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TV Series Review

Who wouldn't want to live in a fairy tale world?

Bean, that's who.

You'd think that Bean—short for Tiabeanie Mariabeanie De La Rochambeaux Drunkowitz—is literally living the dream, wouldn't you? I mean, not only does she live in an actual fairy tale world, she's a princess in that world, the lifelong ambition of at least 80% of the little girls you'll see in any Disney theme park. Her home state of Dreamland ("Now with five village idiots," the sign reads) certainly looks nice, what with its hugish castle on a cliff and its picturesque village below and its (thus far) distinct lack of destructive dragons.

But the grass is always greener on the other side of the monster-infested moat, and Bean would tell you that being a princess isn't all it's cracked up to be. Not when your dad wants you to get married against your will and all. What's a princess to do but turn her mother into a bear and— * No, no, wait. That's another story. *What's a princess to do but hide in the woods with three fairies who can't agree on colors and—no, no, sorry. Wrong one again. What's a princess to do but run off with the Dread Pirate Roberts and deal with Rodents of Unusua

All right, one more try: What's a princess to do but run off with an elf and a tiny demon and have a series of animated, off-color adventures with one another?

Yeah, that's the right one.


Subversive fairy tales have been all the rage since Shrek, really. Even the fairy tale kingdom of Disney itself has cranked out a couple such stories, from its sweetly revisionist princess fable Frozen to its darkish (and recently departed) ABC drama Once Upon a Time.

But the magic kingdom of Disenchantment comes not from the Mouse House, but from the mind of Matt Groening (Josh Weinstein is also listed as co-creator), conjurer of The Simpsons and the architect behind Futurama. No surprise that this satirist of American suburbia and twister of tomorrow would want his own, warped spin on fantasy, too.

We must begin with Bean, a hard-drinking, hard-living princess who longs to see what the world look like outside her daddy's castle, one bar at a time. (Not that she hasn't seen plenty of it already: "I have to wear this crazy veil and pretend I'm a virgin?" she bemoans on her ill-fated wedding day, shortly after she's dragged away from the local tavern.)

She's not alone in her escapades, though. She's accompanied by Elfo the elf, who has a crush on Bean, albeit secret and unrequited. He serves as the party's voice of happy optimism (such as it is). Bean's also bringing along her own, literal, personal demon, too: Luci, and he's sometimes mistaken for a cat. (Which, based on the cats I've known, isn't much of a stretch.)

Their ensuing adventures make many a nod to everything from Snow White to The Princess Bride, from The Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones. But despite its pedigree and imaginative forebears, Disenchantment is far from magical.

Hubble, Bubble, Boy, This is Trouble

This is not to say that Netflix's animated fantasy tale is wholly lacking in merit. It can be clever. It can be funny. It can even flash moments of satirical insight.

But overall, Disenchantment seems dispiritingly well named. It feels more forced than its forebears. Whatever magic it does conjure up seems a bit like a Ron Weasley spell early on in Harry Potter: as likely to miss as hit.

Speaking of magic, naturally, there's a lot of that here—not just the fairy tale sort we'd find in Sleeping Beauty, nor the naturalistic magic of Harry Potter, but sometimes full-on dark-arts stuff. It's exemplified by the infernal homunculus haunting Bean's every step. Sent by sinister pair of sorcerers who mean ill for Bean, Luci is hardly painted as a force for positive growth. But given his presence as a prime character in this tale, this denizen of "the deepest depths of the underworld" is more sympathetic than you'd like a demon to be.

And the show's problems hardly end there. This fairy tale world is filled with dark spiritualism, prostitute fairies, promiscuous elves and violent wars—the latter of which might even prompt Itchy and Scratchy to close their eyes.

Disenchantment has a few charms, 'tis true. Too bad they're found in such a troublesome stew.

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Episode Reviews

Aug. 17, 2018: "A Princess, an Elf and a Demon Walk Into a Bar"



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Abbi Jacobson as Bean; Eric André as Luci; Nat Faxon as Elfo; John DiMaggio as King Zøg; Tress MacNeille as Queen Oona; David Herman as The Herald; Maurice LaMarche as Odval; Billy West as Sorcerio; Jeny Batten as Kissy the Elf; Rich Fulcher as Turbish






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On Video

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Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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