TV: Disenchantment (Season 1)

I mostly missed the boat on The Simpsons and bounced right off of Futurama, so it’s fair to say I possessed neither enthusiasm nor high expectations for Matt Groening’s new Netflix series Disenchantment. This one appears, at first glance, to follow Futurama’s basic model, layering thinly veiled contemporary references atop genre tropes to comedic effect. But there’s more to it than humorous high-fantasy anachronisms, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

Disenchantment takes place in the magical kingdom of Dreamland, and its hero is Princess Bean (Abbi Jacobson), a rebellious teenaged troublemaker who spends her days endlessly fed up with the stodgy rituals and rules of royal life. Her soon-to-be-friend is Elfo (Nat Faxon), who is similarly disgruntled— although in his case, it’s with the relentless, insipid cheer of making candy in the elf kingdom. Elfo arrives in Dreamland just as Bean is resisting an arranged marriage with a prince from another kingdom—aided in her rebellion by Luci (Eric Andre), a snarky demon who’s been sent to Bean in an evil plot to corrupt her. Bean and Elfo form an unlikely friendship, working together as fellow outsiders against the stultifying norms of their quasi-medieval society as they search for their own definition of fulfillment.

Disenchantment’s humor is as uneven as Groening’s other output, in my experience—oscillating wildly from brilliant to meh and back again. But I quickly developed a general fondness for this one, even when the laughs were missing. For one thing, it features a brilliant music soundtrack from Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo fame) which includes an exceptional, tone-setting theme song. It also has an absurd, unpredictable ethos I found infectious. Its pacing is brisk, the worldbuilding isn’t half bad, and it even delivers some touching emotional moments. So far, this one isn’t quite top-tier viewing in my book, but it is an inventive, quirky, and fun series, effortlessly watched.

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