Disenchantment is Matt Groening’s first series since creating Futurama, but the quality of the series is more like what’s become of his original and most famous show, The Simpsons. Set in the Kingdom of Dreamland, Disenchantment follows Princess Bean, her (literal) personal demon Luci, and their elf companion, Elfo.
Unlike Groening’s previous efforts, the series has only 10 episodes per season, which are intended to be serialized (and binged), with a more narrative-heavy focus. There are a number of connections between Disenchantment and Futurama, but one of the biggest links to Groening’s works is a rather unintentional one, which is something really hammered home by the recently released Disenchantment season 2.
Put simply, Disenchantment is not good TV. Although it ostensibly has serialization, the plotting often goes off on tangents, leaving the final episode(s) in a rush to then tie the whole story together because it wasted time (*checks notes*) skewering centuries old theatre tropes and making sure you understand it's referencing The Simpsons and Futurama. It wants to be a fantasy satire and tell a fantasy story, but it doesn’t successfully do either. The narrative isn’t good enough, and the comments on the genre already feel tired and lazy. That might be forgivable if Disenchantment were actually funny, but unfortunately, it’s not: the jokes rarely land, and while this is Groening’s first series aimed more explicitly at adults, the attempts at “mature” humour are surprisingly childish. It took The Simpsons well over a decade to reach this point, but Disenchantment has achieved it in just two seasons and 20 episodes.
The bad fantasy story and lack of humour again might be (somewhat) forgivable if the characters worked, but here too Disenchantment is lacking. The animation might be 3D, but they’ve all the depth of those crude early-Simpsons drawings. It’s hard to believe that the same writers who helped bring the glory years of Homer, Bart, Lisa et al to life, and then did the same for Fry, Leela, Bender & Co., have created characters as flat and uninteresting as Bean, Luci, and Elfo.
Of course, maybe that’s the problem. A lot has been made of how this is Groening’s first streaming series, and his name attached to this concept has already proved enough for Netflix to commit to Disenchantment through 2021. But despite being a product of something new, Disenchantment already feels like a relic of the past. The Simpsons was doing fresher, funnier material 25 years ago than this is today. Now, it’s barely a shadow of its former self, with more bad seasons than good and even needing qualifiers when you speak of the show’s (former) greatness. Bad jokes? Weak storylines? Poor characterisation? An over-reliance on referencing back to something you loved? At least The Simpsons had years on screen and hundreds of great episodes before it got to that point. Disenchantment just skipped the good stuff. Stupid TV, be more funny.