This past weekend, Netflix released Matt Groening's latest animated adventure Disenchantment. If you're not up on it, the show revolves around Princess Tiabeanie aka Bean, the princess of a fantasy kingdom called Dreamland. When she's not butting heads with her father King Zog, she's causing mischief with her elf friend Elfo and her personal demon Luci. It's a show with modest ambitions, mashing medieval humor and solid character development into something that makes for the kind of low-stakes weekend binging that has become Netflix's staple.
Over the course of the last five days, the conversation around the show has been revolving around its connection to the superior Simpsons and Futurama; the show is admittedly scattershot in its satire of the fantasy genre to the point where it feels aimless, and some feel that the show is too low stakes and uninteresting to warrant the two-part 20-episode order that Netflix gave it. But these critiques could also be lobbied at two other shows that I can think of: The Simpsons and Futurama.
Let's not beat around the bush: both series might have a more focused point of satire to fall back on -- The Simpsons with the nuclear family normalized by 50s Americana and Futurama's future as a comment on our present -- but even these couldn't save either show from their fair share of bad episodes and general stumbles in their early seasons. You don't get to become cultural institutions the size and scale of The Simpsons or Futurama without missteps like the fact that Homer Simpson was just a Walter Matthau impression that gained sentience. Even Futurama's much lauded supporting cast took time to gradually lift it above the sum of its parts.
Both shows were given time to make mistakes and walk through the trial and error of an admittedly different comedy landscape at the turn of the millennium, and it's interesting to see fans who have stuck with both of those shows as long as they have -- Futurama survived two cancellations before finally signing off for good in 2013 and The Simpsons could feasibly stay on TV forever, if it wanted -- not extend that same courtesy to a show that's barely on its legs. It's one thing to not like Disenchantment's brand of humor, but comparing it to shows that have decades of combined runtime and fine-tuning applied to them is, at the very least, unfair.
Disenchantment isn't perfect or even close in quality to its iconic sister series, but I want to celebrate what works about the show. For every corny Game of Thrones joke Disenchantment throws at you, there's a funny sign (a hallmark of Groening shows) to give you a chuckle. Abbi Jacobson's role as Princess Bean digs deeper than the princess deconstruction we've come to expect from Disney parodies like this, leaning into the more self-destructive and raunchy aspects of her personality to reveal the complicated teen underneath. Eric Andre's demon Luci might feel redundant since he's here to egg Bean into doing things that she would do anyway, but Andre's snarky affect sell their mutually draining relationship. A second part/season is coming whether we like it or not, and I'm enjoying Disenchantment enough to want to see it through to the end. This show isn't The Simpsons or Futurama and that's more than okay.