Save the princess, crack some jokes
For those who don't know, Zelda allowed players to command Link, an elf on a quest through the land of Hyrule to rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Gannon and his army of minions. It was a fun, deep game, full of combat, strategy and a ton of secrets that could delight or frustrate you, depending on your success at discovering them. A staple franchise for Nintendo, it continues to be enjoyed today in its most recent incarnations. But this show is about the original gold cartridge that started it all, because it's while playing that game that our hero Neil (Tony Janning) decides to masturbate to a fairy character while choking himself with his controller cord, which somehow lands him in the land of Hyrule, in Link's green tunic.
If his origin story didn't make it clear, Neil isn't the most heroic character around. He doesn't want to complete Link's quest. He just wants to go back home to New Jersey. But he doesn't have a lot of choice, as he's beset upon by Gannon's forces, which have been adapted as an assortment of humans in mostly low-budget costumes (though some of the make-up is pretty impressive.) With the assistance of Old Man (an elderly bearded gent who in the game gave Link new weapons and advice) and the Fairy (Felicia Day,) whose healing powers from the game have been translated into sexual healing here, Neil eventually grows into his new role, if only to find a way home.
The tone of the show is a ridiculous one, as it trades in dirty comedy and parody, as well as some traditional situation comedy (along with in-jokes for fans of the game.) When it's hitting on all cylinders, which is usually when Link is verbally sparring with Old Man (or when Day is being deliriously filthy as the Fairy) it's great fun, but sometimes the tone falls too in love with the adventure element of the game, especially in the third season. It may be just me, but I didn't care that much about Link's quest. I just wanted more of the silly stuff, like the musical episode or the episode-long parody of The Office. Once you've set the show up to be such an over-the-top affair, slipping into extended battle sequences doesn't work.
The same goes for the pacing. The first season goes by in the blink of an eye, while later episodes are much longer, but there's something lost as the rapid-fire jokes give way to longer bits, like a scene where Link, in disguise, drinks with some of his enemies for a segment that feels as long as the entire first season. Getting in, getting the laughs and getting out makes the first-season episodes crack like a whip, especially the somewhat sudden endings, and that's missing later on.
On the plus side, the cast is uniformly good and very funny, especially Mike Rose as Old Man and Old Man (watch the show to understand), while Janning is just about perfect as Neil and Day is a delight. The whole thing has a "let's put on a show" feel (a guy in what's essentially footie PJs and a triceratops mask is kind of hard to take seriously) and when viewed in that light, it's a pretty well-made series, but since it's a show about a game with the involvement of Day and Parikh, the comparisons to The Guild are inevitable. That series is far more polished in both production and comedy, but different strokes, right?
The 20 epsodes from the three seasons of The Legend of Neil arrive on a pair of DVDs, which are packed in a single-width keepcase with a tray, sporting sweet Drew Struzan-inspired cover art.The discs feature animated anamorphic widescreen menus with options to play all the episodes, select a season (and then an episode) or check out the extras (which include subtitles.) There are no audio options, but English subtitles are available.
Presented with LPCM 2.0 tracks, there's not a lot to the audio on this series, but there's nothing problematic about it either, as the dialogue is easy to understand and the music and sound effects maintain proper separation from the voices, keeping everything crisp.
The rest of the set kicks off with the 5:03 music video "8-Bit Love," an R&B slow jam with Parikh and Janning taking the roles usually played by Timberlake and Samberg. Though some of the visuals are amusing, the lyrics and performances are just OK. Not one of the better musical comedy songs around.
Three gag reels are up next, one per season for a combined 30:29 of silliness.Included amongst the screw-ups are improv takes, greenscreen footage and more filthy fun with Felicia Day. There's some funny stuff, but any gag reel this long is bound to be a bit padded.
The best extra included is the 26:57 Behind the Scenes featurette, which explores every element of the production, including the special effects effort, and gives tremendous insight into how a show like this is made. If you want even more detail, check out "The Making of Spectacle Rock with Greg Aronowitz" (7:14) as the production designer explains (over on-set footage) how one of the big special effects miniatures was created, with the help of Parikh and Janning. Together, they don't leave many rocks unturned regarding the series.
Six mini-sodes are included, which is an odd idea, considering how short the first-season episodes are. These are mostly extensions of the real episodes, including additional parodies of The Office, Man vs. Wild and Harry Potter; an alternate take with the Sklar brothers and more training montage footage. One of them, a job interview between Wizrobe and Gannon from the early '70s, is exclusive to this DVD. These can be viewed individually or in one big block.
The remaining extras include a slideshow of photos from the show, PDF scripts that are available on the DVD and a PDF of the original email Parikh sent to his collaborators regarding the series. Neat stuff for fans to check out.
The Bottom Line