After years of TV creators not really understanding videogames, Apple TV Plus has debuted its newest show Mythic Quest, a sitcom about the fictional creators of a popular MMO. It's the work of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia co-creators Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and comedy veteran Megan Ganz.
This studio is about to release Raven's Banquet, a new expansion to its titular MMO, and this show charts the goings on at the studio before and after launch. What it amounts to is a strong workplace comedy with a decent number of laughs per episode, and a genuine comprehension of what games are about.
McElhenney plays Ian Grimm (Ian is always pronounced as 'Ayan', which is a good recurring gag), the creative director of the studio whose vision for Mythic Quest is usually ridiculous or overblown. Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao), the studio's lead coder, is often swept up in the wake of Ian's decisions, while hapless executive producer David (David Hornsby) stands on the sidelines, fruitlessly trying to make people do things for him.
You can tell the creators love games and understand the culture around them pretty well, even if its depiction of development isn't especially granular. Mythic Quest itself is like a cross between a fantasy MMO and Fortnite, a game where a casino might just pop up in the middle of the map so the creators can make a little more money on microtransactions. Publisher Ubisoft co-produced the show, which gives the in-game moments that break up the show real authenticity.
Each episode focuses on a different game-related plot: the launch of the expansion itself, Nazis ruining the game for everyone, an asshole streamer abandoning the game, or a financial crisis at the studio when a rogue head of monetization switches all the microtransactions off.
Episode 5 is must-see TV
But the highlight of this first season, by far, is a flashback episode with only slight ties to the rest of the show. Set in the '90s, episode five is about a relationship forged in game development hell, where the creators of a popular horror title are tested by the escalating demands of their publisher.
It's almost like an episode of Black Mirror – dreams die and the people involved have to figure out how much they're prepared to sell out.
Mythic Quest becomes more of a drama in this episode – and you can tell it was a big deal to the creators, because it's the only episode directed by McElhenney himself, while recognizable faces Jake Johnson (New Girl) and Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother) make prominent guest appearances. You should at least watch up until the end of episode five before you make up your mind on the show.
The show is otherwise a standard sitcom in style, but very well done, and worth checking out if you've enjoyed shows like Community, Brooklyn Nine Nine or The Good Place. It's closer to the tone of these shows rather than Always Sunny, for example, which is a series with a deliberately nastier sense of humor.
It's a shame this opening season offers just nine episodes – given that most episodes fall in the 24-30-minute range, you can easily knock through those in the app's 7-day trial period (the first two episodes are free, too). Of course, if you've recently bought an Apple device, you've got a year's trial for the service anyway.
Still, season 2 of Mythic Quest is already on the way, which is exciting. Sitcoms usually take multiple seasons to hit their stride in terms of characterization and joke writing – and it feels like this could be one of the greats with a little more time.
Apple TV really needs to launch on PS4 and Xbox
Mythic Quest, being a show about games development, would be a really good fit for people who stream TV through their games consoles. And yet, there's still no Apple TV app on PS4 or Xbox. It's a shame Apple didn't time the release of the show with an app debuting on consoles – that would've been a hell of a way to get the service more attention from tens of millions of people who might not necessarily be familiar with this new streaming service.
Given that Mythic Quest looks a lot like a game people would play on consoles, it ends up feeling like a weird omission. Still, if you love games and you already enjoy US sitcoms, this show is well worth watching. The kind of high-end prestige dramas that Apple launched with are absolutely everywhere these days – truly great sitcoms, though, still number in the single digits.
Mythic Quest isn't exactly there yet, but it definitely could be with another season or two.
- 2020 TV shows: what to watch this year