Spring 2015 Review: Other Space

20 Apr

Other Space

Other Space is a Yahoo! Original (or a Yahoo! Screen original, or whatever they’re calling it – I’m not quite sure about the Yahoo lingo yet) comedy about a group of inexperienced crew venturing throughout other space. The budget is low, low, low, and it shows; of whatever they began with, it feels like a large percentage was spent on appearance fees for two episodes of Dave Franco. Still, in spite of, or rather regardless of the budget, Outer Space is pretty good stuff.

The biggest bold-faced name involved with Other Space is creator Paul Feig, best known as the director of Bridesmaids (and the creator of Freaks and Geeks). The show, befitting its previously mentioned low budget, features a largely anonymous cast, with the only names of any note being Joel Hodgson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Milana Vayntrub, best known as Lily Adams on a series of AT&T commercials.

Other Space takes place on a space ship which, in the first episode, veered into another universe accidentally by way of a wormhole and thus has no contact with the world outside their ship. The crew is composed of the likeable happy-go-lucky captain, Stewart, who is afraid to antagonize his crew, and occasionally seems to know what he’s doing, fumbling into solutions in spite of himself.  His sister Karen is his first mate, and she is more strict, less well-liked because of it, and is occasionally jealous of her brother because she believes as the harder worker and more serious person command should be hers. There’s the pretty, dim navigational officer, Tina, who was chosen solely because the captain had a huge crush on her, even though she was entirely in love with her boyfriend Ted. There’s Michael, who Karen and Stewart have known for their entire lives, who is always being left out and abused by other crew members – without the utter incompetence, he’s the answer to Parks and Recreation’s Jerry, except the crew occasionally feels bad about it. Zallen is a one-time genius engineer turned burnout whose best friend is talking robot A.R.T. Natasha is the sassy computer who appears as a human female and tries frequently to act human and Kent is the resident weirdo who is actually human but doesn’t act like it. And there is your cast of characters.

There’s a lot of simple funny character combination work, as different pairs interact and provide new dynamics and sources of humor. There’s a lot of playing on the types of each character – Kent’s a weirdo, Tina’s kind of stupid, Michael is forgettable, Stewart wants everyone to like him. It’s not complicated but it works more than it doesn’t. In addition, Other Space is easy to get through, and it’s not particular awkward or cringe worthy. There’s nothing revelatory here, but with a serious imbalance in the quality drama vs. comedy ratio on television these days, any decent comedy is welcome. I mentioned Other Space’s low budget a couple times, which could merely be peripheral, but  it really is aggressively low budget, almost incorporating the low budget feel into the campiness and over the top nature of their space adventures, reminding me a little bit of Joel’s previous Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s not really heavy on the sci-fi though, in spite of being set in space; it’s more about putting the characters in wacky and unfortunate situations that require them to occasionally exasperate one another, and sci-fi provides lots of those – new planets, aliens, robots and so forth.

There’s not a lot of character building. It’s not a show designed for warmth and heart like Parks & Recreation, but it’s also not an awkward-observational It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Curb Your Enthusiasm. Other Space is very wacky. The characters are pretty simplistic, but that’s okay, the actors do a good job with their bits, and the humor doesn’t require complex characters. It’s light, silly, and disposable in the positive way a great pop song can be disposable – you can turn it on and off, and get a dose of enjoyment without an larger investment.

Will I watch it again? Yes. It’s good, it’s easy to watch, and there are only eight episodes. What’s not to like?

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