REVIEW: MYTHIC QUEST: RAVEN’S BANQUET – SEASON 1

Rob McElhenney in Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet (2020)

Starring

Rob McElhenney (Wonder Boys)
F. Murray Abraham (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Imani Hakim (Reign Over Me)
David Hornsby (Minority Report)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Ashly Burch (Critical Role)
Charlotte Nicdao (Thor: Ragnarok)
Jessie Ennis (Better Call Saul)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Elisha Henig (American Vandal)
Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother)
Caitlin McGee (Plus One)
Jake Johnson (New Girl)

MV5BNTFiYzA1NzMtNjI3NC00ZGY5LTgxMTUtYmUyMGNlMWFmOWI3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_Given just how colossal the video game industry is, it’s pretty wild that more TV shows haven’t tried to delve deeper into it (except, of course, when in need of inspiration from some previously established and particularly valuable IP). But it’s maybe for the best that one of the first series to take it seriously — while also making merciless, informed fun of it — is “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” a new comedy from the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” team that has a sly bite behind every hilarious joke.MV5BMDVjNWVlNGItNzU3MS00NTlhLWFlMTMtZGRlMWE3NTNjNDI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1579,1000_AL_As conceived by Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Megan Ganz, “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” — so named for the long-awaited “Raven’s Banquet” expansion that launches in the pilot episode — is smart to take most of its structural cues from other workplace comedies, including character archetypes including an insecure and unpredictable boss Ian (McElhenney), the not-so-secretly diabolical assistant (Jessie Ennis), and a beleaguered HR representative trying desperately to convince everyone that she is not, in fact, a free in-house therapist. Every character, from Ian to the pair of game testers (Ashly Burch and Imani Hakim) tentatively flirting in the wings, is drawn with specific and vivid detail that gives their individual sense of humor context and drive.MV5BYTUxOTJmZTUtOGY4Mi00NDRmLTk2ZTYtZjZlMTcwMWI5MzQ0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_Ian is the chaotic creative mind behind “Mythic Quest,” a “World of Warcraft”-esque collaborative game that steadily generates millions even while fending off constant competitors. The original inspiration for the game came from the novels of C.W. Longbottom (Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham, having the time of his life), an eccentric sci-fi writer who doesn’t need to understand video games to bask in the praise his stories have been getting since Ian got a hold of them. Meanwhile, ostensible righthand man David (“It’s Always Sunny” recurring player David Hornsby) is mostly an anxious mess set to a constant low boil, while resident corporate shark Brad (a measured, scene-stealing Danny Pudi) keeps his cool at all times in the pursuit of finding more ways to bleed their customers dry. All four of these men, collectively played with a calculated grin, are variations on a theme of character that “It’s Always Sunny” has perfected over its 14 (and counting!) seasons: insecure, egotistical men who make life harder for most everyone around them, both by accident and design. There’s even a mini-me in the making with Elisa Henig’s “Pootie Shoe,” a teen streaming sensation who can make or break a game — and, much to everyone else’s annoyance, knows it.aZNohuRuxYWLNjEs87aCvLImR11On the flip side is Ian’s real secret weapon Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao), a brilliant young programmer who nonetheless spends half her time trying to corral Ian’s more ludicrous instincts. Nicdao gives as good as she gets from McElhenney, making Poppy and Ian a wonderful, compelling odd couple (of friends — there’s never a hint of romance between them, a refreshing and frankly necessary change of pace). But the real key to Poppy, the show’s anchor and immediate standout, is that she isn’t some basic, annoyed voice of reason. She’s ambitious, smart, power hungry, and downright weird in her own right. At her best (or at least funniest), she’s enraged as she constantly has to keep proving herself, and try to make her own mark on Mythic Quest beyond making Ian’s dreams come to life.MV5BYTUxOTJmZTUtOGY4Mi00NDRmLTk2ZTYtZjZlMTcwMWI5MzQ0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_Outside of the characters, the show’s also smart in the ways it tackles some of the particular issues facing the industry it’s depicting. One episode, for instance, has David scrambling to give an empowering tour of the office to a group of wide-eyed schoolgirls, only to have the few female employees available confirm that even though they love it, yes, it is very hard to be A Woman in Gaming. Another has the characters attempting to handle an influx of white supremacist players, first by immediately agreeing to ban them, before backsliding into semantic debates all too familiar to anyone unfortunate enough to have frequented Twitter in the past decade. Then there’s the one in which the game get hacked, leading to Ian scoffing that “no one cares about privacy, they just want a good story” — and ultimately, being proved right. One of the best episodes is a complete tonal departure in the form of an extended flashback, starring perpetual sitcom MVPs Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti as partners in life and business whose gaming company quickly buckles under the pressures of cynical corporate demands.193500093It would be enough for “Mythic Quest” to be funny, and it is. But in taking on the complex, under-examined world of video gaming, the creative team gave themselves a rich area in which their wild, clever, selfish characters can bounce around unlike any other currently on TV.

REVIEW: LIFE OF THE PARTY

CAST

Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly)
Molly Gordon (Animal Kingdom)
Gillian Jacobs (Revenge For Jolly)
Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids)
Jessie Ennis (Hits)
Adria Arjona (Pacific Rim: Uprising)
Matt Walsh (Due Date)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Debby Ryan (Insatiable)
Stephen Root (Red State)
Jacki Weaver (The Voices)
Luke Benward (Dear John)
Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians)
Chris Parnell (21 Jump Street)
Heidi Gardner (Otherhood)
Yani Smone (Young & Married)
Ben Falcone (Tammy)
Nat Faxon (Sex Tape)
Sarah Baker (The Campaign)

Melissa McCarthy, Molly Gordon, Gillian Jacobs, Jessie Ennis, and Adria Arjona in Life of the Party (2018)After dropping off their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) to her senior year at Decatur University in Atlanta, Dan tells Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) that he wants a divorce because he has fallen in love with another woman, a realtor Marcie (Julie Bowen), and he also wants to sell their house under his name. Heartbroken, Deanna visits her parents Mike (Stephen Root) and Sandy (Jacki Weaver) to tell them what happened, but Mike is frustrated because Dan made Deanna drop out of her college because she was pregnant, as well as his overbearing ways during their marriage. Deanna goes to see Maddie in her dorm to tell the news about her divorce and her plans to study again at the university to earn a degree in Archaeology. Maddie initially has doubts about her plan but she ultimately accepts it. Maddie introduces Deanna to her friends – Amanda (Adria Arjona), neurotic Debbie (Jessie Ennis), and Helen (Gillian Jacobs). Deanna later meets her agoraphobic and chronically depressed roommate Leonor (Heidi Gardner).Melissa McCarthy in Life of the Party (2018)On the first day of school, she meets demeaning girls, Jennifer (Debby Ryan) and her friend Trina (Yani Simone), who mocks Deanna’s age. Deanna later signed the divorce papers, with her best friend Christine, in front of Dan and Marcie. At night, Maddie and her friends take Deanna to the party, where she meets a boy named Jack (Luke Benward), who later falls in love with her and, the next day, they have sex inside the library. In another night, they attend an 80’s-themed party where Deanna has a dance-off with Jennifer, resulting in earning the respect of her schoolmates. Deanna later has stage fright during her oral presentation and she faints.Melissa McCarthy in Life of the Party (2018)While Deanna hanging out for the dinner with Christine, her husband, and their couple friends, Dan and Marcie unexpectedly show up, who declare that they are getting married. Jack turns out to be Marcie’s son and knowing about Deanna sleeping with Jack, Marcie walks out in disgust. On the night of Dan and Marcie’s wedding, Deanna and her friends get high from chocolate bark laced with weed, and they head to the reception, where they start wrecking the wedding hall. Dan, Marcie, and Maddie find them and Marcie tells Deanna she is cut off financially from Dan. Deanna is filled with shame, if only because of how Maddie saw her.Melissa McCarthy and Debby Ryan in Life of the Party (2018)Deanna tries to make amends with Maddie, but she tells her that she is leaving college since she has no means of completing the rest of the year on her own. The girls then come up with a plan to throw a party to raise money to pay for Deanna’s tuition. Since everyone is at Christina Aguilera concert, Helen posts the message on her Twitter, claiming Aguilera will be at the party after her show. Christine shows up with her husband, as do Mike and Sandy. Mike offers to give Deanna a 401K check to pay her tuition, but Deanna refuses to take it. The party is not a success until Aguilera (who ends up being Leonor’s cousin) arrives and she puts on a show with Deanna and the girls to an excited crowd.Later on, Deanna is due to repeat her presentation in class. She is still nervous until Maddie, Helen, Amanda, Debbie, and all the sorority sisters show up to support her, and Deanna manages to give the presentation with ease. At the end of the year, Deanna and Maddie graduate together, with all their friends and family there to support them. Maddie encourages Deanna to throw her cap in the air. She does so, and it hits Dan in the face, knocking out an earring he was wearing while Marcie berates him for losing the expensive diamond stud.I’m shocked at this low score. I guess you’re either a fan of Melissa McCarthy or you’re not, and seeing that I am, I really enjoyed this film. It was constant laughs and one scene where I can’t remember laughing so hard for so long. The writing was cute and had a heartfelt story. The acting, directing and editing was all perfect. I really enjoyed this and am sure you will too.