I thought the best part of interviewing Andy Daly in Austin over the weekend would be getting a chance to witness the star of Comedy Central's "Review" channeling his fictional alter ego Forrest MacNeil and eating pancakes, as he did in the year's funniest half-hour of television. But though pancakes were, in fact, consumed (in the interests of accuracy, I should say that Daly ordered the short stack — albeit what turned out to be a Texas-sized short stack — and ate much, but not all, of it), the most exciting part of the interview was the news that Comedy Central was days away from announcing that "Review" (which had ended on a brilliant, but seemingly final, note) would return for a second season.
(In that same announcement, Comedy Central also renewed "Inside Amy Schumer" and the animated series "TripTank," as well as greenlighting two new series: "Another Period," starring Riki Lindhome and Natasha Leggero as rich, vapid sisters circa 1902; and "Idiotsitter," created by and starring Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse as, respectively, a rich woman under house arrest in her daddy's mansion and the woman hired to keep her out of further trouble.)
And now that the renewal is official, here's our entire conversation in Austin, looking back over the brilliance of that first season, and ahead to how the show might work in season 2.
What were the discussions with Comedy Central like about the pick-up?
Andy Daly: For us, the relationship between our budget and our ratings was a little skewed. One of those numbers was significantly higher than the others. It was just a question of if we could do it a little less expensively without losing all the things people love about the show. It was just, "How about we shoot a few fewer days per script?"
What is the big cost of the show?
Andy Daly: To tell you the truth, we went into production having written too much. I hope we'll be able to put out a DVD with all the incredible stuff we weren't able to put in the show. We were supposed to originally make eight episodes, and we turned it into nine, because we'd written too much and shot too much, and still had to cut out a lot. That was a measure of our inexperience. So now we can go in knowing we don't have to write that much.
So what are some of the reviews we might not have seen?
Andy Daly: We didn't cut a single review, actually. But there are lots of scenes that got cut. You know how in episode 1, I take that girl to the prom and introduce her to cocaine for the first time ever? We had a little bit of a running story, where when I'm Batman, I beat up a drug dealer, and she's there still in her ratty prom dress buying drugs from the guy. We had to cut that. And then in the final episode of the whorehouse, she's also there, still in her prom dress. Stuff like that had to get cut. And there's an extended version of the coffee cart scene, where we make it clear that she's hoping to leave the business to Forrest so he can retire.
I have not seen the Australian show. How did you come upon it in the first place?
Andy Daly: My understanding is that the Australian Broadcasting Company sold the format of the show to one of those international formatting companies that usually deals with game shows and reality shows. I've been told that a Dutch version has been made, and I heard that they were developing a pilot for a British version. Comedy Central saw this international process, and they thought of me for it. And I just mysteriously received DVDs on the doorstep one day, and watched it and said, "Yeah, that's what I should do. That's me! That's the Australian me!"
Is the Australian version as dark in terms of what happens to the guy?
Andy Daly: Well, it doesn't have quite the narrative arc that we had. he does, in the second episode, divorce his wife, and they stay divorced. And then in the second season, it gets a little more narrative than in the first, but we drilled down on that — the piling up of consequences — a little more consistently than they did. In that second episode with his divorce, they have a custody hearing that's almost identical to ours, except he's not dressed as Batman, and that was the moment when I realized what the show could be. In the context of the custody hearing, opposing counsel was saying, "Look at what this man's done in the past 30 days! He's joined with the Taliban, he's gone whale hunting in illegal waters..." And I said, "That's it: the things he's reviewing will screw up his life."
What I like is that there's continuity even within episodes, so the cocaine addiction becomes a problem at the prom. How did you figure out how to structure the reviews together in that way?
Andy Daly: We just had all these cards on the board, and we shifted them around to see what would work where, and how things could come back. Andy Blitz is particularly adept at callbacks. He just has a brain for that. He probably pitched 100 fascinating callbacks that we couldn't use. But one of his great ideas was the idea that, in episode 8, I kidnap him, playing one of the cops, and his idea was that every time we see cops in the show, it's him and his brother (Jeffrey Blitz). It pays off in episode 8, but we've seen them in a bunch of other episodes.
It doesn't really come up until the finale, but what does Forrest's wife know of what he's doing? Is the show on television that she could see?
Andy Daly: No. One decision we made is that it's not gonna air until Forrest's show is all shot. But the other thing we decided is that the people around him, for whom the cameras would be inescapable, all understand that a documentary is being made that Forrest is the focus of. Maybe they've been told it's about the life of a reviewer, but they have not been told that he's reviewing life experiences, because that would skew the results. At the end of the racism episode, he could just tell people, "Oh, I'm reviewing what it's like to be racist." It would take all the stakes away. Same with the sex tape: for her to have the true reaction of wondering why he was doing this without giving Forrest the chance to explain himself.
People asked about this a lot, particularly after the divorce. Was there a way you could have made that more clear in the show, or would it have just been clumsy exposition?
Andy Daly: We definitely talked about it, and we decided that it would be burdensome to put that explanation on the audience. The decision was made to just have fun with the premise. In retrospect, given the number of people who have asked about it, it's a tough call. For some people, who are logical-minded — and I am one of them — this was a sticking point. Other people would have heard the explanation, and it would've gone in one ear and out the other. And in the sex tape scene, she's saying, "What's going on? This isn't like you." I wanted to find a spot in there to explain in voiceover, but it would have been a big digression from the topic.