What To Watch On Netflix That’s New This Week (Sept. 15-21)

"Disenchantment" returns better than before.
"Disenchantment" on Netflix
"Disenchantment" on Netflix

The Netflix Highlight: “Disenchantment” miniseries

What’s up: Matt Groening, the creator of both “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” debuted the medieval fantasy “Disenchantment” in 2018. While the first season spent a considerable amount of time establishing the rebellious streak and near-constant drinking of Bean, the show’s protagonist princess, this second season gains narrative verve from sending that character on fantastical quests and thwarting palace intrigue.

The show begins with a boat trip to a decaying kingdom called Maru, “the birthplace of sand.” The very first joke of this season is a queen saying, “ugh, teenagers” to herself when she can’t wake Bean. That kind of simple, well-worn joke dominates the show, but “Disenchantment” also features more clever humor that often finds inventive (and dark) ways to take advantage of the fantasy setting. Fans of Groening’s earlier work that were underwhelmed by season 1 will find much more to appreciate this time around.

The voice cast includes Eric Andre and Nat Faxon, with Abbi Jacobson as the protagonist.

The second season of “Disenchantment” runs for ten episodes of roughly 30 minutes.

Sum up: In a strong narrative decision, the stakes raise to the highest levels possible at the beginning of season 2. This happens both internally, as Bean has to deal with the betrayal of her mother, and also metaphysically, as Bean and her “amigos” must travel to heaven and hell to fight with God and demons. For a show supposedly playing with fairy tale tropes, season 1 mostly squandered its setting with stories that could happen in any era. The immediate deployment of fantastical, high-stakes quests in season 2 is a welcome reset.

In another happy reprieve, Bean barely drinks in the first couple of episodes (unlike in season 1). She’s now a character on a mission, rather than one who wants nothing more than to tune out. Early in the first episode of season 2, Bean’s mother tells her, “You will be the greatest woman this goddamn kingdom has ever seen.” Things don’t end well with her mother, but that sentiment seems to be the driving force of Bean’s actions this season.

Heads up: Many of this season’s jokes rely on lazy uses of incongruous dialogue. For example, a character tells Bean she can explore anywhere while standing next to a mysterious door with a giant skull. When Bean asks what’s behind that door, the character says she can’t explore there. Later when a different character tells Bean to just ring a bell if she needs anything, Bean points out the bell is broken. The other character tells her that the walls are soundproof, so it doesn’t matter.

The show is jam-packed with this type of joke — where a character stumbles into something random but another character says to pay it no mind. This is perhaps most explicit when a viper seemingly attacks Bean and then her mother casually says it’s just a “messenger viper.” Hearing the same joke over and over gets tiresome fast.

Close-up: The best thing about this show (and this is both a compliment and a burn) are the background details. The characters move through richly designed worlds with all sorts of curiosities to spot as a viewer.

When Bean arrives at Maru in the first episode, there’s not just a generic castle; the stairs are flanked by giant, twisting golden horns. That’s the kind of inspired choice that elevates the story simply by making the world these characters traverse through more interesting.

Another detail I particularly loved: Banners and stained glass windows in the show feature the striking symbol of a giant bird with its mouth open to the sky as a bird falls down its throat. A strange, mystical choice.

"Disenchantment" on Netflix
"Disenchantment" on Netflix

History: Although “Disenchantment” seems to take place during the medieval era, various details — like a time machine and the existence of characters named Hansel and Gretel — warp any definitive sense of where we are in time (as, of course, do the fantasy elements).

Comp: “Disenchantment” obviously has similarities to Groening’s previous work on “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” Using the fantastical medieval background is reminiscent of many comedies including “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “The Princess Bride” and “Shrek.”

The Characters and Money: The show centers around royal characters who don’t have to worry about money and therefore have the choice to either lounge around (like Princess Bean does in season 1) or use that money for questing (like Princess Bean does in season 2). At one point, Bean’s mother references a “debt to hell” that the family owes... So these characters may have a greater debt to pay than one to a bank.

Bonus: Groening has spoken about how he did not want “Disenchantment” to reference “Game of Thrones.” The very first episode of the series has a “Game of Thrones” joke, but the show has since avoided making parodies of “GoT.”

In a Mashable interview last year, Groening said the writers kept trying to sneak references in. “I had to flatout say: ‘This has nothing to do with ‘Game of Thrones.’”

“Disenchantment” trailer:

And a recap of Season 1 with Abbi Jacobson and Nat Faxon:

Read on for more recommendations and news from the week. And if you want to stay up to date with what to watch on a weekly basis, subscribe to the Streamline newsletter.

What Else Is New This Week On Netflix

Between Two Ferns: The Movie” (Netflix Film) ― Zach Galifianakis stars in a movie adaptation of his popular web series with Funny or Die.

A Couple Of Netflix News Stories From This Week

1. Netflix renewed “GLOW” for a fourth and final season. The show has earned 15 Emmy nominations, with three wins so far, and it may win more this Sunday.

2. “Seinfeld” is coming to Netflix in 2021. Sure, Netflix will lose “Friends,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” in the near future, but the continued popularity of “Seinfeld” should help mitigate that loss. In 2015, Hulu paid around $160 million for the “Seinfeld” rights, and Netflix likely paid more than $500 million for five years with Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer.

And here are the shows and movies that joined Netflix throughout the week:

Sept. 15

  • “Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison” (Netflix Original)
  • “Steal a Pencil for Me”
  • “Surviving R. Kelly” (Season 1)

Sept. 17

  • “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives”
  • “The Last Kids on Earth” (Netflix Family)

Sept. 18

  • “Come and Find Me”

Sept. 19

  • “Océans”

Sept. 20

  • “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” (Netflix Film)
  • “Criminal” (Netflix Original)
  • “Daddy Issues”
  • “Disenchantment” (Part 2, Netflix Original)
  • “Fastest Car” (Season 2, Netflix Original)
  • “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates” (Netflix Documentary)
  • “Las del hockey” (Netflix Original)

Sept. 21

  • “Sarah’s Key”
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