Review With Forrest MacNeil is one of my all time favourite tv shows, with it being a series where Andy Daly created a beautifully complex character and placed him in to a number of extremely unusual scenarios, and he gets to do this because Forrest is reviewing life – or any aspect of it that his viewers wish to hear his opinions on at least. But it wasn’t an original creation, as it was based on the Australian series Review With Myles Barlow.
Review With Myles Barlow is a slightly different beast however, as though Forrest was undoubtedly an idiot who took the idea of the show far too seriously, he was at least very likeable, and Myles Barlow (Phil Lloyd) is a much more arrogant character. That’s not to the series detriment however, it just means that there are quite a few differences between the two, even when they end up reviewing the same subject.
Essential Episodes remit is to cover the very best episode the series has to offer, and when I wrote about Review With Forrest MacNeil I chose the seventh episode, “Revenge; Getting Rich; Aching” as it was the one which made me laugh the most, but was also a great episode to introduce viewers to Forrest’s unusual ways. It was harder choosing an episode with Review With Myles Barlow however as they’re all pretty much equally strong, though in the end went for season 2 episode 3 as it’s the show at its most extreme, it made me laugh very slightly more than the others, and was notable for causing controversy when it aired in Australia.
Entitled “Killing Kyle Sandilands, Fear And Racism” you can probably guess that this was the series not exactly in a mild mode and reviewing something simplistic like the show has in the past. For those not in the know, Kyle Sandilands was one of the hosts of Australia’s Got Talent and also an Australian radio DJ, but knowledge of who he is really isn’t important, and a lot of the humour comes from the idea that Myles isn’t initially fazed by the task commenting, “Well it’s a notion that’s entered all of our minds at one point” and so is presumably akin to the idea of murdering Simon Cowell.
It starts with Myles visiting Tony (Malcolm Kennard), a friend who supposedly looks just like Kyle Sandilands, who helps coaching Miles by insulting him and being generally annoying in a very funny manner, leading to a daft but amusing training section which almost sees Myles stabbing his friend, because like Forrest MacNeil he gets carried away with these reviews far, far too easily, and watching him do so is just as funny too. Like the American version the tasks often spiral off in to unexpected directions and it does so here as well, as Myles travels to visit Kyle Sandilands to murder him, only to meet someone with the same name, though this Kyle isn’t surprised to see Myles as he often gets death threats due to his namesake, and before we know it Myles and Kyle have become friends and are hanging out together. It’s a nicely unpredictable moment, and their burgeoning friendship is fun to watch indeed.
When Myles finally gets back on track he chases the more famous Kyle to the airport, only to find out he can’t follow him to America as he’d been blacklisted for working illegally in the pornography industry – oh, and because he had a big knife in his pocket too. Yet because Myles takes his job way too seriously he forces himself to complete the review by killing the other Kyle Sandilands instead, even though he finds such actions deeply upsetting, and watching a regretful but still murderous Myles is incredibly amusing.
When it comes to his summary of the task, this is another major difference to the US series, as Myles is far more verbose, his words are often even quite poetic, if preposterous, and his attempts at sounding more intelligent than he actually is create many a laugh out loud moment. Then after a quickie review where recreating The Beatles’ Abbey Road cover ends in tragedy, a review of Fear is then the next major segment, and Myles hires an ex-criminal who is supposedly an associate of well known Australian criminal “Chopper”, only to find out he’s hired a Chopper impersonator and has to sit through a stand up routine by the man instead. A change of tack is clearly needed, and so Myles heads to a cabin in the woods to recreate a horror film which includes a young boy called Billy who is hired to “stare at me intermittently before vanishing in to thin air”.
Mockery of horror tropes follows in smart and original ways, with the attacker hired forgetting the safe word for a second, but when he does they have a good laugh about events – until Billy kills the attacker, and Myles is horrified. Back in the studio Myles is fine however, which makes the segment even more amusing, and his thoughts on Fear include a beautifully written mixed metaphor involving vampires, dentists and doctors that’s gloriously funny, as is his overall positive response to the experience.
A short review of “Meeting your Doppelganger” leads to Myles questioning his father’s fidelity, and then we’re given the final full length review of the episode, Racism. This could have gone horribly wrong if poorly handled, and there’s definitely a great deal of cringe comedy here, but it’s an astute, thoughtful insight in to what what’s acceptable (whinging pom) and what isn’t (a word I shan’t repeat here which begins with D), and soon Myles is throwing Japanese cameras in to the sea and telling people “They should go back to where they came from”, even though that’s Australia. The whole segment is the show at its most satirical as it makes a very clear point at how ridiculous and also sickening such behaviour is, while also including a scathing attack on patriotism too.
Due to all of the above for my money Review With Myles Barlow is the best comedy to have ever come out of Australia, the format is not only a superb one which gives them the chance to tackle a number of different subjects, but the character is a complex and unusual lead, capable of both intelligent commentary and incredible acts of foolishness. All of which makes for a show which is fascinating, insightful and also shockingly funny, and one which I wish was still on air to this day.