TV TATTLE

Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet is the latest Apple TV+ show to "bloom" after a disappointing first episode

  • "It hasn’t been around for very long, but Apple TV+ has already gained a reputation for substandard first episodes," says Stuart Heritage. "Plenty of people were turned off by the rote prestige of The Morning Show, for example, which meant that they missed out on a great series. And the first episode of See was also very bad. Admittedly, that’s because that entire series is bad, but still. And now to that list we can add Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet. At first glimpse, Mythic Quest seems like a generic workplace comedy. Set in the office of a hit streaming game, we quickly meet a megalomaniac boss played by Rob McElhenney, his put-upon chief coder, his pompous story designer, a couple of testers and a 14-year-old YouTuber whose whims dictate the life and death of the games. On the basis of the first episode, it could be set anywhere – an advertising agency, a TV show, a paper factory. Working against it, too, is Silicon Valley. Comparisons between the two are rife, presumably because they both have computers in them, and Mythic Quest cannot hope to come out of that fight looking good. One was a beloved HBO sitcom that ran like a finely honed drama and unleashed a flurry of new comedic talent into the world. The other one is a side project by the third best one out of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And yet, as with The Morning Show, Mythic Quest quickly blooms into something else. A much more conventional show than Always Sunny – nobody shouts over each other, nobody gets addicted to crack, nobody bursts naked out of a leather sofa – Mythic Quest quickly establishes a range that knowingly plays to each end of the spectrum. "

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    • Mythic Quest works so well because you don't need to be familiar with video games to watch: "It’s about a bunch of misanthropes working together, with comedy derived from the dark ways their toxic relationships push and pull each other around," says Joshua Rivera. "You don’t need to know how a studio works to recognize an office hierarchy when you see one, or an egomaniac boss, or a shitty coworker that skates on your hard work. But it’s also very interested in video games, and it’s not overly concerned with making them look good or demanding anyone take them seriously. In fact, the show is pretty unsparing. The game studio is beholden to the opinions of a dirtbag teen streamer who rates video games on a five-butthole scale, labor is casually exploited, players are gleefully taken advantage of, and in one of the best episodes, it turns out Nazis really love the game they make."
    • Mythic Quest is smart in the ways it tackles some of the particular issues facing the industry it’s depicting: "It would be enough for Mythic Quest to be funny, and it is," says Caroline Framke. "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."
    • Mythic Quest gets the video game world: "If you're a fan of video games and familiar with the long history of bad-to-mediocre attempts to recreate both the games and the culture around them on TV and film, I understand your hesitation," says Adam Rosenberg. "The most concise thing I can say to reassure you video game fans out there is Mythic Quest gets it...The show charts a narrative path that lends itself well to a weekly release format (which is ironic, given Apple's decision to drop the whole season at once). Each episode can stand on its own as a sort of vignette that holds microscope up to one common thread or another in modern game development. The topics explored include everything from gender disparities in the workforce to unfair working conditions and crunch. There's an episode about influencers and trade shows, and another about unionization." He adds that the writing team "clearly understands the modern culture of video game fandom. Not just the good, but the bad as well. Seeing a mainstream series play in that sandbox is thrilling if you love games, but it's not strictly for insiders. The strength of the performances also help to keep the comedy accessible."
    • Mythic Quest is funny and capable of real feeling, but not at the same time: "The show’s biggest demerit, then, is that it can’t seem to find a way to be both at the same time; rather, it frequently feels like a tag-team match between its two sensibilities, with comedy doing the heavy lifting for the vast majority of that time," says William Hughes, adding: "But that disjointed feeling isn’t enough to sabotage all the things Mythic Quest actually gets right. If a little whiplash is the price to pay for a series so dense with both comedy, and specificity, about a medium that’s frequently been hand-waved or reduced to a grab-bag of Big Bang Theory quips, it’s a pretty low one. If nothing else, the formalization of the soon-to-be-legendary TTD Ratio—the time it takes any player to employ a new building tool to construct a dick in their available environment—will ensure its legacy for at least a few cycles of internet meme generation to come."
    • Mythic Quest often plays like a mild lark uninterested in pushing itself into truly gonzo territory: "Once its protagonists’ quirks and hang-ups have been firmly established, the series is able to play off of those attributes to wittier ends," says Nick Schager. "Yet even so, none of its central figures are distinctive enough to stand out from any number of like-minded comedy efforts. In short, it feels as if we’ve seen these stock types before. Though its stars are clearly game—and their characters are ripe for mockery, including juvenile and crass Pootie Shoe—they’re rarely given an opportunity to let loose, save for the occasional unexpected outburst from Jo, who turns out to be the only participant with the potential to surprise."
    • Mythic Quest isn't just an unfunny comedy, but an entirely ineffective show that doesn’t seem to know what it is or where it’s going: "I scoured all nine half-hour episodes of its first season on a quest for comedy, finding only squandered potential wandering its depressing office space," says Jacob Oller, adding: "The workplace comedy seems to be attempting a Community feel while replacing that show’s heart with topical, more aggressive attempts at humor. The resulting failure merely flops at a faster pace. It’s the kind of manic rambling tempo that someone like Charlie Day could make into an engrossing vortex with his nails-on-chalkboard whine and endlessly energetic gesticulations, but in any other hands is exhausting. When the jokes aren’t funny and the performers aren’t engaging, this tactic is ironically low-energy."
    • Mystic Quest is another lackluster entry in Apple TV+’s slate of generic programming: Despite a charismatic performance from Rob McElhenney, "this show never finds its footing. Tonal inconsistencies, broad characters, and flat humor make this one to skip," says Morgan Leigh Davies, adding: "Mythic Quest, the latest offering from the fledgling streaming service, is yet another installment in Apple’s collection of anodyne, warm-hearted television shows that would likely have fared better on another platform."
    • It’s all far too safe and standard to provide many laughs: "Like The Office, The IT Crowd, and Parks and Recreation in their day, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is an attempt to ridicule contemporary office life," says Colin Campbell. "So it’s no surprise that its main focus is on clueless or bad-faith attempts by white men to performatively welcome diversity, while engaging in appalling behavior as they try to secure their long-cherished privileges. It’s a popular theme in television right now, with hits like The Morning Show and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which also seek to flip traditionally male-dominated entertainment settings. But it’s a tradition that goes back to I Love Lucy and the 1980 movie 9 to 5. Apple’s sitcom is good at poking fun at the lingo of empty wokeness; it just doesn’t have much to say on the meat of the matter."
    • How Ubisoft created the fake video game at the center of Mystic Quest: Raven's Banquet: "It was really important to the team behind the series to bring an authenticity to the world," Danielle Kreinik, director of television development at Ubisoft and an executive producer on Mythic Quest. "We’re Ubisoft," adds Jason Altman, head of film and television, and also an exec producer. "If we’re going to make a show about video games, the game part needs to be legit."

    TOPICS: Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet, Apple TV+, Charlie Day, Megan Ganz, Rob McElhenney




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