Seeso is NBC’s streaming platform service, focused on comedy. It’s $3.99 a month with no ads. If you have Amazon Prime, you can add it on to that. I planned on getting it at some point, at least for a while, because it has a solid bench of older but excellent comedy: Kids in the Hall, Monty Python and Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place make it valuable right off the bat. But I waited to get it for one of their original series that I was curious about: Harmonquest, a type of animated Dungeons & Dragons show. But it’s more than that.
Dan Harmon is known, among other things, for creating Community and Rick and Morty. He also has a weekly podcast (Harmontown) recorded in front of an audience in the Nerdmelt theater at the back of Meltdown Comics in L.A. In one of the earliest episodes of the podcast, he spoke with his comptroller, Jeff Davis, about how he thinks he’d like to play some D&D on the podcast as a segment and asked his audience if anyone out there was a dungeon master.
An audience member raised their hand and was brought up. This was Spencer Crittendon. He was barely into his twenties, quiet unless spoken to but always ready with a clever line and had a deep, growly voice and could describe an exciting and otherworldy situation at the drop of a hat. Not only was he perfect for hosting the role playing game segment, but Jeff and Dan took to him and he was instantly a regular part of the show. Shortly, he was able to leave his retail job at the Apple Store and become Dan’s assistant in the Community writer’s room.
And we got to listen to it all happen. Spencer never faltered as each new challenge was placed in front of him. He went on a nationwide tour with Dan for the Harmontown podcast which was turned into a documentary. Spencer, this ponytailed, long-bearded, constantly-wearing-shorts in all environments guy was the audience surrogate and sort of became the star. He appeared in an episode of Community and was hilarious. He co-stars with Dan on the History Channel’s comedy show Great Minds. Arguably his biggest role to date is dungeonmaster on Harmonquest.
Harmonquest is a 22 minute or so show based on Spencer DMing a game for Dan Harmon, Jeff Davis, Erin McGathy and a fourth, rotating guest star. It’s probably based off of Pathfinder although for legal reasons the game isn’t specifically mentioned. They all sit at a massive table on stage in front of a live studio audience and play the game. Then most of the improvised adventure is animated.
The animation is very good. It isn’t quite as elaborate as Rick and Morty but it also isn’t just a character standing there with only their lips or arms moving. They battle monsters and run around and it’s crazy good fun. When people get hit, you see their hit points pop up to indicate the damage. Very colorful and fun. Plus, the characters, whether orcs or goblins or barbarians, are drawn to resemble the people playing them.
Spencer isn’t shy about putting the guest stars on the spot. In the premier episode he hilariously throws to guest star Paul F. Tompkins that he sings the town’s annual celebration song. Paul looks at Spencer with confusion for a moment, is met with a waiting stare and nods: “Well played.”
The show is ten episodes and you’ll probably end up binge watching them. The guest stars are uniformly good but Ron Funches and Thomas Middleditch especially stand out. Who knew that an animated fantasy show improvised by comedians could be SO engaging? If my Seeso subscription helps get this a second season, it’s money well-spent. The service gives you one free trial month. I recommend it for Harmonquest but there are other great originals like Jonah Ray’s fake travel show and UCB’s sketch comedy show featuring UCB founders Amy Poehler, Matt Besser and Matt Walsh among other great shows.