Forrest MacNeil is an odd collection of impulses: He’s a control freak who hands over major life choices to other people. To review the experience of being falsely accused, Forrest enlists his intern Josh (H. Michael Croner) and Josh’s ever-present girlfriend Tina (Hayley Huntley) as his accusers, pretending to give them free rein. “Pick a crime on here, any crime at all,” he instructs them, looking over the Burbank police blotter, then narrows it down. “Someone’s been stealing avocados from this woman’s tree. That’s perfect.”
But Josh and Tina—mostly Tina, it seems—have bigger plans. The horror of watching them trump up evidence against him—a gas can covered with his fingerprints, his glasses left at the scene, his signature on hate mail—mingles with an odd satisfaction. Forrest leaves devastation in his wake. He breaks hearts and ruins lives. When he realizes Josh and Tina have framed him for arson—and a particularly nasty form of arson, motivated by prurience and accompanied by vicious notes—he gets a taste of what that’s like.
Notice that Forrest is falsely accused, not unjustly accused. Though he’s charged in a court of law, it’s Tina who delivers the stinging indictment: “We can’t tell them you’re innocent, because you’re guilty.” Josh chimes in, “You deserve the punishment you get.” They’re pretending, but they’re also right. He’s not guilty of arson, but he is guilty, and this feels like a long-deserved comeuppance for his misdeeds.
To the people who know Forrest, the charge is unnervingly plausible. Even his supportive father tells him “I believe you,” then gently probes for his possible reasons. In the service of Review, Forrest’s behavior is increasingly unhinged and opaque, even to those who love him.
His capricious interpretation of his assignments continues, and so does his chilling detachment from his methods. When a smitten high school student from Muscatine, Iowa, asks, “What’s it like to sleep with your teacher?,” Forrest flies off to Iowa to find out by seducing the boy’s teacher (Lennon Parham). He hunts down the Mrs. Greenfield (who remains “Mrs. Greenfield” in Forrest’s voiceovers, even when they share his childhood bed) on social media, intrudes on her girls’ night out, and—“although this predatory behavior felt wrong on many levels”—uses information gleaned from his internet stalking to win her over.
Parham’s clipped annoyance gives way to intrigue, assisted by generous alcohol and flattery (“Has anyone ever told you that you should actress?”), and soon they’re having “beautiful and athletic” (and covertly filmed) sex. Forrest’s single-minded pursuit and his Hollywood home prove seductive, and she heads to California with him, leaving her job, husband, and pining student all behind.
“Yay, a new girlfriend for Forrest! I think sometimes the best relationships start out in the grossest and most messed up ways!” A.J.’s contributions are often absurd even for the preposterous world of Review. When Forrest accepts the challenge of living as a little person, she chastises him, “Actually, Forrest, they prefer the term little people. They’re not just one person.”
Review makes hay from Forrest’s preconceptions without endorsing them. In “Sex Tape, Racist, Hunting,” Forrest’s attempts at overt racism reveal his unconscious everyday bigotry. “Curing Homosexuality, Mile High Club” plays on Forrest’s presumptions about gay men and a stripper’s sexual availability, making him, not them, the butt of the joke. In “Falsely Accused, Sleep With Your Teacher, Little Person,” the show pokes fun not at the challenges faced by little people in a world tailored to the average height, but at Forrest’s frivolous and insulting attempts to create a similar experience.
After an interlude of using oversized novelty items delivered by his intern towering over him on drywall stilts, Forrest decides “it’s time to get serious.” And what’s more serious than Dorf On Golf? Inspired by a video from his father’s VHS collection, Forrest commits to walking on his knees, Dorf-like. (Andy Daly mentions here, in a good-natured way, what an ordeal it was.)
In a series of events equally ridiculous and credible, Forrest’s attempt to approximate the daily complications of life as a little person escalates from offending a fellow tenant of his office building and drawing stares to burning down his father’s home. Most episodes of Review have a gut-wrenching sequence or two, but I spent the last minutes of “Little Person” alternately wailing and cupping my hand over my mouth in horror over that needless conflagration, sparked from a minor kitchen fire and a man’s stubborn refusal to stand up.
The casting does some of the heavy lifting here. Max Gail conveys an unassuming gentleness even in this largely silent role, helped along by his familiarity to some viewers as Barney Miller’s Wojo. Not that it’s hard to drum up sympathy for a father who’s welcomed his increasingly strange son home, offered understanding and acceptance when that son is indicted for arson, then watched his house burn down.
Forrest’s father’s house is almost as well-known to the audience as Forrest’s father. The camera lingers on its rooms—on his collections of dishes on display, the family photographs and wildlife prints, the gleaming woodwork. The garden shows Mr. MacNeil’s ongoing efforts to improve his home; Forrest’s bedroom, with his childhood stacks of board games and a Lynda Carter poster, are a sentimental attachment to the past. And now it’s gone.
On the pantry door jamb, little lines of ink mark off Forrest’s childhood heights, the tallest one inches higher than his self-appointed height on his knees. They’re visible behind (and above) him as he strains to reach the fire extinguisher. “Under the usual circumstances of my life, I could easily have grabbed this fire extinguisher and put out the blaze that was rapidly engulfing the kitchen,” his voiceover intones. Even as a child, he could have reached that high. But now he refuses to rise from his knees.
Once again, Forrest cleaves inconsistently to the artificial restrictions he dictates. When threatened with imprisonment for arson, he begs to call off the challenge. But he’d rather burn down his father’s home than rise to his feet for one moment. That’s Forrest all over: He’ll grovel on his knees to save himself, but he won’t stand up for someone else.
- Forrest’s ratings: being falsely accused, one star; sleeping with your teacher, “five brightly shining stars, highly recommended”; being a little person, three and a half stars.
- Forrest’s confident voiceover announcing “my lawyer Daisy rushed to the police station” contrasts with their conversation. “What took you so long?” “I couldn’t find my shoes.”
- Daisy only has three banker’s boxes full of documents on her shelf, one labelled Forrest, two labelled Mom.
- “He is played by Tim Conway and bears an amusing resemblance to Hitler.”
- Forrest assures the confused A.J. that willy-nilly “is not a person.” (“Then why are we talking about him?”) Issuer of the third challenge, the self-described “Giraffe Man of Ellsworth,” is William Nilly.
- Three episodes into season two, Forrest has had three girlfriends and persuaded a complete stranger she’d like to have sex with him in an airplane bathroom, or an airport bathroom, or a nice hotel. Forrest has an inexplicable way with women, at least at first.