Forrest truly believes in what he’s doing on the show-within-a-show that is Review With Forrest MacNeil, where he takes audience submissions on particular life experiences he should sample. Over the course of the first season, he developed a cocaine addiction, attended an orgy, attempted to go into space, and worst of all, demanded a divorce from his wife (Jessica St. Clair) out of nowhere because the segment demanded it. As Review progressed, what basically seemed like a sketch show revealed itself to be a mockumentary about a man taking his life apart from the inside out—all with a smile on his face and in the name of good television.
“It's a good vehicle for binge-watching, that you can experience the collapse of Forrest's life over the first season,” Daly told me. If the first season is about the shocking collapse of Forrest’s life, the second is about his painful attempts to rebuild from scratch—all while carrying on his work. Daly understands that the material isn’t for everyone, but admits black comedy is what drew him to the Australian show in the first place. He cited The Office, a cult hit for the BBC that turned into an international phenomenon, as a “revelation” in terms of how to present a more grim comic perspective. On one hand, the show maintained realism by shying away from grander comic gestures, but it also didn’t hold back in other ways. “Because they’re willing to have such dark, sad, uncomfortable things happen ... you never know what to expect of a show like that,” Daly said. “I have no idea what they're going to do, whether or not they're going to completely destroy this person in front of my eyes.”
The British Office is a 14-episode tale of white-collar drudgery and the dim spots of happiness found within; its American remake had a slightly bouncier vibe by necessity, since it ran for 201 episodes. But even though Steve Carell’s Michael Scott was more of a lovable loser than Gervais’s David Brent, the American show didn’t lose its core focus on the bleak laughs found in work life, even if it had a cheerier outlook and a more sympathetic star.
As with Michael Scott, it’s hard not to root for Forrest, daft as he might be, and Daly says that characterization was part of a larger calculation. “We certainly never talked about likability in the early creation of the show, any of those traditional ideas, making sure we could root for the guy,” he said. “But we did talk about how we could continue to believe that Forrest would keep doing these things—that blind optimism is part of that.” It’s also crucial, he noted, that Forrest doesn’t enjoy using Review’s premise to commit monstrous acts. He approaches the bad assignments with the same faux-journalistic integrity as the good ones. “We never wanted to feel like Forrest has been going around hurting other people or hurting himself, and that this show just gives him an excuse to do it.” As a by-product of the show, he becomes somewhat of a tragic hero, a victim of his own good, if misguided, intentions.