Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"Other Space: Season 1" Review: Clever Writing And A Lovable Cast Of Misfits Lead This Inspired Comedy


Before the advent of the internet and the relatively new idea of streaming services acting as our conduit for our television shows, it was considered risky to invest in a show that was off beat and could potentially alienate most viewers who aren't the target demographic. But thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu and now Yahoo, we live in an age where the chances of more experimental projects getting the green light are higher than ever as everyone is in a rush to produce content that is exclusive to their service. While the new space comedy series Other Space isn't likely to see the same sort of success of something like House of Cards, thanks to its low cost, clever writing and some really inspired casting, this little science fiction show could possibly become the next big thing. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:   
Where to find it?: Yahoo! ScreenExclusive    
Season: 1
Number of episodes: 8
Subscription needed?: No
Release Date: April 14, 2015

Biases:  
Loves: Star Trek, Galaxy Quest, The Office
Likes: Paul Feig, the entire cast
Neutral:  Yahoo! Screen is kind of wonky
Hates: The buggy ad service used for commercials
Future cult hit? Most definitely


I don't usually do reviews of television shows or series but I thought I would make an exception in the case of Other Space, a new science fiction comedy series from Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and creator of the short-lived cult television series Freaks and Geeks (as well as director of the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot). Airing exclusively on Yahoo! Screen, this 8 episode series has seemingly come out of nowhere which is more than evident by how little fanfare it has been given and how little exposure it has seen since its release almost 3 months ago.

Sort of a Star Trek meets The Office, Other Space follows the crew of the UMP starship The Cruiser in the year 2054, commissioned to explore the galaxy in celebration of the end of the war between the United States and Switzerland. The enthusiastic and slightly naïve new Captain of The Cruiser is Stewart Lipinski (Karan Soni), a hopelessly optimistic young man who has dreamed of exploring space ever since he was a child. Thanks in most part to pulling off an unusual maneuver during training, Stewart is not only given command of The Cruiser but also has complete carte blanche when selecting its crew which consists of an assortment of oddball individuals.


There is the first officer Karen (Bess Rous), who besides being Stewart's older and extremely bitter sister can't stand to be seen as weak and loves to tell people no. Third in command is Michael (Eugene Cordero), Stewart's former childhood babysitter who has some serious self worth issues and just wishes people would notice him. The ship's navigation officer Tina (Milana Vayntrub) got the job simply by being Stewart's long time crush which is in no shape or form reciprocated. The ship's science officer is Kent (Neil Casey), a former organ donor clone who aside from keeping his gils being freshened by sleeping in a vat goo each night cannot tell a lie which results in him throwing out the dirty truths about everyone and everything, but is very polite about it.

Then there is Zalien (Joel Hodgson) the ship's burn out hippie engineer whose brain has been fried due to too much exposure to radiation over the years. Keeping him company down in the engine room is A.R.T. (voiced by Trace Beaulieu) a former human turned computer turned robot who engages in all kinds of crazy hi jinks with Zalien which constantly lands the crew of The Cruiser in deep trouble. Last, but certainly not least, is The Cruiser's A.I. named Natasha (Conor Leslie) who has taken the form of a buxom brunette who can appear on any of the ship's monitors when needed. She has made strides to only be so attractive as to inspire good work performance out of everyone but not so much so that they want to have sex with her.


As you can tell many of these characters have traits and idiosyncrasies that are ripe with comic appeal, and the show's writers never fail to exploit their many weaknesses and strengths for the sake of a joke or gag. Take for instance how when The Cruiser gets sucked through a space membrane (Trent's terminology there) into a whole other galaxy. While Stewart is absolutely ecstatic about the opportunity to forge history by being the first to do...anything, the rest of the crew is totally bummed out by some real world threats such as having only a years worth of fudge to eat (due to Zalien's failure to stock food supplies) and no apparent way of reaching home resulting in Tina constantly pouting over losing contact with her tool of a boyfriend.

That constant tug of war between Stewart and the rest of the crew as at the heart of the show. If it isn't Stewart squabbling with his older sister over who should be in command, Kent's illogical longing for Natasha and their subsequent unorthodox relationship, Zalien and A.R.T.'s complete disregard for safety of the crew while they use the ship as their personal playground, Michael's numerous failed attempts to be taken serioulsy or Tina's many sexual encounters with nearly every man on the ship (including a thawed out Amish man) except Stewart, then you can count on a series of random encounters with a number of bizarre aliens, the best of which is one that speaks only in Matthew McConaughey quotes, "Aw rie, aw rie, aw rie".

 
Bringing everything together of course are the episodes themselves, which numbering at only 8 for the entire first season might seem a bit on the slim side. However, having so few episodes proves to be a great asset since each one is primarily focused on further developing the increasingly screwed up relationships between the crew. Each episode cleverly draws from a number of stereotypical Sci-fi cliches such as the planetary mission that goes awry, the power going out all over the ship and my personal favorite which I refer to as "The Thing effect" where one of the crew is suspected of being an imposter.

Now none of those classic Sci-fi themes would be all that interesting if there wasn't a bit of spin put on them and thankfully Other Space proves to be way ahead of the game as each episode has multiple wrenches thrown into the works. Some highlights of how the show mixes things up is a planet where time runs much slower than it does for those on the ship resulting in the planetary team being forced to create a home there, a robot revolution where the coffee machine attempts to pull a coup d'etat and an entire episode where the crew is spied upon like an episode of MTV's The Real World complete with viewer commentary. Most shows with a full 24 episode count don't have this kind of variety and imagination in multiple seasons let alone just one.


Once again though the true magic of the show comes from the clever writing and the cast of actors whose interactions and comfort level with one another would lead most to believe they have been working together for years. Probably the most important aspect to making a huge ensemble television show like this work is without a doubt the chemistry between all the actors and Other Space shines here more than anywhere else. Nowhere else will you derive as must pleasure as watching this group of goof balls revel in a number of selfish actions or thoughts that directly effect each other, most often in hilariously negative ways.

Now, if none of that has sparked interest then perhaps this will. You can currently watch all 8 episodes FREE via Yahoo! Screen. That's right, free. So other than vying for the laziest person on the planet award there is little reason to not at least try the show out for yourself and see if it fills that need for a slap-sticky show with great characters, superb writing and a lot of heart. Who knows if we will ever get a second season but at least we have these handful of episodes to remind us that someone out there is still trying to make quality entertainment, regardless of how we get it. You can start watching the entire first season of Other Space for free now by following this link.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

I have little more to say to endorse this highly original sci-fi comedy series to you other than to seek it out and watch it NOW! I promise you will have no easier time this summer blowing through 8 thirty minute long television episodes. Let me leave you with some choice comments and quotes from the show's many colorful characters.

Memorable quotes and comments from Other Space: Season 1 -

Kent to Karen - "Your use of the word literally disgusts me."

Tina - "Language is the food of the brain."

A.R.T. referring to a sleeping Stewart - "He sleeps like a masturbating baboon."

Karen to Kent - "Michael. Underpants."
Confused Kent to Karen - "Kent...nipple-rocket? What are we doing?"

Tina to Karen - "Your breath is terrible...bitch."

Kent to Stewart - "I found Tina very intmidating...many of my
own parts have become dialated as well...they need to be captured soon."
Stewart - "Ewww..."

Kent - "Their here! If it puckers lube it!"

Stewart to crew - "Guys I noticed something today. We really aren't that good."

Tina to crew - "What's the grid?"
Michael to Tina - "You're the navigator, you don't know what the grid is?"

Stewart to crew - "Guys serious! You gotta let a brother finish!"

Kent to Tina - "The fact that nobody loves you anymore shouldn't effect your ability to complete this mission."

Karen - "Ideally we need someone bland...where's Michael?"
Michael to Karen - "Uh, you're staring right at me."

Zalien - "Ladies, one of my two favorite genders."

Karen to a distraught Tina - "You know what you need? A good hook up tonight."
Distraught Tina - "Yeah...I guess I can knock the dust off of it."

Stewart psyching himself up for his first date with Tina - "Ok Captain Stewart come on, we're doing this, we are just talking with Tina, we are gonna be chill, ok? Whatever you do, do not propose. DO NOT FRICKEN PROPOSE STEWART! Why did you buy this ring already?"

Karen - "You wouldn't just hug a baby because it was crying would you?"

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