Matt Groening has been entertaining us with his twisted sense of humor for more than four decades. He's at it once again.
First, the 64-year-old Portland, Ore., native created the comic strip Life in Hell in 1977. Ten years later, a series of animated shorts that appeared on Fox's The Tracey Ullman Show introduced us to the dysfunctional Simpson family.
Those were developed into a half-hour sitcom titled The Simpsons. It debuted on Dec. 17, 1989, and shows no sign of letting up. The series has been renewed for a 30th season, putting it on the air until at least May 2019.
In 1999, Groening (pronounced GRAY-ning) brought us the Fox (later Comedy Central) series Futurama, and now, the 12-time Emmy winner has ventured into the brave new world of streaming services.
Disenchantment, a TV-14 animated fantasy, has the first 10 of its 20 ordered episodes now streaming on Netflix. I've only seen the first three, but they are a hoot. Fans will instantly recognize Groening's style in the way the characters are drawn, in the droll and subtle tone of humor, in the use of sight gags and subversive satire.
Disenchantment is set in the medieval kingdom of Dreamland, which boasts, "Now with five village idiots," and bears an animated resemblance to King's Landing in Game of Thrones. It stars the hard-drinking, irrepressible, headstrong Princess Tiabeanie (Abbi Jacobson), known as Bean, and her naive and insatiably curious elf sidekick, Elfo (Nat Faxon), who has a crush on her. Also on hand is Bean's wisecracking personal demon, Luci (Eric Andre). He is usually mistaken for a cat.
There is the usual assortment of stock medieval characters, including Bean's imperious father, King Zog (John DiMaggio) and Queen Oona (Tress MacNeille), Bean's (literally) serpentine stepmother.
Despite being an obvious Groening creation, Disenchantment is also something different. The artwork is more subdued and intricate. The humor is more nuanced in service to an overriding serialized story arc. The series might take some readjustment if you're expecting the brashness of Futurama or the frenetic energy of The Simpsons.
The 19-year-old Bean, who is expected to be a dutiful princess and enter an arranged marriage for the benefit of the realm, just wants "to be in charge of my own destiny." That, and to indulge in debauchery.
Elfo, who has spent his life making candy and being jolly deep in the elf woods, longs to experience some place where everyone is not happy all the time. Dreamland fits that bill nicely.
And Luci just wants "to get rid of all the diseases plaguing mankind ... and replace them with worse ones." Luci was sent to Dreamland by two evil magicians hoping to turn Bean to the dark side.
Together, the trio sally forth and have adventures -- or rather misadventures -- that involve gnomes, goblins, imps, mermaids, walruses, ogres, sprites, harpies, trolls, Vikings, swamp monsters and nuns from the convent of Our Lady of Unlimited Chastity.
Summing up, executive producer Josh Weinstein says, "While this is a fantastical world where magic lurks in the corner, it is above all, a coming-of-age story where Bean and her friends find their own way in the world."
The first episode is titled "A Princess, an Elf and a Demon Walk Into a Bar." That ought to pique your interest.
• More Netflix. Black-ish creator Kenya Barris has joined the growing list of TV producers to hop on the Netflix bandwagon. Netflix has announced it has signed Barris to an exclusive multiyear production deal.
The Associated Press has reported that Barris ended his contract with ABC Studios early after ABC balked at airing a black-ish episode that reportedly addressed the NFL player protests.
Among others now in the Netflix stable are Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal) and Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story).
• Outlander info. Several readers have asked about when Outlander, their favorite show, will return to Starz. Mark the calendar for 7 p.m. Nov. 4. That's a Sunday.
Season 4 will continue the story of the time-traveling 20th-century doctor Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and her 18th-century Highlander husband Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). This season they'll try to make a new home in the backwoods of North Carolina in colonial America.
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Style on 08/28/2018
Print Headline: Simpsons creator goes medieval with Netflix show