Disenchantment can, one day, walk
that fine line between show styles.
One can clearly see the growing popularity of short-seasoned shows, because of their
availability and low level of commitment; and streaming services such as Netflix are picking them up like
crazy. That being said, Disenchantment could fall into the rapidly growing pit of never-should-have-
been-greenlit Netflix originals, or it could rise to the top and be something that Matt Groening can be
proud of, and that young adults everywhere can call “a pretty chill show.” We’ll only know for sure when
the second season comes out, and hopefully, they have a clearer sense of who they are. A show’s
success is a lot like success in any other aspect; confidence is key, and this season didn’t have as much of
that confidence that we would normally expect from Matt Groening. Another 10 episodes are scheduled
to be released in the future at an undisclosed date, and when they do come out, I’ll watch them with
high hopes. Disenchantment is not a bad show, but it has a lot of growing to do, and it has to do it fast if
it wants to survive in this new world of modern television.

If I were to rate the season, I’d give it a: 6.5/10