TV Editor Sian Allen praises innovative workplace comedy Mythic Quest, a sharply written yet sentimental Apple TV+ original that deserves more attention
Twenty years after The Office UK aired its first episode, the workplace comedy has pretty much done it all. The sitcom subgenre has covered pretty much every workplace imaginable, from paper companies to police precincts. Even if it hadn’t, as Covid changes the way most of us work, you would be forgiven for thinking the workplace sitcom is long past its prime. Despite Jackie Weaver’s fifteen minutes of fame and the success of Staged, there is only so much comedy you can squeeze out of a series of Zoom calls. And so, as the future of sitcom is so uncertain anyway, it seems like we should let the workplace comedy die a dark, quiet death.
Except if we did that, we wouldn’t have Mythic Quest. Co-created by Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Megan Ganz, Mythic Quest is the best show that no one’s watching. It follows a pretty basic premise (most of the time), chronicling the day-to-day lives of the staff keeping mega MMORPG ‘Mythic Quest’ running. Do not panic if you are not sure what MMORPG means. The good news is you don’t need to know anything about video games to enjoy watching the chaos unfold between this excellent ensemble of egomaniacs.
McElhenney plays Ian Grimm, the game’s narcissistic creative director. He clashes with Poppy (Charlotte Nicado), underappreciated lead engineer, and David (David Hornsby), the overly-sensitive executive producer. Rounding out the cast is Jo (Jessie Ennis), David’s intense assistant, testers Dana (Imani Hakim) and Rachel (Ashley Burch), eccentric head writer C.W. (F. Murray Abraham) and the Machiavellian head of monetization, Brad (Danny Pudi). This combination of seasoned sitcom actors and relatively fresh faces works wonders for Mythic Quest. Any combination of characters in any given episode results in dynamics that are electric to watch develop, especially when it comes to Rachel and Dana’s budding romance.
The main reason to watch Mythic Quest is simple – it has great comedy fused into its DNA. The show shares a large portion of its creative team with It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Megan Ganz also wrote some of Community’s best episodes, so the series is in the hands of cult sitcom royalty. And it definitely shows; the writing is sharp and clever, with the limited amount of episodes resulting in more focused and compelling plot arcs than you would usually expect from a sitcom.
But Mythic Quest really shines when it strays from the well-trodden workplace sitcom path. Season One Episode Five, ‘A Dark Quiet Death’, is a completely stand-alone episode featuring none of the main cast. Instead, it follows Doc (Jake Johnson) and Bean (Cristin Miloti) and the life and death of their video game – and their relationship – over three decades. It is a bittersweet, beautiful story about the price of selling out, and is brilliantly woven into Mythic Quest’s established world with many little Easter Eggs scattered across the episodes that come after it.
‘A Dark Quiet Death’ isn’t Mythic Quest’s only triumph. My personal favourite episode of the show so far is ‘Quarantine’, no doubt the best episode of television produced at the height of the pandemic. Recorded by the cast in their homes during lockdown in Spring 2020, the episode’s jokes capture the novelty of the early days of the pandemic without being cringe-worthy or overly glib. Yet it’s also extremely empathetic and heartfelt in its portrayal of Poppy struggling in isolation. If you only watch one episode of Mythic Quest, it should be this one. The episode’s final scene is a joyous moment of unity that is guaranteed to put a massive smile on your face. As previously mentioned, there’s only so much you can get out of a show set on Zoom – but you can get an extremely well-produced magnificent one-off special.
Undoubtedly the biggest obstacle Mythic Quest faces is the fact that it is an Apple TV+ original. As the streaming wars continue and content becomes more and more diluted, it becomes difficult to justify shelling out even more money for a service like Apple TV that’s still getting off the ground. That being said, Mythic Quest is worth paying a few extra pounds for – or at least, using your free trial for. The sitcom’s second season has surpassed the first in every way. It has also given all of its characters surprisingly depth and vulnerability while still keeping the show as funny as ever.
A show that currently has just nineteen episodes (two seasons and two specials), Mythic Quest is delightfully easy to binge. Its willingness to innovate, and sometimes veer completely off the expected path shows that it is the future of the sitcom. It is not exactly the sitcom as we have known it for so many decades; it is much more willing to tug on your heartstrings instead of going for the obvious laugh. The series is both refreshingly unexpected and comfortingly familiar, equally cynical and sentimental. Mythic Quest is a promising trailblazer in this new era of sitcoms made for streaming – and the obscure workplace comedy that your friends will thank you for recommending to them.
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