It’s time for some small screen amusement as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out the new series from Simpsons creator Matt Groening and the spinoff from long-running biker drama Sons of Anarchy.
Created by Matt Groening & Josh Weinstein
Telling the story of an alcoholic princess, an amoral elf and a sarcastic demon, Disenchantment was never going to have what marketers call a “soft launch”. Attracting a huge amount of fan and media interest when it was released in August, it was inevitable that viewers would compare these new characters (and the series in general) to The Simpsons and Futurama. Many critics have been less than complimentary.
Voiced by veteran voice actor Abbi Jacobson, our heroine (of sorts) is Princess Tiabeane, known to her drinking buddies as Bean. After being cursed with her own personal demon Luci (voiced by Eric André, probably the best character in the series) Bean meets Elfo (Nat Faxon), an elf who has been cast out of elf society for being a bit of a dick. Rather than go on a quest, the gang just sort of hang around and get into trouble — a bit like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but slightly less nihilistic.
This might be the main problem that I had with Disenchantment: they take an overarching narrative approach to the series (rather than having standalone episodes) but don’t really do anything with the narrative. What little character development we see happens in the final episode, when Bean realises that she cares about her friends, Elfo realises that being different is good and Luci decides that it’s great being a demon and he doesn’t need to change at all.
Despite this complaint, Disenchantment did make me laugh and, by the end of ten episodes, I was interested enough in the characters to want to know what happens next. Fortunately, word on the street is that Netflix has already greenlit a second season, which is good news for Groening fans and also for those neckbeards who want to complain that animation has been going downhill since season four of the Simpsons…
Disenchantment is currently streaming on Netflix.
Created by Elgin James & Kurt Sutter
There used to be a time when spinoff TV series were treated as something of a joke, with every success like Laverne & Shirley or Frasier being matched by a dozen failures like After MASH, The Brady Brides or Joey. Then Better Call Saul came along, and a lot of people started thinking about TV spinoffs in a new way.
Sons of Anarchy ran for seven seasons, telling the Hamlet-inspired story of a biker gang in Southern California, introducing a host of rival gangs along the way. Prominent among these was the Mayans, a Hispanic gang with connections to the Mexican drug cartels. As the title would suggest, Mayans MC focuses on this gang, primarily through the eyes of young gang “prospect” EZ.
Played by newcomer JD Pardo, EZ is a former high school football star whose life went off the rails, leading to his joining the Mayans gang alongside his older brother Angel (Clayton Cardenas). His disappointed father Felipe (Edward James Olmos) runs the local delicatessen, and acts as a contact between EZ and his FBI handler. And that’s the major difference between Mayans and SoA — the lead character in Mayans is revealed as a traitor to his gang in the very first episode.
The involvement of SoA creator Kurt Sutter means that Mayans feels very similar to its predecessor, right down to cameo appearances from Sons regulars, like Katey Sagal as Gemma Teller and Michael Ornstein as fingerless compulsive masturbator Chucky. There are lots of drugs and guns, along with a general sense of unease that comes from the fact that EZ’s duplicity could be revealed at any moment, resulting in his immediate painful death. It’s… not bad.
Mayans MC is currently showing on Showcase.
Despite being an animated series from the creator of The Simpsons, Disenchantment really isn’t for children, with frequent references to drunkenness, drugs and sex. It’s not on the level of South Park or Happy, but a fair number of the jokes will demand explanation if you have perceptive kids. While the first season was good rather than great, I’m still hoping for a second.
If you’re one of those viewers who has been missing Sons of Anarchy, despite the series catastrophic drop in quality in later seasons, Mayans MC might make you happy. It has lots of motorcycles and serious looking men in leather, along with some pointed social commentary about being Hispanic in Trump’s America. Slightly slow to get started and clichéd at times, Mayans MC is nonetheless another decent entry in the annals of Tough Guy TV.
Disenchantment — 7/10
Mayans MC — 7/10
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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